Reuters Pharma 2024 report: embracing AI in life sciences

AI in healthcare

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By Jon Harris, Director of Client Engagement, Inizio Evoke Europe

The message from Reuters Pharma 2024 in Barcelona was to embrace AI. There are unanswered questions and challenges—around regulation, what we should do, how we proactively manage bias, etc.—but the reality is that AI is here to stay. 

From attending some incredible presentations and talking to fellow delegates at Reuters Pharma 2024 in Barcelona, there is excitement about AI’s potential, an increasing amount of good use cases, and a real FOMO (as well as some Fear of Being Obsolete - FOBO). However, a slight hesitation to embrace it truly remains, which is understandable given the meaty challenges of IP, data protection, etc.

Key takeaways from the conference included:

Ignoring AI is not an option

AI is already being used—by doctors, patients, pharma companies, and their partners and competitors. If you’re not asking yourself, “Could AI help here?” then you’re already behind. We heard an honest presentation from Microsoft about being too slow on smartphones and not wanting to make the same mistake with AI. And the adoption has been lightning-fast. The AI in Life Sciences ‘snowball’ is getting bigger, faster, and increasingly unstoppable, illustrated by the fact that ChatGPT reached 100 million users in two months—something that took the now ubiquitous WhatsApp 3.5 years and Netflix 10 years. One of the speakers led with this quote from a McKinsey report published earlier this year: “The technology could offer pharma companies a once-in-a-century opportunity—but only if they learn to scale it and address the industry’s unique challenges.” We’re an industry of innovators and cannot afford to miss the opportunities AI presents.

AI is about supporting decisions, not making decisions

“Humans will always be responsible for the outcome”. If we can approach the development of AI tools with this in mind, that technology will be the (trusted) counsellor rather than the decision maker; we can unlock the power of AI in an impactful but responsible and controlled way.

Data is your friend, but choose your friends (very) wisely

The essence of this was reflected in multiple AI presentations at the conference. Data is absolutely key to AI’s effective use. For example, if you train AI using data from a pediatric ward in Massachusetts, the output may not be relevant for other hospitals or states, let alone other countries and healthcare systems. Generic answers are not good enough. Data has to be ultra-specific for the final use for AI to give you a solid, useable, trustable output.

None of us can do this alone

Partnerships are essential. The BioPharma industry has a long and impressive track record of collaboration and partnership. This gives us a good foundation to unlock the potential of AI.  Look to partner with experts with AI/Tech experience and understand the regulations—partners who can help you move faster and more precisely. 

“Don’t build a faster horse”

We shouldn’t limit ourselves to applying AI to just iteratively improving the way things are currently done (though it still has a role there as well). While we should continue listening to customers, HCPs, and patients on how to improve, AI also allows us to step back and think about how to transform the way we do things. It gives us the tools (e.g. faster analysis of massive data sets) and the time to ask ourselves, “where can we really innovate?”.

Talk, Play, Make

A great summary by Marco Andre that simplifies HOW you can get better at approaching AI, at integrating it.

  • Talk about it: this conference provided a fantastic opportunity to do just that.

  • Play with it: choose a tool and get curious.

  • And Make it work for you: this means deciding what is important to you, and working with partners to find ways that AI could enhance (or transform!) the impact you have.

If you’re interested in what we are already doing with AI and how it’s supporting our clients, check out some fantastic articles and resources here, here and here.

We have a number of experts who are already leveraging AI or looking to expand its usage in the Life Sciences industry. Reach out to to connect with any of our AI experts!