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Harnessing the power of digital technology to drive innovation

Posted by
Wang Yuan, Data and Translational Sciences

Here at UCB, we see ‘innovation’ as inventing something new and useful. And in no field is that more relevant than in that of medicine – something ‘new’ could be a disease modifying medicine, and something ‘useful’ could be the novel way in which we discover it.

Innovative digital technology is undoubtedly transforming how we treat and manage disease. This is in large part down to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data generation, processing and computing speeds, which make the impossible, possible. For example, AI can help describe the structural connections between atoms and molecules and optimize desirable properties for drugs. We can now sequence the hundreds of amino acids in each and every protein. Then, informed by AI, we can edit antibody sequences to be more stable and effective against disease-causing proteins. AI can also interpret the health of individual cells and - using this information - we can gain a deeper understanding of disease biology and pathology, and how drugs may be able to reverse it.

At the clinical trials stage, advanced AI can help to keep track of treatment schedules and trial recruitment, help to make trials easier to access for patients, and make the data easier to access for physicians. This is all a work in progress, we are constantly ‘training’ and advancing the capabilities of our AI models, with each new discovery and input of data, AI is learning and getting more efficient.

But the value of AI for patients, now and in the future, is undeniable –the more efficient use of genetic data, and the modelling of disease pathways and gene sequences all help us to identify exactly what the patient needs so that we can works towards individualise treatment. It’s also removing the barriers imposed by ethnicity or geography, because we now have access to, and an understanding of, much larger data sets.

AI shows us not only the power of digital technology but also the power of collaboration – our chemists and biologists are working side by side and trusting our data scientists to empower scientific research.

AI is not without its challenges of course – it is difficult to define a ‘gold standard’ for the pharma domain, particularly given the rate of progress, so there is a test-and-learn approach which must be adopted when analysing and revaluating our AI models. Attention must be paid to any bias embedded in AI frameworks, making sure that they are generated with comprehensive and 'clean' data.

Ultimately though, we believe that innovations like AI will help enable new discoveries and accelerate drug development, all for the benefit of people suffering from disease. That’s why innovation is our driving force at UCB. We're filled with anticipation about what lies ahead!

Innovation is at the centre of everything our R&D colleagues do at UCB, but how we innovate is as unique as our employees. For this reason, we asked our researchers to share with you what innovation means to them. So, take a look at what they think innovation is on our dedicated ‘innovation is’ website here

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