Artificial Intelligence in Life Science — Demystifying the Buzz

Artificial Intelligence in Life Science — Demystifying the Buzz

This article was originally published to Bruno’s LinkedIn.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization held its annual convention digitally this year, as part of which I had the opportunity to join the panel, “Demystifying Buzzwords – How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are being used Now in the Life Sciences” with esteemed professionals [1] from all corners of the biotechnology industry.

The discussion is well-timed. Over the past decade we have seen the convergence of massive data sets, near-unlimited computing power, and advanced data science. The most pioneering biotechnology companies have moved beyond the hype. They now use AI and ML to turbo-charge efficiencypower up knowledge, and cut time from data to evidence.

Turbo-Charge Efficiency

AI does more than making a biotechnician’s job easier. The ability to analyze a torrent of data and relate it to tricky questions and challenges allows us to reach new depths and heights. AI and ML broaden our horizons as well. We might all need to become data scientists at some point to leverage the wealth of opportunities.

AI and ML serves as a “force multiplier” as Krishnan Nandabalan described it. After hitting a bottleneck back in 2015, InveniAI started using AI and ML to automate steps which led them to improved efficiency and enhanced analytical capabilities. Similarly, at Centrexion, AI and ML helped Kerrie Brady and the team to “bite big and chew hard” so even as a team of 6, they were able to manage five development projects.

When AI and ML apply to every part of the value chain, these technologies can promote efficiency, effectiveness, and increase probability of success. At Novartis, we are embedding AI and ML across the drug development value chain. We have many initiatives to maximize the value of these technologies to make sure they are not just widespread but also have depth.

Power Up Knowledge

Some professionals think that AI doesn’t just stand for Artificial Intelligence — it is an Accelerator of Innovation. In describing this technology, Moira Gunn said, “There’s no doubt about it; once you’re able to grasp it and put it to work, it accelerates innovation as we know it. That’s brand new, and that’s one of the reasons that our whole industry could change. Not from a test tube, but from data and from information.”

Some also define AI as Augmented Intelligence. AI doesn’t exist and operate in a vacuum; humans are critical to assess the reliability of the input and output, and synthesize collected data further. Aashish Kachru addressed this symbiotic relationship and advised us to “Embrace the job displacement that’s going to come as a result of AI, and move yourself towards higher skill values where you’ll be needed.”

The current global pandemic creates one such circumstance in which higher skill values are necessary. COVID-19 has led to a great deal of renewed connectivity and openness across the pharma industry. Technology such as Natural Language Processing has enabled this effort, scanning millions of publications and tapping into global knowledge to answer an individual team’s questions. An individualistic line of thinking is far too narrow when it comes to AI and ML. The panel highlighted the opportunity to refine the life sciences ecosystem, allowing companies to leverage their strengths and pool decentralized knowledge, as it can help individuals and healthcare professionals make the best informed decisions.

Cut Time from Data to Evidence

Novartis’ data42 program applies advanced analytics to derive medical insights from 2 million patient-years of data. We have primarily focused on bringing that data together and making it AI and ML-ready. These insights contribute to our increasing understanding of diseases and medicine, thereby enhancing R&D decision-making and ultimately #reimagining drug discovery and development by cutting the time from data to evidence.

But it all started with data. This is the condition for knowledge-workers really to be knowledge-workers, as opposed to data janitors and information engineers, creating room for operational, analytical, and experiential value growth, thereby expanding our capabilities.

According to multiple analyses, it can take over a decade to bring a new drug to patients, and only one out of ten drugs is successful. Early AI and ML opportunities have shown the potential to cut years off this timeline and maximize the probability of success. For which, as several panelists pointed out, making AI and ML part of the value chain end-to-end is the key.


The hype that AI and ML are disrupting the way we work is true, to an extent. AI and ML lead to reduced company costs and improved customer experiences, while Price Waterhouse Coopers reports that AI alone is expected to have a $15.7 trillion economic impact by 2030.

Completely in line with Brian Martin stating that “we have moved from myth to value”. As he elaborated, AI and ML “deliver the momentum to change”. The life sciences has become a digital industry powered by AI and ML. For us at Novartis, it is not “if” or “when” AI and ML will help us in our commitment to reimagining medicine. Now, the focus is on scaling it across the entire organization to fuel our unbossed, inspired and curious culture.

I’d like to extend a word of thanks to my esteemed co-panelists, all of whom shared great insights that did wonders to demystify AI an ML and I look forward to continuing and broadening these conversations.

[1] NPR’s Tech Nation host Moira Gunn moderated the panel, which included Altruista Health CEO Aashish Kachru InveniAI LLC President and CEO Krishnan Nandabalan, GSK Consumer Healthcare Director of Search and Evaluation Michael Keane, AbbVie Head of AI in R&D Information Research and Senior Principal Data Scientist Brian Martin, Centrexion Cofounder and former CBO Kerrie Brady, and myself.


5 Great Spots for Your European Winter Vacation

In Switzerland, we have gemütlich (“comfortably homey”), in Denmark they have hygge (“coziness”), and Bulgaria has their уют (“snug.”) Europeans love to get cozy in the middle of winter, and a getaway is the perfect chance to snuggle up with your loved ones to enjoy the coldest months of the year by a fire.

Some vacationers want a small town where they can escape the crowds, others just want to enjoy their favorite winter sports, but wherever you go, each town has its own unique way of making winter enjoyable and fun.

Here are 5 great places to stay for your upcoming vacation, each one with it’s own special way of keeping you nice and cozy.


Snæfellsnes Peninsula


Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

The Snæfellsnes peninsula’s landscape is made up of beautiful, moss-covered lava fields, misty cliffsides, and a gigantic volcano topped with a glacier that dates back all the way to the Ice Age. At night, you can view the northern lights, an auroral display above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres, often seen as wondrous patches of pale greens and pinks.

In the tiny fishing town of Stykkisholmur you can stay at Hotel Egilsen, a small in with 10 cozy, New England style rooms with original sketches of local landmarks by Icelandic artist Tolli line the walls. You can enjoy the best lab stew in town across the street at Narfeyrarstofa.

Or you can stay at Hotel Búðir, a 28-room lodge with views of the Snæfell glacier or bay from every window. Sitting areas throughout the hotel are furnished with deep leather sofas and scores of old National Geographics to flip through. The lobby bar has one of the country’s largest whiskey collections.



Alpe di Siusi

Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites

Come to the soaring peaks of northeastern Italy, and you can either stay at a traditional hotel in the Badia Valley or head to Adler Mountain Lodge for skiing in the lesser-known Alpe di Siusi region to the west. The lodge has 18 rooms with pinewood interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and African décor set sporadically throughout the shared areas from the owners’ own trips to Africa. There are also 12 terraced villas resembling ancient Tyrolean huts.

In the surrounding area there are more than 220 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails. Make sure to buy a cup of hot cocoa from the traditional baitas (stone and wood houses) spread throughout. During the holidays, you can take a short cable car ride to Santa Cristina village to see the town square filled with lights.



Åre Sweden

Åre, Sweden

This mountain resort in Northern Sweden sits amongst snow-covered peaks with more than 100 powdery ski runs.

If you’re feeling adventurous, stay at Igloo Åre where the beds are made from packed snow covered in thick sleeping bags and reindeer skins. For a more traditional, and warmer, stay, try the Copperhill Mountain Lodge with it’s ski-in, ski-out chalet and large stone fireplaces. Here you can book a Samezan massage in their spa tee-pees, inspired by the region’s indigenous Sami tribe.

At night, you can enjoy a pint with the local crowd at Hotel Fjällgården, or curl up with a mug of glogg at Gute Grill & Bar in the Tott Hotel. For a tasty meal, head over to Fjällpuben, a farmhouse style restaurant serving elk carpaccio with currants and pickled beets.



Vals Switzerland

Vals, Switzerland

This list wouldn’t be complete without including a small village in the Swiss Alps. Built from sparkling gray blocks of Vals quartzite, the Therme Vals are filled with steamy hammams and flower-covered pools. The 7132 Hotel features a restaurant that serves dishes like Öra salmon with beets and spinach. It also features rooftop suites designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

If you’re up for a challenge, traverse the 45-minute hike from the hotel along farm roads to Restaurant Ganni, an 18th-century timber mountain lodge for a pot of cheese spiked with ginger, porcini, or traditional kirsch.



Courchevel France

Courchevel, France

Spend a night at the luxurious Cheval Blanc Courchevel in Le Jardin Alpin for up scale stay with scenic views, world renound slopes, and well-off visitors. Chef Yannick Alléno from Paris’s Michelin three-starred Le Meurice runs Le 1947, where traditional French dishes are served with a modern twist.

Courchevel’s beautiful town center is lined with high-end boutiques, including Isabel Marant and Ski Dior. Make sure to stop in at the bakery Maison Braissand for its delicious pain au chocolat.


Whether you’re looking for a small cabin to escape to or a high end resort to pamper yourself in, there’s plenty of options this winter. Decide what kind of experience you’d like, and there’s sure to be a town to suit your wintertime whims.