Novo Nordisk teams up with Microsoft for faster and scaled use of AI in drug discovery

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Andrew Brookes
© GettyImages/Andrew Brookes

Related tags Artificial intelligence Novo nordisk Microsoft

Novo Nordisk and Microsoft have entered a new strategic collaboration to combine Microsoft’s computational services, cloud, and artificial intelligence (AI) with Novo Nordisk’s drug discovery, development, and data science capabilities.

Through the partnership, Microsoft is providing AI technology, foundational science models and expertise and is working alongside Novo Nordisk’s data scientists and domain experts from early research and development areas to accelerate Novo Nordisk’s R&D.

A spokesperson for the Danish diabetes giant told BioPharma-Reporter: “The collaboration with Microsoft focuses on early research and drug development with the aim and long-term perspective of generating value to patients by utilizing artificial intelligence and creating learnings we can build into new projects that hopefully will result in generation of new treatment options for patients.”

The global artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery market is expected to grow from $791.83m in 2021 to $1042.30m in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.6%, and subsequently reach $2994.52m in 2026 at a CAGR of 30.2%, according to a recent market research report​.

Machine-learning models can propose new molecules that have specific properties which could fight certain diseases, doing in minutes what might take humans months to achieve manually. Alongside the enhancement of the search for small-molecule drugs, AI-based systems are also beginning to assist with the discovery and design of biologics.

The partners said AI models arising from the collaboration will be applied to a range of use cases - one case is focused on automated summarization and analysis of information from sources such as literature, patents, scientific reports, and discussion forums to gain novel scientific insights.

A second use case aims to develop models that predict a person’s risk of developing atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease caused by build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls. The AI will also be used to identify novel targets and establish biomarkers of the disease.

The companies are taking a platform approach to AI where a set of large models are trained for multiple tasks. They said this will allow new projects and use cases to be initiated on a continuous basis throughout the multi-year collaboration between the companies.

“The collaboration with Novo Nordisk is a great opportunity for us to collectively advance the state of the art of AI itself and apply it in a way that amplifies the creativity of human experts,”​ commented Vijay Mital, corporate vice president, AI architecture and strategy in Microsoft’s technology and research division. “To achieve this ambition, AI needs to learn from every type of information that subject matter experts find valuable and that requires the type of close interaction between multiple disciplines we see in this partnership.”


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