AstraZeneca’s vision for a digital factory of the future will be enabled by AI, image recognition, IoT, electronic records, robotics and automation, and digital twins.
It’s no secret that drug discovery, development, and manufacturing is a long and costly process that is ripe for major innovation and transformation in the digital age. On the heels of French pharma giant Sanofi recently opening its first “digitally-enabled, continuous manufacturing facility” – one of the first globally – UK-based AstraZeneca shared its vision for the future digital factory.
During the recent Women in Tech East Coast conference in Boston, Ãnna Asberg, Global Vice President for R&D at AstraZeneca, spoke about how the pharma giant is embracing data and digital technologies to accelerate drug discovery and to create the digital factory of the future.
Factory of the Future and Drug Development
She described AstraZeneca’s vision for a digital factory of the future as being enabled by AI, image recognition, IoT, electronic records, robotics and automation, and digital twins. These technologies are used to address everything from machine maintenance to quality control to improve efficiency.
One way it is applying AI is to help monitor the activities of human operators on the assembly line and alert them in real-time if a mistake is made, she said. On the maintenance side, predictive analytics is being used to monitor equipment and reduce breakdowns, she continued.
On the drug research side, the company is using digital twins to track the time it takes tablets to go through the body and that it is delivered to the right location, Asberg said.
Data and Compliance
Given the highly regulated nature of the industry, compliance is a key part of the overall digital transformation process at the company, Asberg said. She noted that, along with team diversity, strategic planning and partnership with regulators has been a must to move digital innovation forward.
Earlier this year, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot told the Financial Times that drug development and costs could be greatly improved in a post-Brexit U.K. if Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), which has the lifetime medical records of patients, allowed companies to access its data.