How AI and gaming can improve pharma and medtech

by Last updated Jul 21, 2020 | Published on Jul 21, 2020Biomedical Communications, Newsletter0 comments

This week we have another COVID-19-free edition, because I’m somewhat tired of the coronavirus merry-go-round of information. Also, at the time of writing this, it’s 34ºC outside, which I deem too hot to further exert my brain by trying to decide if the study that I want to discuss with you is about to be retracted or not.

So, let’s delve into the use of artificial intelligence (AI) by pharmaceutical companies and continue along the tech avenue by exploring what lessons medtech can learn from the gaming industry.

AI maturity in digital pharma players

The pharmaceutical industry is complicated, highly regulated, and under permanent scrutiny. The development of new drugs takes years and a significant amount of money, even if they never reach the market.

AI could solve some of pharma’s problems, by optimising the way R&D and clinical trials are conducted. Using algorithms to screen large quantities of compounds speeds up the process of finding molecules that may have activity in cells. Also, leveraging AI in apps that can remotely monitor patients enrolled in clinical trials can substantially reduce the time required to evaluate each patient.

But pharma is traditionally a slow adopter of new technologies. It might not seem this way, as many companies created an internal data science R&D department following major advances in deep learning and AI in 2013. However, in terms of practical benefits of AI in the pharma industry, a lack of a coordinated strategy has led to subpar results.

Still, slowly but surely, pharma is picking up the pace.

A (non-open access) study published in Drug Discovery Today titled “The upside of being a digital pharma player” gives a comprehensive overview and comparison of the major pharmaceutical companies that claim to be doing AI research and utilizing big data in preclinical and clinical development.

The study analysed annual company reports, investor relations information, patent applications, and scientific publications of 21 pharmaceutical companies for the years 2014 to 2019, leading the authors to conclude that the industry is in an ‘early mature’ phase of using AI in R&D.

The authors also remark that more pharmaceutical companies might evolve into ‘digital pharma players’, and that AI holds promise for the future of pharma R&D.

Lessons gaming can teach medtech

Unhealthy, socially-inept and basement-dwelling: this is the stereotype that clings to gamers.

But take a better look at the gaming industry and you’ll find a very, very lucrative one. You’ll also find a vibrant community of people, and most of them couldn’t be farther from the stereotype.

But what can medtech learn from gaming?

In the last decade there has been a growing interest in cross-pollination between these two industries. Here are two ways that show how gaming influences medtech:

  • Refinement of surgical device design: Both gamers and modern surgeons spend hours staring at their screens while performing their tasks, and need accurate, precise interfaces between the physical and virtual (on screen) realms.
  • Gamification, or the use of game elements in non-gaming contexts: Gamification plays an important role in improving health outcomes. By adding gaming elements to devices, patients can be encouraged to take regular or correct dosages of medicine, and can be rewarded for showing behaviours that improve their mental or physical health.

In the future, there is space for further connection between the gaming and the medtech industry, but there are also challenges, namely regarding privacy and data security.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Leave a comment below 🙂

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About Diana Ribeiro

About Diana Ribeiro

Diana Ribeiro is a pharmacist and freelance medical writer based in Cascais, Portugal. Before starting her career in medical writing, Diana worked 10+ years in hospital and community pharmacies, where she helped patients and healthcare professionals with drug management and information. Nowadays, she helps pharma, biotech, and meddev companies communicate with their audiences in a clear, accurate, and compelling way. Diana is an active member of the European Medical Writers Association, where she volunteers for the webinar team. You can find more about her on LinkedIn.


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