GSK Focuses On Use Of AI For Faster New Drug Development

GlaxoSmithKline is now taking course in cutting-edge computing to develop medicines in the future and is set to make extensive use of artificial intelligence. It plans to recruit 80 AI specialists by the end of 2020.

But recruiting enough AI researchers and engineers from areas such as Silicon Valley is proving to be a challenge for the largest drugmaker by revenue of the United Kingdom. Therefore the company is now trying to recruit young talent from academia, former employees in educational institutions, the US Navy and the music industry. The AI teams will be operating from London, Heidelberg, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston.

Tony Wood, GSK’s senior vice-president of medicinal science and technology said that the headquarters of the new AI unit of the company will be in San Francisco and added noted the fierce competition in the market for AI professionals.

“In AI, we are scouring the planet for the best people. These folks are very rare to find. Competition is high and there aren’t a large number of them,” said Wood.

Researchers qualified at PhD or master’s level will be among the members of the new ay team of the company who would be responsible of working on new drug development projects based on AI in London under a new fellows programme. The company will try to find out treatments for conditions such as cancer and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis with the help of AI.

The concept of AI involves the use of trained algorithms for specific tasks. This technology is learnt by computers themselves through repetitive processes instead of them being instructed what to do by humans.  The way in which scientists develop new drugs has undergone a huge change in recent years because of the increased use of AI in the pharmaceutical industry. One of the major advantages of the use of AI in the process of drug development is the speeding up of the process with took years with the use of traditional methods. Additionally, such usage can increase success rates by 10 per cent for development of new medicines.

“Functional genomics looks at hundreds of millions of data points from genetic databases, which was until recently out of reach of data science,” Wood said.

But increased computer power can now help analyze the data. Further, the use of deep learning that is a form of machine learning with the ambit of AI which helps in achieving better analysis by integrating the different types of data such as cell imaging and genomic data.

A new location just beside a new laboratory focused on functional genomics in San Francisco will be the main base of GSK’s AI team. That laboratory facility is currently being built by the company in collaboration with the University of California.

(Adapted from

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