Skip to content

Accelerating the adoption of generative AI in pharma

Written by Matt De Gruchy - 3 minute read

How can we take meaningful steps forward 

In attending the recent Reuters Pharma 24 event in Barcelona, you would be hard-pushed to find a session that did not mention the impact of generative-AI on the industry.  The speed of adoption has already eclipsed any other tech revolution we’ve known:  Netflix took 10 years to reach 100 million users;  Facebook 4.5 years and Instagram 2.5 years.  Chat-GPT took just 2 months.  Its place as the next major digital disruptor is undisputed. 

And whilst pharma got rightly lauded by most contributors at the conference for its enthusiasm, readiness and initial speed to adopt gen-AI, many also urged caution and warned companies and individuals to ensure the technology transformation does not advance at such a pace that it ignores the setting of a clear vision and purpose, the embedding of proper user capabilities, and the change in end-end processes to take advantage of AI. 

Here, I reflect on some of the key messages I took away, and offer some practical strategies around this ‘surround sound’ support and consideration needed for effective AI deployment. 

 

Embedding AI into Daily Workflows 

For generative AI to be effective, it must be seamlessly integrated into existing workflows, not treated as a standalone tool. This integration involves creating user-friendly interfaces that mesh with the tools pharma is already using – ranging from simple insight generation and content creation through to electronic lab notebooks or drug discovery databases. By embedding AI into these systems, pharmaceutical professionals can enhance their daily productivity and consistency in utilising AI tools. 

This does not mean, however, that AI should only be used to enhance current workflows.  The power of AI is transformative, and we should consider the true potential for tomorrow, not just enhance what we do today.  As one speaker put it, “let’s not just build a faster horse”. 

 

Fostering Cross-Functional Alignment 

Successful AI implementation critically hinges on the support of cross-functional teams across the pharma organisation. Every department, from R&D to regulatory affairs, needs to understand the AI strategy and how it benefits their specific roles. Effective communication from leadership about the AI’s purpose and its anticipated benefits will enhance team motivation and collaboration, crucial for nurturing an environment that can truly embrace the transformative impact of gen-AI. 

Many contributors also referenced a need to break down barriers to collaborative working, if cross-functional alignment on AI tech is going to work seamlessly.  Pharma is complex, with separate departments often using different language, processes and institutional norms.  Integrating gen-AI systems across an organisation with these differences is difficult, so more alignment must be sought wherever possible. 

 

Adapting Ways of Working and Building Capabilities 

Adopting generative AI requires adjusting both the organisational culture and capabilities. This could mean training staff to optimize AI use or hiring AI-savvy talent.  Behaviours must also be addressed in successful AI adoption – pharma companies need to promote a culture that encourages innovation and flexibility, and look to promote the required strengths and attributes that will aid adoption. Establishing dedicated AI teams or centres of excellence can also provide specialised support and ensure the sustainable scaling of AI initiatives across the company. 

 

Prioritising High-Value AI Automation 

Finally, opinion was consistent at the meeting that pharmaceutical companies be strategic in their use of AI by focusing on automating processes that offer the highest value. This involves identifying areas where AI can deliver significant improvements in efficiency, accuracy, or innovation. For instance, automating the analysis of clinical trial data or optimising the supply chain for medications can drive considerable gains. By prioritising these high-impact areas, companies can maximize their return on AI investments and stay competitive in a fast-evolving industry. 

 

Conclusion 

To capitalise on generative AI, pharmaceutical companies need more than just the advanced technology.  Ensuring they properly consider the people, capability and process requirements behind a gen-AI adoption, will ensure the rapidly evolving tech transforms operational dynamics and achieves the desired business outcomes. As the industry continues to progress at pace, those adept at integrating AI into their culture and core operations will lead in innovation and efficiency. 

 

INSOCIUS is an organisation enabler – helping pharma organisations articulate and embed new strategies or ways of working, and accelerate their deployment through effective communication, change methods, and team and leadership development. Reach out today to learn more about how we can help you and your teams.

Leading the conversation

Read more from our collection of industry insights and thought-provoking articles.