From gatekeeper to strategist: The evolution of the CISO role in drug development

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There’s an old joke about chief information security officers (CISOs) being gatekeepers of new technologies and initiatives – the infamous “Department of No.” Imagine a bouncer who, strangely, doesn’t let anyone in, saying the club is already too full, even when it’s clearly empty.

But that image is outdated — especially in risk-focused industries like financial services where CISOs are integral to digital transformation projects and the broader risk management considerations. 

From CIS-‘no’ to risk maestro

“Drug development is a risk-focused industry as well,” said Daniel Ayala, chief security and trust officer for Dotmatics. “There is a huge amount of risk.” Consequently, CISOs working in pharma contexts are increasingly expanding their roles from technical experts to risk-aware business leaders who happen to have deep technical expert…

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March 2024: Medtronic AI, Ortho tech at AAOS 2024 and Abbott PFA


How Medtronic’s using AI: Artificial intelligence insights and advice Abbott bets on balloons in the pulsed field ablation battle How Noah Medical’s robotic Galaxy system goes deep into the lungs The biggest stories from AAOS 2024 Surgical robots don’t improve knee surgery revision rates, study says Seize the AI opportunity

Less than a year into his new role as Medtronic’s chief technology and innovation officer, Ken Washington was presenting on artificial intelligence to leaders of the company’s operating units.

One of the GMs stopped him and asked for help making sense of all the buzzwords and acronyms.

Perhaps you know the feeling. It’s hard to grasp how AI seems to be everywhere, with advanced computing power making sense of vast datasets. It’s in the voice assistants on our smartphones, the streaming services on our various screens, mapping systems in our cars, the chat bots who respond when we need customer service, and online services ra…

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How Hologic tapped AI and volumetric imaging for cervical cytology — and potential applications beyond

Hologic designed its Genius cytology technology for more efficient and accurate review of cervix cell samples — and there’s more to come.

Hologic says its Genius cytology technology reduces false negatives of high-grade squamous intraepithelial and more severe lesions by 28% compared to microscopic review. [Photo courtesy of Hologic]

Hologic‘s Genius cytology system uses new scanning technology and artificial intelligence to flag cervical cancer cells and pre-cancerous lesions.

Hologic won a de novo classification in January 2024 for its Genius Digital Diagnostics System and Genius Cervical AI algorithm for cervical cytology. Besides replacing Hologic’s ThinPrep Imaging System — used for the majority of cervical cancer screenings in the U.S. — the technology behind the Genius system could one day also help screen for other kinds of cancer like bladder cancer as well as infectious organisms, Ho…

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Moving beyond buzzwords: When will a rising AI tide lift all Big Pharma boats?

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For all of the talk about AI in drug discovery and development, few Big Pharmas are putting up big bucks in AI spending. A CRB survey from late 2023 painted a conservative picture: about half of drug developers planned on allocating between $1 and $10 million for data and AI projects over the next two years. A mere 3% reported budgeting more than $50 million. No companies surveyed had budgeted more than $100 million.

By contrast, Microsoft has invested more than $10 billion into OpenAI alone. Amazon invested $4 billion into Anthropic for minority ownership and a board seat, while Google invested $2 billion plus potentially hundreds of millions more into Anthropic and Character AI for AI research and development. In early 2023, IDC projected that cumulative AI spending would reach $154 billion by the end of the year — 27% higher than a year earlier.

While a growing number of pharma and…

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Biotech bounces back at JPM 2024 on optimism, breakthroughs and calculated bets, but uncertainties persist

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At the dawn of 2024, there’s a sense of renewed optimism in the biotech sector despite a downturn that has lasted for more than two years. At the JP Morgan Health Care Conference, deal-making activity showed signs of strength. For instance, Merck agreed to acquire cancer drug developer Harpoon Therapeutics for roughly $680 million, highlighting continued interest in oncology cancer therapies. Meanwhile, Novartis announced plans to acquire Calypso Biotech, a deal involving an upfront payment of $250 million with potential milestones worth up to $175 million.

“I feel like in the last two or three weeks, we’ve almost made up for 50% of the deals that didn’t happen in 2023,” quipped Jen Nwankwo, CEO of 1910 Genetics, a company specializing in computational biology and automated laboratory technologies. Pointing to recent clinical successes and FDA approva…

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AI basics from Medtronic Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Ken Washington

Medtronic SVP and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Ken Washington [Photo courtesy of Medtronic]

Medtronic SVP and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Ken Washington was recently briefing the 15 general managers who run each of the operating units at the world’s largest medical device manufacturer.

In the middle of the first chart in his presentation on artificial intelligence, one of the leaders stopped him.

As Washington tells it, they said, “I just don’t understand all these different buzzwords around AI. Can you tell me what are the different types of AI? How does it all work? And what’s the difference between generative AI and deep learning?”

Washington — who joined Medtronic in June 2023 after serving as VP and GM of consumer robotics at Amazon and CTO at Ford Motor Co. before that — pulled out an easel, grabbed a marker, and walked the group through t…

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Pfizer and AstraZeneca top annual pharma future-readiness rankings

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As 2023 draws to a close, the pharma industry finds itself at an inflection point. On the one hand, stubbornly high inflation rates, a dearth of talent, supply chain hurdles, and a more challenging regulatory climate threaten profitability. But on the other, the rapid advances in areas ranging from cell and gene therapy and IT technology offer new opportunities for efficiency gains and innovation.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Lilly come out on top in future-readiness

Against that backdrop, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Lilly round out the top three rankings in terms of future-readiness, according to an analysis from IMD. In its annual ranking, Pfizer advanced from second to first place, Eli Lilly moved up from seventh to third place, and Novo Nordisk rose from 13th to seventh. While Pfizer has had something of a rough year, missing its revenue projections as demand for Paxlovid and Corminaty slides, …

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Genmab’s data-driven strategies speed up drug commercialization

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Genmab’s senior vice president, global head of data science and AI, Hisham Hamadeh, describes the company’s journey to becoming “a data-driven decision-making company.” In one sense, there is little choice but to do so. “We’re swimming in data like never before. We’ve seen the volumes of data, the ability to compute on that data, and the type of algorithms that are emerging,” he said. 

The initiative has the firm support of the company’s CEO Jan G. J. van de Winkel, who expects AI to help enhance R&D efficiency in the coming years. Already, the company has succeeded in winning FDA approval for the antibody epcoritamab in lymphoma within five years after the first patient was dosed. The approval timeline was “a world record,” van de Winkel told Medwatch, adding that the company believes its investments in data science will unlock further breakthrou…

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50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023

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As the year draws to a close, it is clear that molecular science and diagnostics is the hottest funding area in the biotech industry. In an analysis of 50 of the best-funded biotechs of 2023 focused on human health, molecular and science and diagnostics startups collectively attracting roughly $945 million, dwarfing the figures in other segments. The next popular two niches, gene therapies and oncology, had average funding levels of approximately $245 million and $170 million, respectively. While AI has received a significant amount of attention this year, biotechs specializing in that field garnered an average funding of only about $66 million. Outside of the life sciences, startups with a broader focus on AI raised a cumulative average of $202.47 million, based on an analysis of close to 1000 companies.

Caris Life Sciences has raised nearly $1.7B to date

In terms of best-funded companies overall,…

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A year in review: AI’s evolving role in drug discovery and development in 2023

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In the realm drug discovery, AI is making waves, and 2023 could potentially be a pivotal year for this technology. As the technology enters the popular consciousness, pharma employees are wondering “why they can’t have similar AI-driven tools for their professional tasks,” said Diane Wuest, head of digital R&D at Sanofi, in a recent interview. 

Still, some executives at pharma companies worry about AI’s potential to generate misleading data, as the Economist notes. Such fears are not entirely unfounded. While most headlines continue to tout AI’s promise in the field, there was a notable failure in 2023: an AI-aided drug failed a pair of phase 3 trials.

This article provides an overview of AI’s increasing traction in drug discovery and development in 2023 from January to early August. We’ll update it as the year progresses. 

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Advancing surgeon proprioception to create a new way of seeing in surgery

Light field technology and AI empowers surgeons with real-time feedback and enhanced perception for unparalleled precision and patient care.

Proprio designed its Paradigm system to help surgeons better visualize spinal surgeries. [Photo courtesy of Proprio]

By Tommy Carls, Proprio

In minimally invasive surgery, proprioception and spatial cognition play an important role in speeding up the acquisition of surgical skills, reducing surgical time, and reducing errors.

Surgeons develop and adapt spatial techniques over time to understand the difference between the feeling of a surgical tool entering fatty tissue or ligament. But how long does it take to develop that familiarity? Surgical navigation, robot-assisted surgery and other technologies have sought to help with this, but they don’t yet go far enough when it comes to visualization within the human anatomy.

With light field technology, we can acc…

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Why AI alone won’t resolve drug discovery challenges

A digital representation of a protein structure. [Image courtesy of NIH]

Big Pharma and researchers are sharpening their focus on AI to speed drug discovery. But the path to fully AI-driven drug discovery faces substantial hurdles, according to Adityo Prakash, CEO of Verseon. “When it comes to drug discovery, AI has a data problem with which the pharmaceutical industry has not yet come to terms,” he said.

Prakash explained there is simply “not enough data” to rely on AI as the primary means of small molecule drug discovery. He discussed these challenges further in an article in American Pharmaceutical Review titled “Exploring New Chemical Space for the Treatments of Tomorrow.”

The limitations and challenges of AI-first methods

Even with high-throughput screening to automate the process of testing pre-synthesized drug candidates against disease-associated target proteins, the pharma…

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