Artificial intelligence is among one of the latest buzzwords in the industry. Yet, the CEO of Insilico Medicine, a global biotech using AI for drug discovery and aging research, noted the hype has been mostly in the press, not the bank.
“It is not the dot com boom,” said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD. “Big pharma is a very, very conservative industry.”
Over five years, Insilico Medicine has raised approximately $15m – compared to the IT sector, “it is night and day,” Zhavoronkov said.
An example of this, Google (now Alphabet) in 2014 acquired DeepMind for more than half a billion dollars. The sale of the company, at the time only four-years-old with a few employees, was a “historic moment” in artificial intelligence (AI), Zhavoronkov told us, one which “triggered the hype wave but played out very nicely for Google.”
Today, DeepMind employs more than 850 people, fueled by credible PR stunts demonstrating how AI can outperform human experts. Zhavoronkov said the marketing impacts were comparable to the Olympics.
“This does not happen in pharma. Instead of partnering and acquiring, pharma companies spend enormous resources hiring the talent and building their own expertise. The pilots they propose are very old-school and do little good for them internally or to the external partners,” he said. “And when they partner, it is with the companies run by the ex-pharma people, not so much AI.”