Artificial intelligence hit a big milestone in January — the first drug designed entirely using artificial intelligence entered human clinical trials. The compound, created by Oxford-based biotech company Exscientia, is aimed at treating obsessive-compulsive disorder and reached this stage in less than a year — five times faster than it usually takes to get a drug to this stage.

It is the speed that made the rest of the pharmaceuticals industry sit up and take notice. It takes on average 10 to 12 years to bring a new drug to market, and failure rates are high. The industry is desperate for ways to speed up.

“AI could be a bigger revolution for the pharmatech industry than the development of DNA sequencing,” says Andrew Hopkins, founder and chief executive of Exscientia. He believes that artificial intelligence could cut the cost of bringing a drug to market by 30%.

30% sounds like a welcome break for an industry stuck in a downward spiral of mounting costs and falling sales. Pharmaceuticals industry statistics make for frankly depressing reading. The cost of bringing a drug to market has gone from $1.2bn to $2bn in the last ten years, but sales have more than halved.

Image Credit:  Exscientia

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