Artificial Intelligence (AI) within life sciences for making drug discovery

Artificial Intelligence (AI) within life sciences for making drug discovery

The integration of artificial intelligence within life sciences is making drug discovery and development more innovative, less labor-intensive, and more cost-effective, says Deloitte’s annual global outlook.

According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Life Sciences Outlook, the biotech sector is at an inflection point. To prepare for the future and remain relevant in the ever-evolving business landscape, biopharma and MedTech organizations will be looking for new ways to create value and new metrics to make sense of today’s wealth of data, the report overview says.

As data-driven technologies provide biopharma and MedTech organizations with treasure troves of information, and automation takes over some mundane tasks, new talent models are emerging based on purpose and meaning. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning approaches within life sciences is making drug discovery and development more innovative, time-effective, and cost-effective, the Deloitte report states.

Gene therapies, intelligent drug discovery and development, consumer wearables, and telemedicine are drivers transforming the life sciences sector. While advances in technology appear to drive more efficiency, biopharma and MedTech leaders should look to more deeply understand ways to increase value and meaning for workers, patients, and ecosystem partners. Cultivating human strengths—for probing data, curating information, and asking the right questions—can help humans work with technology to think exponentially. To be successful, leaders should look at how jobs can be redesigned around human-machine collaboration—that enhances workers’ capabilities and augment human abilities.


With a vibrant downtown, a large population of highly trained and educated young people entering the workforce, a great startup ecosystem, as well as multiple highly accredited universities and research institutions, biotech is at the pulse of this growing metropolis.

“We have been a real hub for innovative companies who are doing cutting-edge innovations from areas of fighting cancer to medical devices to neurological research,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.

Phoenix has developed as an innovative biotech hub due to the incredible growth of the city and a robust pipeline of talent churned out by three top-ranking universities and research institutions—Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University (ASU)—which are all located in downtown Phoenix.

“ASU, in particular, is the top university in the country for producing college graduates,” said Gallego. “We have a great well-educated population, we tend to be a younger city, and the campuses are great in bringing together people from diverse backgrounds. That’s what we often call creative hubs in our downtown where different people can come together to solve problems.”

For Phoenix, growth in the bioscience and healthcare industry means stable, quality jobs for residents and new people moving there. The Greater Phoenix area is now the fastest-growing county in the U.S and Phoenix is the fastest growing city in the nation.

In the City of Phoenix alone, over the next 18 months, 17 bioscience and healthcare organizations are building new primary bioscience and healthcare facilities with an investment of over $3 million. These facilities will expand bioscience and healthcare facilities by over 4.1 million square feet and more than 7,000 health care and bioscience jobs will be created with a payroll of over half a billion dollars per year.

“We understand that the ecosystem can’t thrive if it doesn’t have all of the pieces in place,” said Mayor Gallego. “We are looking across the skillset—everything from big data which is becoming so central to healthcare to engineers and neuroscientists. We work with our universities and have a successful community college system here. They have been investing in innovations to try to support a technician workforce, as well as healthcare professionals that are a key part of biotech.”

One of the latest biotech investments is Maryland-based Wexford Science & Technology who is building a $77 million research center on the north side of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. ASU, which will anchor that facility, is investing $40 million in tenant improvements.

The Wexford building will be 200,000 square feet and is designed to grow private sector investment in bioscience and health technology in Phoenix. ASU will lease approximately 112,000 square feet—half of the building—for 15 years with three five-year options. The remainder will be occupied by private-sector companies.

“Wexford is a bioscience-focused real estate investor that creates very cutting-edge spaces where entrepreneurs’ thrive,” said Mayor Gallego. “They know it’s not just about four walls, but how to define spaces that create community and collaborations.”

Overall, the Phoenix Biomedical Campus is 30 acres with a capacity of 6 million square feet. To date, 1.6 million square feet have been built, housing ASU, the University of Arizona, and the Translational Genomics Research Consortium (TGEN).

“TGen is an incubator for a lot of smaller companies and they have been lead on a lot of research and bio health initiatives,” said Mayor Gallego. “They have partnered with downtown universities on research.”

Arizona’s health care employers are also growing faster than their national counterparts and faster than other types of Arizona businesses.

Mayo Clinic, which serves more than 100,000 patients each year and has more than 7,000 employees, is in the midst of one of its largest capital expansions in history.

In April 2019, Mayo Clinic and ASU broke ground on a new 150,000-square-foot collaborative facility that will feature a MedTech Accelerator, biomedical engineering and informatics research labs, nursing programs, and an innovative education zone.

“We are undertaking our largest capital expansion in Mayo’s 130-year history—and we are doing that right here in Arizona,” said Dr. Richard Gray, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “This latest project will expand our clinical operations and invest in an integrated research and educational building on our campus.”

The new facility will foster a relationship between ASU and Mayo Clinic that leads to better solutions, outcomes, and learning environments through intensified research, clinical expansion, and the development of innovative clinical approaches to medicine and health care.

ASU and Mayo Clinic formalized their relationship in 2016 with the announcement of the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care. Over the years, the nation’s most innovative university and the world leader in patient care and research have partnered on programs that range from nursing to medical imaging to regenerative and rehabilitative medicine to wearable biosensors.

“We are planning a significant technological revolution for Mayo Clinic and our ongoing digital transformation,” said Dr. Gray. “We see Phoenix as an ideal place to grow our digital footprint.”

The new facility, scheduled to open in late 2020, will be owned and operated by the university and will connect to Mayo Clinic via a desert pathway. It is the first of several buildings planned to dot the surrounding landscape in the coming years and represents a cooperative effort not only of Mayo Clinic and ASU but of the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona, as well.

The MedTech Accelerator will promote innovative collaborations by providing medical device and health care IT early-stage companies with personalized business development plans. Once construction of the new building is complete, it will be housed on the second floor, helping entrepreneurs accelerate to market and investment opportunities.

“I’ve been excited about Phoenix and the attractiveness and opportunities here for a very long time,” said Dr. Gray. “In the last decade or so we’ve become such a vibrant city and growing place for biotechnology. The growth of ASU and the number of engineers they produce each year, along with other terrific educational institutions, has provided a worker pipeline to allow tech and especially biotech to grow.”

Phoenix is also home to the world-renowned Barrow Neurological Institute—one of the best neurology and neurosurgery care centers in the nation.

In November 2019, Barrow broke ground on its new Neuroplex research facility, a 130,050-square-foot, five-story building that will help the institute further research and medical innovation.

The facility will be located adjacent to the Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical center campus in downtown Phoenix.

“The Neuroplex is a way to re-envision neurosciences care—bringing everybody together and making the patient experience as important as the operating room,” said Dr. Lawton, president, and CEO of Barrow Neurological Institute.

The expansion will include 30,000 square feet of research space, increasing Barrow’s laboratory capacity by 50 percent. The Neuroplex, which is set to open in late 2020, will serve as the new home for outpatient clinics for neurosurgical, epilepsy, neuro-oncology, and endocrinology clinics. It will also house an ambulatory surgical center and outpatient surgical suites for modern and less invasive surgeries that do not require hospitalization.

In addition to neuroscience, Barrow is leading the way in innovative areas like genomics and robotics. It has revolutionized the way surgery is performed on the spine—developing a first-of-its-kind robot to perform back surgeries. The technology is now being used in hospitals throughout the country and is expected to become the future surgical method for spine surgery. “We have great leading institutions in Phoenix like ASU and Barrow that attract great minds and great people,” said Dr. Barrow. “Phoenix has a nice combination of affordable lifestyle, attractive geography, and a bright future where the population is growing. This brings together all the things you need for success.” 

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