Summer 2018
Drug Discovery World
Disruptive Approaches To Accelerate Drug Discovery and Development (Part 2)
By Dr Anton Fliri, et al.
Summer 2018

Part 2: Emergent intelligence, a new paradigm for drug discovery.

The staggering clinical trial failure rate of experimental drugs indicates that despite huge investments in novel technologies over the years, productivity gains in the pharmaceutical industry remained elusive. It is therefore generally agreed that the current biopharma model is unsustainable and disruptive approaches are needed to remedy the status quo. The biopharmaceutical industry is looking towards artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up drug discovery, cut R&D costs, decrease failure rates in drug trials and eventually create improved medicines. At last count (May 2018), there are about 81 Startups and 19 Pharma companies using AI for drug discovery (2).

Human civilisation has a never-ending quest to make everything efficient, and inevitable creative waste is generated in the name of efficiency. Many of our everyday technologies and modern-day hi-tech inventions can be traced back to the bygone era of the 1930s. Many of the Silicon Valley start-ups that were based on connecting buyers and sellers of goods/services much more cheaply and efficiently derived their inventive energy from the time-tested mechanical systems. The unintended consequences of all the efficiency that platform companies strove to achieve generated short-term efficiency at the expense of our ability to become more efficient in the long run (3).

To overcome this disparity, human intuition must work together with technological efficiency. Skilled researchers can use search terms and arguments to unlock the full power of the search engine to find out what they are looking for by using ‘search intuition’ and becoming ‘information athletes’. Such information athleticism, based on robust algorithms, can unearth connections between disparate subjects that no one has imagined (3).

We evoke media theorist Steven Johnson’s provocative, engaging and surprising examples of feedback, self-organisation and adaptive learning in influencing the evolution of ‘emerging systems’. The power of self-organisation ushers in a revolution every bit as significant as the introduction of electricity. In explaining why, the whole is sometimes smarter than the sum of its parts, Steven Johnson places ‘self-organisation’ on the front lines of this exciting upheaval in science and thought....

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