Amazon brings AI expertise to drug industry in Novartis pact

Bloomberg--Amazon.com is teaming up with one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies to make the manufacturing and delivery of new medicines more efficient.

Seattle-based Amazon’s cloud-computing unit will work with Novartis AG to help the Swiss drugmaker forecast and track production, detect potential bottlenecks and monitor its sprawling operations in real time, the companies said in a statement Wednesday. The partners didn’t disclose financial terms.

The pact is the latest sign of the tech industry’s push into healthcare, with Amazon, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet keen to bring their cloud services to the fast-growing field. Amazon has partnered with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase on an employee-health venture and bought online pharmacy PillPack last year.

Cerner, a software supplier to the healthcare industry, said this week that it will rely on Amazon’s artificial intelligence and machine-learning expertise to develop programs that can predict medical diagnoses or recommend treatment. The internet giant said in March that its Amazon Web Services unit would work with a Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital in Boston to test how AI can simplify medical care.

The new collaboration with Novartis harnesses Amazon’s AI skills and is part of the Basel, Switzerland-based drugmaker’s effort to accelerate delivery of medicines. Novartis will look at extending the technology to areas beyond manufacturing, said Chief Digital Officer Bertrand Bodson, a veteran of Amazon and other retailers who joined Novartis last year.

The partnership will also enable Novartis to improve inspections of manufacturing sites by analyzing images using computer algorithms and to monitor risks such as unplanned downtime or delayed orders. It follows an AI agreement that Novartis signed with Microsoft in October.

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