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MSD reinforces Amazon partnership for faster AI-led drug discovery and development

Merck & Co (MSD) is continuing its multi-year cloud migration to Amazon’s cloud computing subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS), as the pharma company looks to accelerate scientific research and discovery through artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

AWS, one of the largest cloud providers in the world, is working with global consulting firm Accenture “to move a substantial portion of [MSD’s] IT infrastructure” to Amazon’s cloud platform, according to a 29 November press release.

MSD has been working with AWS since 2021, according to the cloud provider. As part of the multi-year cloud migration, MSD has been transitioning IT applications such as machine learning software and data warehouses to AWS.

AWS, which recorded a revenue of $80bn in 2022, says that MSD’s use of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) on its cloud platform has helped with pharmaceutical research and manufacturing.

A report by GlobalData analysing the cloud’s utilisation in healthcare highlights how the migration of data and applications can expedite drug discovery and development, lead to easier management of health data, improve the efficiency of clinical trials, and reduce disruption in the supply chain.

“Cloud helps to transform processes across the pharma value chain and supports the use of other enabling tech such as AI,” GlobalData analyst Jemima Walker told Pharmaceutical Technology earlier this month.

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By GlobalData

“Any company not investing in cloud computing will fail to reap the benefits of the technology.”

In November 2022, MSD leveraged AWS’s machine learning model creator to build HawkAVI – a platform to improve product yield and generate insights into the company’s drug product automatic visual inspection processes. MSD has said that the analytics provided by HawkAVI have reduced the overall false reject rates by 50% in its drug product lines.

MSD’s chief information and digital officer Dave Williams said that although the partnership will help across the company’s value chain, the most crucial aspect is the ability to harness generative-AI applications via AWS.

AWS also added that MSD will be able to redirect resources during its modernisation, adding that the pharma company has already freed up significant IT operational savings.

MSD does not necessarily need not be in saving mode though – the company reported better-than-expected Q3 earnings. Citing strong sales of its blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), HPV vaccine Gardasil, and Covid-19 drug Lagevrio (molnupiravir), MSD boosted its full-year sales forecast to a range of $59.7bn–$60.2bn, up from previous guidance of $58.6bn–$59.6bn.

MSD is not the only player in the pharmaceutical sector tapping AWS’s services – Pfizer and Novartis both have long-standing partnerships with the cloud provider.

Earlier this week, AWS announced it was expanding its work with US biopharma Amgen to create generative artificial intelligence (generative AI)-based solutions for drug discovery and development. Last month, rival global cloud provider Google entered a partnership with Insmed to develop its own gen-AI tools for the same applications in drug development.

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