AI-enabled products and services in life science – examples from Switzerland

In 2022 – and for a twelfth consecutive year – Switzerland ranked first in the Global Innovation Index, with life science companies such as Roche and Novartis being the country’s top performers. To illustrate some innovative approaches on how to leverage AI for products and services in the life science industry, we will have a look at what is happening in one of the world’s leading life science hubs:

Diagnostics & precision medicine – The use of data science and digital technologies is rapidly increasing across the pharmaceutical industry, from clinical trials and manufacturing to patient diagnostics and treatment. Pharma companies have a strong impact on the overall healthcare ecosystem as they enable the shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to tailored treatment that addresses each patient’s unique needs – a trend called personalized health or precision medicine. Roche is considered a frontrunner in patient-centric and personalized healthcare solutions in Switzerland. With its Digital Diagnostics portfolio, one of the world’s largest biotech companies addresses various stakeholders within the healthcare environment, helping to improve the entire patient journey. For laboratories, for instance, Roche offers software that supports specialists in their diagnostic work, such as pathologists in interpreting tissue samples. In January 2021, the company launched several digital pathology image analysis algorithms for precision breast cancer diagnosis.

Food and feed industry – Beside pharmaceuticals, various other sub-sectors in manufacturing are seizing AI’s opportunities to create innovative products. For instance, Swiss Syngenta, a leader in smart agriculture, announced in September 2022 the launch of its digital solution to diagnose parasites in soybean crops by analyzing satellite photographs. The tool enables farmers to make quick adjustments to their field management practices in order to avoid yield losses and optimize the use of inputs. According to Syngenta, the “first-of-its-kind innovation” is the outcome of a multi-year collaboration with Swiss-based agriculture tech start-up Gamaya, bringing together its expertise in algorithm development and Syngenta’s agronomic and crop knowledge.

Flavor and fragrance industry – Consumers have varying needs when it comes to food, depending on where they live, their income, their culture, and many other factors. Therefore, a flavor-first approach is becoming ever more important for consumers in their purchase decisions. In 2021, Swiss flavor giant Givaudan rolled out its Aroma Kiosk, a digital sensory tool that crowdsources flavor preferences. These kiosks are located globally in grocery and retail stores and in universities. Shoppers can interact with the technology to get product recommendations based on an individual flavor preference analysis; this allows Givaudan to collect consumer insights on preferred flavors in real time.

These examples show that there is a multitude of ways in which life science companies can use AI. However, despite these AI-enabled offerings and initiatives, there is a general obstacle to the implementation of AI by organizations. Even if companies are willing to invest more effort into AI, they are faced with a lack of knowledge and expertise. Without adequate proficiency in data science and AI, businesses will have a hard time with the management and execution of such projects. That is why life science companies should foster closer collaboration with IT providers that have the appropriate AI and industry know-how. Moreover, those providers can help build the digital infrastructure needed to deliver in terms of immediacy, speed, agility, and flexibility.