Novartis turning to technology to manage business: Bertrand Bodson, Chief Digital Officer

BENGALURU: Swiss drugmaker Novartis is turning to tech to deal with the pharma business in times of pandemic, as companies go virtual. Bertrand Bodson, chief digital officer, Novartis, in an interview to Divya Rajagopal shares how the company is innovating its business in the time of pandemic. Excerpts from the interview

Can you tell us how is Novartis merging technology in its key areas such as drug discoveries?

One of our 12 digital lighthouse programmes, priority programmes focused on embedding data science and digital technologies across the enterprise, is called data42 and is dedicated to R&D. Through our multiyear alliance with Microsoft, for example, we launched the AI Innovation Lab, which uses the power of AI to tackle some of the hardest computational challenges within life sciences, starting with generative chemistry, image segmentation and the optimisation of cell and gene therapies at scale.

How does India fit into the digital expansion of Novartis?
We have a large footprint in India with a strong presence in Hyderabad. Earlier this year we launched Novartis Biome India and also expanded NBSX (innovation challenge), both of which are focused on disruptive and exponential tech solutions in healthcare, externally and internally. We hope the changed view of tech professionals makes it easier to draw top tech talent to Novartis India.

Can you tell us how is Novartis leveraging tech to find solutions for the current pandemic?
We are grateful to the Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator for establishing a Workbench — a digitally enabled open collaboration space for data scientists and researchers to interrogate relevant worldwide datasets with questions that may concretely help the fight against the virus. We are very committed to contributing to this important work with the expertise of our exceptional data science community.

Recently Novartis was in news regarding a bribery scandal, is there a way where tech can minimise human interventions in areas such as pharma marketing that can lead to a ethical business functioning?
While there are limitations to what technology can do at a global level given the inequities that exist in the world, we as a company have made significant progress in this direction.


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