Novartis and the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute to establish world-leading research alliance using artificial intelligence to understand complex diseases and improve drug development
Jan 18, 2019
Unique five-year alliance established between industry and academia to advance the analysis and interpretation of ultra large and multiple datasets, using cutting edge technology including artificial intelligence machine learning
These technologies have the ability to spot disease patterns and signals much earlier in their manifestation, translating more quickly into methods that will support clinical decision making
The alliance will be transformative for how Novartis adopts data science at scale from multiple data sources, beginning with flagship programs in multiple sclerosis, dermatology and rheumatology
Frimley, January 18th, 2019 – Novartis today announced a five-year collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute (BDI) to establish a world-leading research alliance that will improve drug development by making it more efficient and more targeted. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics, the partners expect to transform how ultra large and multiple datasets are analysed, combined and interpreted to identify early predictors of patient responses to treatments for inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and psoriasis.
The alliance will make use of anonymised data from approximately 5 million patients from the UK and international partner organisations, together with anonymised data captured from relevant Novartis clinical trials. Using the BDI’s latest statistical machine learning technology and experience in data analysis, combined with Novartis’ wealth of clinical expertise and clinical trial data, the alliance expects to predict how patients will respond to existing and new medicines.
Furthermore, through the development of an innovative IT environment and AI technology, the alliance will work to identify patterns in data, often across multiple data sources and types (imaging, genomics, clinical and biological), which cannot be detected by humans alone. Novartis and the BDI will also identify unprecedented insights into the characteristics of specific, complex diseases to understand what drives disease progression, and understand any commonalities between diseases.
“Our work with the Big Data Institute will enable us to combine different types of data such as clinical, imaging and genomics, and use advanced analytical capabilities to change how we look at diseases and discover new insights” said John Tsai, Head of Global Drug Development and Chief Medical Officer at Novartis. “This has the potential to transform how we design and conduct our clinical development programs of the future.”
The alliance will focus initially on two flagship programs within Novartis’ Global Drug Development (GDD) organisation, gaining scientific insights in multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatology and rheumatology that would not be possible without this collaboration. Furthermore, the alliance allows for knowledge exchange and access to a broader network of scientific talent across the two organizations.
“Our collaboration with Novartis will enable both organisations to transform the scale and efficiency of clinical research at an unprecedented rate though the sharing of data, technology, and advanced analytics expertise” said Professor Gil McVean, Director of the Big Data Institute. “The BDI enables people and projects to span traditional boundaries and scientific disciplines, and leverage technological innovation for the benefit of patients.”
“This partnership with the BDI is aligned with the UK’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and offers the opportunity to expand our understanding and capabilities in data science at scale. As a leading medicines company driven by data and digital, Novartis expects the collaboration with the BDI to enhance its capabilities in data science and analytics.” said Mark Toms, Chief Scientific Officer, Novartis UK.
The alliance will also draw on the expertise of other partners throughout the duration of the collaboration. The Medical Research Council (MRC) Harwell Institute will play a key role by contributing their expertise in informatics and carrying out data wrangling (the process of converting and mapping data from its raw form to another format with the purpose of making it more valuable for the task). Oxford’s Department of Statistics will also be central to the collaboration, providing their expertise and experience in statistical machine learning.
Notes to editor
Novartis and the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute identified two flagship programs within Novartis’ Global Drug Development (GDD) organization to initiate the collaboration:
Leveraging clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of more than 35,000 MS patients. Building on Novartis’ long-standing expertise in MS, the aim is to unlock new disease insights through data-based characterization of the MS continuum and understanding patterns and timing of disease progression. Insights will inform more efficient clinical trials with the hope to improve prognosis for people living with MS.
Novartis’ interleukin-17 inhibitor has large datasets that integrate clinical trial information from multiple inflammatory indications in greater than 11,000 patients. Leveraging the BDI’s deep learning algorithms for layering datasets (imaging, proteomic, genomic, etc.) will enable a transformative precision medicine approach to predict early response and improve health outcomes across multiple disease entities; psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic and biosimilar pharmaceuticals and eye care. Novartis has leading positions globally in each of these areas. In 2017, the Group achieved net sales of USD 49.1 billion, while R&D throughout the Group amounted to approximately USD 9.0 billion. Novartis Group companies employ approximately 125,000 full-time-equivalent associates. Novartis products are sold in approximately 155 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.
In the UK, we employ approximately 1,500 people to serve healthcare needs across the whole of the UK, as well as supporting the global operations of Novartis. In 2017 Novartis invested almost £30million in R&D and is a leading sponsor of clinical trials in the UK. For more information, please visit www.novartis.co.uk.
The Big Data Institute is located in the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Informatics and Discovery at the University of Oxford. It is an interdisciplinary research centre that focuses on the analysis of large, complex data sets for research into the causes, consequences, prevention and treatment of disease. Research is conducted in areas such as genomics, population health, infectious disease surveillance and the development of new analytic methods. The Big Data Institute is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council, the Engineering, Physical Sciences Research Council, the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund, the National Institute for Health Research Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, Wellcome and philanthropic donations from the Li Ka Shing and Robertson Foundations. Further details are available at www.bdi.ox.ac.uk