CIO Insider

CIOInsider India Magazine


Embracing AI and ML Innovations in Pharma and Beyond

Ramanarayana Parhi, Vice President and CIO, Alkem Laboratories Ltd

Ramanarayana Parhi, an industry veteran with over 25 years of experience, currently serves as the Vice President and CIO for Alkem Laboratories. With a rich background in the IT and services sector, he has contributed significantly to renowned Indian IT multinationals such as Infosys, TCS, and Cognizant. Specializing in the pharma domain for over a decade, Parhi brings extensive expertise in crafting solutions and services tailored to the unique needs of pharmaceutical clients. In his current role, he holds the pivotal responsibility of overseeing the comprehensive digital strategy and implementation for the Alkem Group of Companies, further solidifying his position as a leader in the industry.

Navigating the AI and ML Landscape in Pharma
The regulated pharma industry, with its unique challenges and stringent requirements, necessitates a cautious approach to adopting AI and ML technologies. Despite the tremendous potential these technologies offer, particularly in doubling or tripling productivity, organizations must consider the specific intricacies of the industry. The vast amounts of data available in pharmaceuticals present an opportunity to optimize various value chains, spanning research and development, supply chain, and sales. Machine Learning and AI, with their ability to decipher complex patterns within extensive datasets; emerge as indispensable tools in extracting valuable insights.

However, the crux lies in establishing trustworthy and verifiable AI models, especially in an industry where compliance and transparency are paramount. The ability to explain the rationale behind a model's decision becomes a non-negotiable requirement. Pharmaceutical organizations cannot afford a scenario where decisions are made based on opaque models; instead, the emphasis is on validation to ensure the reliability and credibility of the solutions. The validation process becomes a critical step, ensuring that the model aligns with the ethical and regulatory standards of the pharmaceutical sector.

Strategic Approach to Innovation
The plethora of solutions flooding the market, driven by the scale of cloud computing and advancements in tools, poses a considerable challenge for organizations in choosing the right technological investments. In the regulated pharmaceutical industry, where resources are precious and outcomes must be carefully scrutinized, a strategic approach is imperative. The process involves a meticulous evaluation of available solutions, shortlisting problem areas, and refining use cases through collaborative partnerships.

Once potential solutions are identified, organizations conduct Proof of Concepts (POCs) to validate the feasibility of AI and ML implementations. POCs serve as a litmus test, allowing organizations to assess whether the initial assumptions and expectations align with the real-world results. Successful POCs pave the way for full-scale use case implementation, ensuring that investments are directed toward solutions that

demonstrate tangible value. This strategic evaluation process becomes the linchpin in balancing the potential of innovation with the risks associated with AI and ML adoption.

Measuring Success in AI and ML Implementations
The success and effectiveness of AI and ML implementations are contingent on a careful and iterative measurement process. Each use case demands a tailored approach, necessitating a clear understanding of the problem being addressed. Whether optimizing manufacturing parameters or predicting employee churn, organizations establish baseline metrics before implementing AI models. Success is measured against these baselines, considering both quantitative and qualitative parameters agreed upon with key stakeholders.

Quantitative measurements provide a tangible understanding of improvements, whether it is in production efficiency or employee retention rates. However, the dynamic nature of AI and ML often requires organizations to incorporate qualitative measurements into their success criteria. These qualitative parameters, agreed upon with key stakeholders, may include factors like enhanced decision-making processes, improved customer satisfaction, or increased agility in responding to market changes. This holistic approach ensures that success is not solely defined by numerical metrics but also encompasses the broader impact on organizational processes and outcomes.

Key Performance Indicators for Success
The diversity of AI and ML applications demands a case-specific approach to key performance indicators (KPIs). Each use case requires a unique set of metrics aligned with the specific goals and challenges at hand. For instance, if the objective is to maximize yield in manufacturing, KPIs may revolve around production efficiency, waste reduction, and overall output quality.

On the other hand, if the focus is on predicting market trends, KPIs could involve the accuracy of predictions, early identification of emerging trends, and adaptability to market changes. Establishing current baselines for these KPIs becomes the starting point, providing a reference point against which the success of AI and ML initiatives can be measured. This iterative process ensures that organizations not only achieve incremental improvements but also remain adaptable to evolving challenges and opportunities.

AI and ML in Cybersecurity
The realm of cybersecurity introduces a distinct set of challenges, as threats continuously evolve in sophistication and scope. While the potential of AI and ML to detect and mitigate these threats is acknowledged, the field is still in its nascent stages. Cybersecurity threats, particularly in industries like pharmaceuticals, present a clear and present danger, with reports of ransomware attacks and data theft becoming increasingly common.

In the pharma realm, AI and ML unfold a strategic dance, measuring success, fortifying against cyber threats, and embracing tech evolution.

The promise of AI and ML lies in their ability to discern patterns and anomalies in vast datasets, enabling proactive threat detection and mitigation. However, the current landscape suggests that the full potential of these technologies in cybersecurity is yet to be realized. The dynamic nature of cyber threats necessitates continuous innovation in AI and ML solutions to stay ahead of malicious actors. Collaboration across industries, shared threat intelligence, and concerted efforts to develop robust defense mechanisms emerge as essential components in addressing the growing menace of cyber threats.

Staying Updated in the Rapidly Changing Tech Landscape
The rapid evolution of technology mandates a proactive approach to staying updated on the latest trends. Long-term planning now extends only up to three years, given the pace of technological advancements. Engaging with industry veterans, attending seminars and conferences, reading both online and offline resources, and organizing collaboration workshops with technology partners are strategies organizations employ to stay informed.

Industry seminars and conferences, featuring reputable speakers and thought leaders, serve as valuable platforms for gaining insights into emerging technologies and trends. Additionally, collaboration workshops with technology partners provide organizations with firsthand knowledge of the latest advancements in AI and ML. However, acknowledging that a portion of investments may become obsolete due to the rapid pace of change is a realistic perspective.

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