Originally published Aug 22, 2018

Jack Eldridge (JE), Head of Life Sciences, Pharma & Healthcare division, Lawrence Harvey

AI Applications Summit: AI technologies have been heralded as potentially transformational for the biopharmaceutical industry.  Implementing these technologies requires a team that can span experimental science and computation.  How can biopharma companies meet the challenge and attract AI talent while competing with pure technology firms and other industries in need of computer science and technology skill sets?

JE: New technologies/innovations such as AI inevitably cause some degree of slowness to adoption as technology is very advanced for this industry sector.  There is no question the challenge is big, but biopharma can get past it.  There are many hurdles to get over, attracting top tech talent to companies that are very far from a top tech environment and gaining acceptance of the technology and all it requires from the existing Drug Discovery groups, to name a few.

An approach we’ve taken with some of our clients in other sectors, such as a leading Aerospace firm and large Investment Bank, is to create a new layer of consulting expertise that sits in between the technology group and the core business group. 

Let’s take a step back and put this in perspective for the biopharmaceutical industry and demonstrate an approach that could prove to be successful:

Step 1: Create a pure tech hub; an AI Technology/Innovation group that has all the aspects of a workplace that technologists thrive in: like- minded colleagues, feeling like part of a tech company, ability to do research and innovate etc.

Step 2: Create a middle layer of internal consultants to bridge the innovation and technology into the existing corporate pharma science.

Step 3: Continue the process of strong, specific functions of both Tech and Pharma Science, which helps to ensure engagement and share ideas/success stories of how implementing these technologies and ways of working have solved problems across the business.  Create blueprints and analyze the outcomes.


AI Applications Summit: Once inhouse, what can the biopharma industry do to increase the retention of these AI technology/science skill sets?

JE: Before you can get to retention, you really need to address and solve engagement.  Going back to the solution outlined earlier, identifying what engages the AI types; such as work impact outcome, freedom to research new things and working on projects with shorter timeline goals, all go a long way to keeping them engaged and passionate about their work.  The biopharma industry historically works on very long timelines, so demonstrating a unique culture for the tech hub group will go far in attracting and engaging the necessary talent.


AI Applications Summit: AI is also being used by internal HR teams to help in recruitment and retention, can you explain how?

JE: AI, predictive analytics specifically, is being utilized in many ways with regard to talent acquisition and retention.  In some businesses, biopharma companies included, it’s used to predict the probability of candidates succeeding in a particular job.  In other companies, it’s used in workflow analysis where employees are monitored across internal networks to determine how they perform on individual projects vs. group projects, with feedback provided to managers to enhance training and employee success rates.  Other companies are taking the approach of using an app to track the wellness of its employees to offer suggestions to better wellness and ultimately create a healthier and more productive workforce.

Overall, the positive impact that AI is going to have seems to be understood by all angles, it’s just making that jump and getting that balance right so it works hand-in-hand with scientists to assist, rather than replace.

Jack Eldridge heads up the Life Sciences, Pharma & Healthcare division at Lawrence Harvey within their Analytics practice, with Tim Tirabassi running the specific area of this group with a pure focus on Artificial Intelligence. Both will be attending the summit. Click here to join them.

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