The Pharma AI Readiness Index assesses how prepared top pharmaceutical companies are to adopt and respond to rapidly evolving AI technologies.
Pharmaceutical companies are embracing AI in droves.
In May, Eli Lilly signed a $250M collaboration with XtalPi, the top-funded startup in AI drug discovery & design. Mentions of AI surged in AstraZeneca’s Q1’23 earnings call. And Sanofi announced its ambition to be “the first pharma company powered by artificial intelligence at scale” in a press release in June.
But which ones are best equipped to take advantage of the technology?
CB Insights has launched the Pharma AI Readiness Index — a ranking of the 50 largest pharmaceutical companies in the Americas and Europe by market cap, based on their demonstrated ability to attract top AI talent, execute AI projects, and innovate through R&D and investments.
The index is calculated based on CB Insights datasets including patent applications, partnership & licensing agreements, dealmaking activity, acquisitions, key people, product launches, and earnings transcripts.
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Roche and Bayer are the 2 top-scoring pharma companies, primarily due to their leading levels of AI innovation via acquisitions, investments, and patents. Like Roche and Bayer, other high-scoring companies have made clear investments in AI talent and — to a lesser degree — have a demonstrated ability to execute AI initiatives.
Below, we look at how prepared the top 50 pharmaceutical companies are to adapt to a rapidly evolving AI landscape across 3 key pillars: talent, execution, and innovation.
- Talent: The talent score measures a pharmaceutical company’s ability to attract and retain AI specialists. This score is based on CB Insights data including employee headcount and key AI hires.
- Execution: The execution score measures a pharmaceutical company’s ability to bring AI-powered products and services to market, as well as deploy AI internally across corporate functions. This score is based on CB Insights data including business relationships, product launch media mentions, and earnings transcripts.
- Innovation: The innovation score measures a pharmaceutical company’s track record of developing or acquiring novel AI capabilities. This score is based on CB Insights data including patents, acquisitions, and dealmaking activity.
The top-ranking pharma companies in our analysis have established AI disciplines with clear leadership mandates — led by individuals with extensive academic or industry experience — and targeted hiring in technical roles. For instance:
- Moderna’s chief data and AI officer, Dave Johnson, holds a PhD in information physics. Johnson has publicly discussed his team’s use of AI to help develop Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine. More broadly, Moderna has hired AI talent from leading institutions like Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University.
- AstraZeneca’s VP of data science and AI, R&D, James Weatherall, joined the company in 2007 and also serves as the vice chair of the data science section on the council of the Royal Statistical Society. AstraZeneca has also hired AI talent from leading institutions like Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge.
Half of the 50 largest pharma companies have entered into partnership or licensing agreements with AI companies.
To highlight a few business relationships:
- Merck Group was the launch partner for Insilico Medicine’s generative chemistry AI platform in November 2020.
- Novartis and Microsoft have a long-standing AI partnership, which includes a joint research lab and co-development of an open-source model for leprosy detection through the Novartis Foundation.
- Sanofi extended an oncology collaboration with Aqemia in June 2022 focused on AI- and quantum physics-enabled drug discovery.
More so, 23 out of the 50 companies have mentioned AI on earnings calls at least once over the past 5 years. GSK has mentioned AI across 8 earnings calls during that time — more than any of the other companies.
Innovation scores are the most disparate of the 3 categories in our analysis.
Only 3 of the 50 largest pharma companies have made an AI acquisition. And just 5 account for over half of all AI investments made since 2018.
- Bayer is the top investor in AI startups among these 50 pharma companies. Its corporate venture capital arm, Leaps by Bayer, has backed 12 deals since 2018. Three of these deals went to Huma, a leader in decentralized clinical trials.
- Only 3 of the 50 companies — Bayer, BioNTech, and Roche — have made an AI acquisition. Two of these acquisitions occurred in January 2023: Bayer acquired Blackford Analysis, an AI medical imaging platform; and BioNTech acquired InstaDeep, which specializes in protein design.