AstraZeneca, Swedish pharmaceutical and biotech giant, has announced a new health tech unit focused on bringing artificial intelligence (AI) and digital solutions to clinical trials.

The company, which was recruited to produce the globally administered Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, said its new AI division would reduce the cost and time of the trials.

The new Evinova unit already has customers, Parexel and Fortreal, two of the world’s biggest drug testers.

Clinical trials usually take over seven years and 80% of trials fail to meet recruiting guidelines, according to AstraZeneca.

The digital health market will exceed $900bn by 2032, the company said. 

Cristina Duran, president of Evinova, said: “We are excited to bring the portfolio of globally-scaled digital solutions developed to serve AstraZeneca’s drug development pipeline to the wider life sciences community.

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“We believe this will help propel the sector forward in digital health, as we know healthcare professionals and regulators need digital solutions that work across pharma and support patients broadly.”

Amy Larsen DeCarlo, analyst at research company GlobalData, said the US healthcare sector “is primed for digital help”.

Writing in a GlobalData blog post on 1 August 2023, DeCarlo said: “Notoriously slow to invest in information technology and widely known for administrative inefficiencies, healthcare institutions could potentially benefit from generative AI (GenAI) in a number of ways.”

However, DeCarlo states that although early use cases look promising, there is considerable concern around the accuracy of generated content.

“Time, and trials, will show how effective GenAI is as a tool for healthcare,” she said.