Monday 18 September 2023

How Is AI Bringing Big Advancements to Biotechnology in Europe?


Doctors and researchers are applying AI in biotechnology to expand Europe’s expertise in medicine and technology, leading to new discoveries and better care. It’s become a powerful tool for pharmaceuticals and health care. The U.S. is often seen as a hub for AI, but Europe is becoming a leader in AI-powered biotechnology advancements.

By Emily Newton

How are European doctors and researchers using AI? How is it evolving and advancing the biotechnology industry?

AI and the Challenges Facing Europe’s Biotech Industry

AI in biotechnology is powering significant growth in European markets and research. It’s emerging as an ideal tool for resolving several core challenges facing Europe’s biotechnology industry. By addressing common issues, AI is helping businesses and researchers deliver major advancements across several niches.


For example, a 2023 McKinsey report highlighted insufficient access to funding as a core concern holding back a boom in biotechnology and health care in the European market. AI is helping researchers and businesses overcome this challenge by improving efficiency and reducing reliance on physical tests and experiments. Digital modeling lets researchers use virtual, AI-powered simulations instead.


Likewise, language barriers are a common stumbling block limiting collaboration among EU nations. AI makes those language barriers easier to get around. Researchers can use natural language processing AI to translate in real time, fostering stronger communication with international colleagues.


Additionally, the EU is emerging as a leader in patient safety and privacy regulations. These laws have a significant positive impact, and European businesses and researchers are still learning to ensure compliance. AI is helping streamline compliance verification, particularly as new models deliver greater transparency and reliability.

Expanding Access to Health Care

Access to health care remains a serious and widespread issue worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 1 billion people visit facilities without electricity, let alone advanced medical technologies. AI and biotechnology can help these patients and many more.


European researchers are applying AI to biotechnologies that are designed for high accessibility. A great example is a project at La Fondation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in France with backing from Google. MSF researchers have developed an AI-powered app that rapidly analyzes samples and gives diagnosis recommendations for treating antimicrobial resistance.


The best part about this app is that it runs on basic smartphones. It doesn’t require expensive or specialized equipment, and doctors can take it anywhere. There’s no need to access electricity after the phone is charged.


AI in biotechnology often requires significant computing resources, but European researchers are proving this doesn’t always have to be the case. Doctors, developers, businesses and academics use AI to access cutting-edge technologies that can save lives.

Developing New Treatments

New treatment R&D is emerging as one of the most high-potential applications of AI in biotechnology. AI models can significantly reduce development time and costs due to their ability to rapidly analyze thousands of possible compounds and chemical combinations.


European countries tend to lag behind the U.S. on pharmaceutical research funding, but the EU still has a strong presence in the industry. Researchers use AI to expand their capabilities and break new ground in vaccine and drug development.


Europe is uniquely well-positioned to take advantage of the AI boom and apply it to biotechnology. Europe includes several of the world’s most highly educated cities, including Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki. Germany has long been an engineering hub. France’s Sorbonne University is one of the world’s most famed educational institutions for the sciences.


There is a lot of leading science, medicine and biotechnology talent in Europe today. Researchers, developers and businesses throughout the continent are leveraging AI to speed up treatment research without compromising safety. AI helps them identify promising drugs and vaccines faster, test them in digital simulations, and better understand side effects and success rates.

Powering Predictive Modeling and Analytics

Predictive modeling and analytics are a core part of AI-powered treatment R&D, but they’re incredibly useful for many other applications in biotechnology.


AI is helping European doctors analyze numerical and imaging data. It enables researchers to model biological processes and new treatments and allows businesses and health care institutions to better understand their patients' needs. This contributes to growth in Europe’s biotechnology industry.


A great example is a research project conducted by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and AI developer DeepMind. The EMBL researchers used a DeepMind algorithm called AlphaFold to predict the structures of over 350,000 different proteins, including all 20,000 in the human genome.


This project is a monumental breakthrough for numerous reasons. It reduced the time required to predict the structure of a single protein from months to mere minutes. While AlphaFold’s prediction confidence varied from one protein to another, this is still a huge leap compared to conventional methods.


Additionally, the EMBL project is one of many examples of AI in biotechnology opening doors for countless new treatments. Proteins are an essential component of many medicines, vaccines and drugs. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are a perfect example. They were even developed in part with the help of AI tools.


Europe’s biotechnology industry is continuing this successful trend with projects like the EMBL’s proteins study. AI-powered analytics are also helping doctors and researchers understand medical imaging data, determine diagnoses, create treatment plans, analyze research and more.

The Future of AI in Biotechnology in Europe

European doctors, researchers, businesses, academics and medical institutions are applying AI in biotechnology in many ways. They’re using it to improve access to health care for millions, discover new medicines, understand medical data, model biological structures and processes, and overcome the unique challenges facing the EU biotech industry. AI is helping Europe strengthen its expertise in medicine and technology and provide better care for patients worldwide.


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