In his speech during Wednesday’s virtual event, Allan Gabor, president of Merck China and executive vice president of Merck Electronics, shared his insights on the AI and biomedicine industry and further explained how the firm uses AI to accelerate the biotech industry in healthcare, life sciences, and electronics.

On Wednesday, the BEYOND Expo 2022 opens online at BEYOND Metaverse. As Asia’s largest and most influential tech event, the Expo will have more than 40 talks and panel discussions where leaders and experts across sectors dive deep into the topics of consumer tech, health tech, global investments, sustainability, and Web3.

Please find below the transcript of the opening day speech from Allan Gabor, president of Merck China, and executive vice president of Merck Electronics. The following transcript has been edited for clarity:

Hello, my name is Al Gabor. I am the President of Merck China. I am also leading our Electronics business here in China. Thank you for inviting me to the BEYOND MetaExpo. Pleased to meet you all on this innovative new platform BEYOND.

I am delighted to share with you some insights on artificial intelligence and the biomedicine industry and hopefully also share some of the excitement that we at Merck China feel about this new frontier in healthcare. As a global leading science and technology company, Merck embraces Artificial Intelligence both in our daily operations and in our R&D efforts.

This comes natural to us, because with our three business sectors – healthcare, life sciences, and electronics – we have a broad portfolio that is ideally suited to identify and use synergies. Merck is very interested in learning from nature and AI is helping us to achieve this better than ever before. Biology is converging with engineering sciences like chemistry, artificial intelligence, and material science. Having expertise in all of these fields, Merck is ready to connect the dots and be a reliable partner for your business.

AI has the potential to accelerate the discovery of the next generation of drugs and therapies. This is exciting because it holds the promise of more personal and targeted therapies, which can make them more effective and more accessible for patients.

For Merck, our scientists see AI´s capability to analyze pre-clinical data and literature for drug discovery and biomarker identification. We regard the application of AI as a key digital strategy to unlock great benefits for our medicinal R&D, especially for compound optimization, molecule & compound testing, and processing.

And we are not only harnessing the power of AI in our own research – Merck´s Life Science business also empowers the research & production partners. We support new biomedicine research with innovative materials, equipment, and new AI-powered technical solutions.

Merck is applying the advancements in AI to the compound screening of hundreds of millions of drug candidates. With the support of AI learning and data, we help our customers and partners to save time and optimize their own drug discovery and manufacturing. 

In our electronics business, a fast-growing part of the Merck business matrix, we are actively involved in further innovating existing computer architectures. And with our innovative materials, we enable the new semiconductors and future technologies that are needed for this AI revolution in healthcare.

We are proud to provide critical materials for Neuromorphic chips and quantum computing. They are among the more than 150 products we provide to around 100 chip makers across China, covering their entire wafer fabrication and packaging processes.

Merck China is more than doubling its investment in our Electronics business, with at least another RMB 1 billion ($140 million) before 2025, with a focus on the chip manufacturing industry. Globally, our Merck Group will invest more than 3 billion euros ($2.98 billion) by 2025 in this same area.

At Merck, we are already using AI in many fields and deploying it to an increasingly greater extent. We’ve formed a partnership in the field of AI-based active ingredient research with Iktos of France to accelerate drug discovery by automatically designing virtual novel molecules with the desired activity to treat a certain disease.

Here in China, Merck was a launch partner of Insilico’s AI-platform Chemistry 42. It is ground-breaking, as small molecule discovery becomes much faster.

In collaboration with major industrial companies, renowned research institutes and universities, Merck has established an innovation platform called KEEN. Under KEEN, specific applications have been developed that are applying AI. For example, self-optimizing production units.

We also invest in smart AI technologies in our own production. We currently have a pilot project running in collaboration with Siemens.

As you know well, Biomedical Sciences has a very broad range and deals with various disciplines of medical research such as genetics epidemiology, clinical epidemiology, clinical virology, and medical microbiology.

Natural and engineering sciences are converging at a fast pace in our quest to better understand human health and diseases – like the fields of anatomy, cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, immunology, mathematics, statistics, and bioinformatics.

All this interdisciplinarity results in the creation of huge data sets, and that makes AI so immensely helpful for biomedical science and for the development of the new treatment technologies that are currently emerging.

One example: our scientists are actively experimenting with Organs-on-a-Chip solutions. While research is moving from in-vivo to in-vitro, complex algorithms help to process the huge amount of data generated.

While scientists and human know-how continue to be needed, AI has the fascinating capability to estimate lots of results without direct human interaction. It can help with text mining, patient-centric information retrieval, biomedical text evaluation, diagnostic assistance, clinical event forecasting, and many other tasks.

At Merck, we believe that artificial intelligence is poised to broadly reshape medicine and improve the experiences of both clinicians and especially patients. Still, tremendous challenges remain for all of us actively starting to use AI. The biggest one is to create the necessary user trust in AI systems and how the training data sets are composed.

That is why Merck is also actively involved in developing the proper management systems to use data responsibly and equitably, including ethnic monitoring. At Merck, we have confidence in the power of artificial intelligence and we believe that it will contribute to a brilliant future. 

Ward Zhou

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a]technode.com or Twitter @zhounanyu.