From The Editor | February 1, 2024

It's Hard To Predict AI's Real Value To Clinical Trials


By Dan Schell, Chief Editor, Clinical Leader

Sunny Kumar
Sunny Kumar

As an investor in early-stage companies, Sunny Kumar doesn’t look at new technologies the same way as you or I. For instance, at this year’s SCOPE Summit, Kumar, a partner at GSR Ventures, is one of six members on the panel, The Future of Clinical Trial Tech: Perspectives from Different Investors.” With expertise in AI and ML, he expects part of this discussion will revolve around the obvious use cases of these technologies in clinical trials — patient identification, site selection, protocol design, etc. Those, though, are what he calls the “low-hanging fruit” applications. “There's no doubt in my mind that with the way AI algorithms are being designed today, that we will see a game-changing application [in clinical trials] in the next 18-24 months. But — and this is a really important caveat — it may not prove to be the best application for AI.” To clarify, he used the iPhone as an example. It was a transformative technology on its own, but who would have ever guessed that it would disrupt the taxi industry (e.g., Uber) like it did? For clinical trials technology, recognizing those long-term, often unseen, opportunities is the job of investors like Kumar and his other five fellow panelists at SCOPE.

In a recent Clinical Leader Live titled “Real Applications For AI In Clinical Trials”, many attendees were asking where they should go to gain the AI expertise needed to reap some of the benefits of this technology. When I asked Kumar this question, he said there’s always the possibility that AI expertise quickly becomes “democratized,” with everyone having access to this technology for one reason or the other. “Maybe Microsoft, Google, or Amazon just make it so easy to access and understand. More than likely, though, a group of companies will evolve that are specialized at using AI to improve clinical trials, and those will be the ones sponsors will turn to rather than bringing that knowledge in-house.”

AI won’t be the only topic discussed at this panel. For example, other panelists are expected to cover investor opportunities, the regulatory landscape, and how investors are viewing the market now that the IPO window seems to be opening up.