Ben Miles may be one of the last scientists to handle a pipette. While completing a chemical biology Ph.D. in London two years ago, he read about a California-based company called Transcriptic that had a robotic cloud laboratory.

SwissCognitiveSo he signed up and wrote code to run synthetic biology experiments remotely from a coffee shop. He even traveled — including a trip to Vienna — while monitoring experiments on a laptop. “I would wake up the next morning and had my results,” he says.

When you think about automation, you probably think of factories, not biomedical research labs. But advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, internet-of-things technologies and cloud computing will change that. From software that helps scientists plan experiments to robotic labs that execute them flawlessly, these developments are creating labs of the future in which scientists have more time to think while distributed devices run and gather data on experiments.

While it might force you to update your image of a scientist from white coats and pipettes to laptops and lattes, the upside could be enormous: faster, more reproducible research that leads to newer, more effective therapies developed in less time.

Overcoming The Inverse Of Moore’s Law

That’s a good thing — because it takes about 10 years and up to $2.6 billion to develop a new drug, and it’s getting exponentially worse. Eroom’s Law , the inverse of Moore’s Law, describes how the cost of developing a new drug nearly doubles every nine years.

More shocking: Much of this expensive research isn’t reproducible, meaning the results are unreliable. Bayer HealthCare reported replicating just 25% of published preclinical studies it analyzed, while Amgen confirmed findings in just 6 of 53 landmark cancer studies (11%). In a May 2016 Nature survey, 70% of scientists said they couldn’t replicate another scientist’s experiment and more than half said they couldn’t reproduce their own.

Automation alone won’t solve this. But most pharmaceutical executives think it will help — and soon. In a survey (registration required) this summer of 100 pharmaceutical executives, industry news source Pharma IQ found that 94% believe intelligent automation technologies will make an impact within two years, helping them streamline processes, save time, stay ahead of competitors, modernize business and cut costs. […]

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