Technological Innovations, Artificial Intelligence Required to Grow Pharma Sector – Prof. Esimone

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The Federal Government has been urged to show readiness to boost the pharmaceutical sector, by providing adequate funding for further education and technological advancements.

The call was made by Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, eminent professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology and Biopharmaceutics and vice- chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State.

Esimone, a Fellow of the Pharmaceutical Society  of Nigeria (PSN) and the Nigeria Academy of Pharmacy, was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony of the 93rd Annual National Conference of the PSN, tagged “Omoluabi 2020” and held at the De-Distinguished Event Centre, Osogbo, Osun State. He noted that innovation is an inexhaustible engine for economic development.

While speaking on the topic “Technological Revolution: Adaptation in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, Pharmacy Practice and Regulation”, Esimone disclosed that the country is presently faced with crippling  industrial actions, intractable insecurity, hikes in the prices of food items, galloping inflation and tumbling oil price, all of which he said drive the government and institutions dangerously close to their yield points, saying to overcome the challenges, the country must turn to technology.

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Professor Charles Okechukwu Esimone

Speaking further, Esimone noted that technological revolution is essential, as technological progress and innovation often cause abrupt changes in the society, adding that a new idea is made practical using technology to solve human problems.

He added, “We must therefore key into the giant technological revolution, which is shaping every facet of the global landscape, and which will exacerbate the gaps between the developing and developed countries. We cannot afford to be left behind.”

He also emphasised that technological innovation could help change the pharmaceutical sector, make global pharma production stronger and bring positive revolutions to pharmaceutical manufacturing and pharmacy practice.

The university don, while harping on the importance of artificial intelligence to the pharmaceutical sector, noted that it thrives heavily on research and development, adding that it is highly regulated like the arms industry and thus necessitating protection of trade secrets and intellectual property, in order to safeguard innovations.

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He added, “AI, used in research and development, will enhance the identification of life-saving drugs, reduce design time as well as time required for lead optimisation, reduce the time for clinical trials, improve quality control measures and predictive maintenance accuracy. These will invariably cause a lot of displacement in human labour engagements, with a few machines doing what many humans were hitherto trained and hired to do.”

Esimone further noted that AI can help with customer and product segregation, supplier segregation, digital pills, telepharmacy and virtual pharmacies, saying it is impossible to regulate an advanced product with an obsolete technology.

“How would you regulate a digital pill if you do not have human and equipment capacity? How would you regulate a robotic pharmacist? So, you need expertise in technology, and the time to join is now,” he added.

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