The Future of Innovation, Generative AI, and More with Jeanne Kehren

August 29, 2023

By Irene Yeh

August 29, 2023 | When the first human genome was sequenced, Jeanne Kehren switched from veterinary medicine to the pharmaceutical industry. After that “magical moment of hope,” Kehren and her colleagues looked forward to a bright future for individualized medicine and treatment. Today, she is the SVP of Digital & Commercial Innovation and CIO of Bayer Pharmaceuticals and works in a wide variety of fields, including digital health and digital transformation. 

As technology continues making strides in healthcare and drug development, the pharmaceutical industry is extending its reach toward new treatments and medicines to help patients across the world. Most recently, generative AI is at the forefront, with several industries finding innovative ways to use it for content production, organizing data, and more. But this also raises the question, what role can we expect AI to take in the pharmaceutical industry? And what does this mean for the future of the job market? 

In this episode of Trends from the Trenches, host Stan Gloss speaks with Kehren about her perspectives on generative AI’s role in the pharmaceutical industry. She also shares her thoughts on how it will impact the job market. 

The Key Factor of Innovation 

While innovation is the driving force behind advancing technology, maintaining it can be a challenge, especially when there are so many different ideas, varying levels of access to resources, and factors that affect productivity output. However, rather than defining innovation as simply creating something new, Kehren believes it is more beneficial to have an open definition. 

“It’s not good enough to be new,” explains Kehren. “It has to be applicable and useful. Innovation, for me, is something that makes our current situation go toward a point where it’s a better situation.” 

It can be easy to get caught up in the discovery of new medications and treatments and lose focus on why these developments are happening in the first place: to help patients and improve their lives. Kehren encourages researchers and scientists to “focus on the problem to be solved” and to consider how a certain medication, treatment, or tool can help a patient solve their health issues and live their lives with minimal issues. 

What Generative AI Can Bring to Pharmaceuticals 

While AI is not a new tool, it has become more accessible and available. For the pharmaceutical industry, generative AI has helped with the data organization issue. Research data and information can be difficult to manage, peruse, and analyze, so AI programs help with keeping the information organized, easier to access, and processing it into more understandable formats. 

“What generative AI does is help us—humans—to deal with an incredible amount of information being available today,” explains Kehren. “It’s helping us with volume and being able to make sense of it all and creating new content and new assembly of content.” 

There is also the benefit of taking on menial, time-consuming tasks. “Everything we do in standard protocolization…is super amendable to generative AI. You can save a lot of repetitive tasks with low value add and give back time to your employees to focus on understanding the problems, shaping the questions, spending more time into looking externally at different aspects, being more creative, saving a lot of outsourcing help—you can do all of that.” 

But there have been many questions and concerns about AI, mainly how it will impact the job market. With increased productivity due to simplifying complicated tasks, will AI replace humans and take over their jobs?  

“It’s going to change the way we work,” answers Kehren. “It’s going to change the way we look at things and the way we practice our jobs. Your job is not going to be replaced by generative AI, but you’ll be replaced by someone able to use generative AI. You need to be able to use those tools.” 

Just like when the first human genome was sequenced, the future is full of possibilities for AI and other technology. These new tools can help researchers develop new treatments and medications for patients, and employees can expect an easier time with tasks and increase productivity. But as the pharmaceutical industry continues to progress and innovate, we must remember that treating patients and improving their health and lives are the priority.