Novartis and Amazon have teamed up to “reimagine” the Swiss pharma giant’s core manufacturing and supply chain.

The multi-year strategic collaboration is set to establish “Insight Centres”, which will aim to provide “real-time visibility” across the company’s network of manufacturing operations and distribution centres.

The online retail corporation explained that the centres will focus on enabling manufacturing and planning teams to better forecast and track production lines, detecting potential bottlenecks and then making adjustment recommendations to improve accuracy.

Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) data abilities will go towards helping Novartis produce more personalised therapies, as they’re more complex to get a grip on than more traditional medicines.

In recent years, targeted and more effective therapies and vaccines have been made possible by new biologic molecules, which in turn has seen huge advancements in areas such as asthma, psoriasis, and various forms of cancer. “Large molecule” therapies can be more complex to manufacture, and can create new logistical challenges since they include living organisms.

Bertrand Bodson, chief digital officer talked of how he is “really proud of how the teams are working together on the ground to bring Amazon-like user experiences to our associates,” going on to say that "There is a lot we can learn from the AWS team, and while manufacturing is a great starting place, we’re keen to also explore where else we can apply this technology. Using data science and digital technologies to reimagine the way we manufacture medicines is not only at the heart of our transformation, but also core to our ambition to bring innovative medicines to patients faster.”

As a part of the collaboration, Amazon will offer its services to augment and improve visual inspections of Novartis’ manufacturing sites, by generating images that can be analysed using computer vision algorithms to monitor for risks to manufacturing production, such as unplanned downtime or delayed orders.

Amazon is a global leader in developing sophisticated supply chain and automation systems, enabling millions of products to be delivered to hundreds of millions of individuals, within hours - a market that pharma has been looking to tap into more efficiently for a while now.

The deal is Novartis’ second big strategic move in as many months, after it announced plans to acquire The Medicines Company (TMC) in November, in a deal worth $9.7 billion, a decision made on the back of TMC’s recent data from its comprehensive clinical program of three inclisiran Phase III trials.