Novartis and the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute have announced that they are to establish a five-year research alliance using artificial intelligence to understand complex diseases and improve drug development.

The alliance plans to analyse huge data sets using artificial intelligence and machine learning to spot disease insights that have been undetectable to scientists thus far, expecting to transform how ultra large and multiple datasets are analysed, combined and interpreted to identify early predictors of patient responses to treatments for inflammatory diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and psoriasis.

The alliance will draw on data from around 5 million patients from the UK and international partner organisations, together with anonymised data captured from relevant Novartis clinical trials.

Using the BDI’s latest statistical machine learning technology and experience in data analysis, combined with Novartis’ wealth of clinical expertise and clinical trial data, the alliance expects to predict how patients will respond to existing and new medicines.

“Our collaboration with Novartis will enable both organisations to transform the scale and efficiency of clinical research at an unprecedented rate though the sharing of data, technology, and advanced analytics expertise” said Professor Gil McVean, director of the Big Data Institute.

“The BDI enables people and projects to span traditional boundaries and scientific disciplines, and leverage technological innovation for the benefit of patients.”

Novartis and the BDI will also identify unprecedented insights into the characteristics of specific, complex diseases to understand what drives disease progression, and understand any commonalities between diseases.