Pfizer Is Using AI to Discover Breakthrough Medicines

Breakthrough therapies require breakthrough technologies. That’s why Pfizer scientists have been using artificial intelligence and supercomputing to bring new vaccines and medicines, like the oral COVID-19 treatment PAXLOVID™ (nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332] tablets and ritonavir tablets), to patients faster.

Instead of doing experiments in a physical lab setting, researchers can now use cloud-based supercomputing with AI machine learning models to test a manageable fraction of the millions of compounds that might work as a new drug, said Lidia Fonseca, Pfizer’s Chief Digital and Technology Officer.

Researchers can then focus on the compounds with the highest chance of becoming medicines and potentially reduce the time it takes to bring breakthrough therapies to patients.

Accelerating Research with AI

The development of PAXLOVID shows the power of supercomputing and AI to accelerate drug research and discovery.

Using modeling and simulation, Pfizer was able to screen millions of protease inhibitor compounds to arrive at potential targets. The company used virtual screening to help select the right molecular changes to enhance potency and then factored the data into the decisions on which compounds to make.

Supercomputing also helped researchers with the complex calculations needed to hunt for the molecules that could deliver PAXLOVID in a pill form versus intravenously, Fonseca said.

This was crucial because it meant the medicine could be taken by patients at home rather than having to administer it in a hospital setting

The use of advanced technology reduced the computational time by 80-90 percent and fast tracked the development of the drug, Fonseca said. Ultimately, artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques helped the team design the drug in four months.

Continuing the Momentum

Pfizer is simplifying and accelerating its scientific research using digital tools, which could improve the company’s innovation success rate and bring medicines to the world faster.

The lessons from harnessing digital that accelerated the company’s COVID efforts are being applied to its efforts to bring even more breakthroughs to more patients across multiple therapeutic areas.

Pfizer is also using digital data and technology to drive innovation across its business – from research, clinical development and manufacturing to improving patient, health care provider and payer experiences. Digital is helping the company create a sustainable advantage in which science will win.

Pfizer’s oral treatment for COVID-19 has not been approved, but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA under an EUA, for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg) with positive results of direct SARS CoV-2 viral testing, and who are at high-risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death..

The emergency use of Pfizer’s oral treatment for COVID-19 is only authorized for the duration of the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use of drugs and biological products during the COVID-19 pandemic under Section 564(b)(1) of the Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360bbb-3(b)(1), unless the declaration is terminated or authorization revoked sooner. See EUA Fact Sheet:

For additional information about Pfizer, please see our filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including the information provided in the sections captioned “Risk Factors” and “Forward-Looking Information and Factors that May Affect Future Results”.

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