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AstraZeneca Uses AWS in Quest to Accelerate Identification and Development of Life-Changing Medications

2022

Industry Challenge

The pharmaceutical industry strives to reduce the total time of getting medicines to patients. Bringing a single drug to market takes an average of 10 years and more than 1 billion dollars. The acceleration of this process would provide huge benefits for patients and for the life-sciences organizations that seek to improve outcomes.

AWS re:Invent 2021—Delivering Life-Changing Medicines at AstraZeneca with Data and AI
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AWS understands how we unite to support our research and development and brought the right services and the architectural guidance that helped us accomplish these incredible things.”

Anna Berg Åsberg
Vice President of Research and Development IT, AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca’s Solution

AstraZeneca uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) in reimagining its drug discovery process, with a goal to develop medicines more quickly, cost effectively, and with a higher probability of success. Scientists now have access to data that is findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable so that they can quickly generate actionable insights that previously took days or weeks, ultimately benefiting millions of patients.

AstraZeneca has transformed many of its key deliverables into an agile DevOps process in which it develops smaller solutions quickly and gets them to scientists. For the compute power that handling huge datasets in near real time demands, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) delivers secure, reliable, high-performance, and cost-effective compute infrastructure. This large-scale compute power works alongside Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS), a managed container service that runs and scales the microservice applications, as part of a scalable architecture that far exceeds what is possible with an on-premises solution, further accelerating time to insight for scientists.

As one of the foundational building blocks of AstraZeneca’s solution, its data hub uses a variety of AWS extract, transform, and load microservices to ingest data from researchers, third parties, and on-premises data centers and labs. Rather than storing data in silos, the solution uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), an object storage service offering industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance, as well as Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, a fully managed relational database engine that combines the speed and reliability of high-end commercial databases with the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of open-source databases. 

Search is an important tool in finding new potential molecules, and scientists can query the databases for similarities in substructure using Amazon OpenSearch Service (successor to Amazon Elasticsearch Service), which makes it simple for scientists to perform interactive log analytics, real-time application monitoring, website search, and more. OpenSearch Service has simplified the search process for AstraZeneca, reducing support overhead and helping scientists to retrieve similar molecules in milliseconds.

Benefits of Using AWS

The fully managed capabilities of AWS mean that AstraZeneca can focus on delivering scientific outcomes instead of on standard maintenance tasks. Plus, its use of AWS Graviton processors has resulted in up to 20 percent performance improvement for Amazon Aurora and up to 35 percent in cost savings. “AWS provided critical compute power to help us handle the enormous datasets and complex algorithms,” says Anna Berg Åsberg, vice president of research and development IT at AstraZeneca. “They understand how we unite to support our research and development and brought the right service to us and the architectural guidance that helped us accomplish these incredible things.”

Using AWS solutions has helped AstraZeneca to systematically incorporate the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to help chemists extract insights in an effort to accelerate drug discovery pipelines and reduce time to market. “We have built sophisticated computational methods to predict what molecules we can make next and how to make them,” Åsberg says. “Traditionally, this process would take years. Now, chemists use AI to decide the best way to make the molecule in the shortest time.” In fact, 70 percent of AstraZeneca’s small molecule projects now use the company’s AI tools. “The chemists are trusting it, and they’re working with us to improve it every day,” says Åsberg.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca discovers, develops, and commercializes prescription medicines in oncology and biopharmaceuticals, including in cardiovascular, respiratory, and immunology fields. It serves millions of patients across 145 countries and 70 markets.

Benefits

  • Incorporates artificial intelligence and machine learning to accelerate drug discovery pipelines
  • Reduces time to market
  • Improved performance of Amazon Aurora by 20%
  • Saved up to 35% in costs

AWS Services Used

Amazon Aurora

Amazon Aurora provides built-in security, continuous backups, serverless compute, up to 15 read replicas, automated multi-Region replication, and integrations with other AWS services.

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Amazon OpenSearch Service

Amazon OpenSearch Service makes it easy for you to perform interactive log analytics, real-time application monitoring, website search, and more. 

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Amazon Graviton Processor

AWS Graviton processors are designed by AWS to deliver the best price performance for your cloud workloads running in Amazon EC2.

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AWS Cloud​Formation

AWS CloudFormation provides a common language for you to describe and provision all the infrastructure resources in your cloud environment.

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