Merck wants to improve healthcare sector

According to Barcelona Health Hub, Merck accelerates its new innovative project, “Fast Forward”. The company invites startups and innovative teams to develop AI technologies that facilitate the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of cancer. As a result, they want to improve the daily work of healthcare professionals and caregivers, and the well-being of patients.

The number of new cancer cases will continue to increase over the next two decades. According to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM), the figure seems to be up to 29.5 million in 2040. To address this reality, Merck will make its experience, knowledge and resources available to the selected projects.

Who is Merck Group?

The Merck Group is a German multinational science and technology company. Its head office is in Darmstadt, Germany and it was founded in 1668. The company has more than 50,000 employees in more than 60 countries. The main company is Merck KGaA in Germany. The company has three business lines: Healthcare, Life Sciences and Performance Materials.

According to Merck’s official cite, the company considers science the heart of everything they do. Thus, it drives the discoveries they make and the technologies they create.

In Healthcare, they discover unique ways to treat some of the most challenging diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cancer. Their Life Science experts develop tools and solutions, which are aimed at enabling scientists achieve breakthroughs even faster. In Performance Materials, they develop science that sits inside technologies and changes the way they access and display information.

What is Fast Forward?

Fast Forward started set its goal to harness internal and external talent, and accelerate the process of generating ideas. As a result, the project will find sustainable solutions that improve people’s lives.

Montse Jansà, director of Merck‘s Oncology Unit in Spain stated. “We are convinced that Artificial Intelligence has great potential to accelerate and simplify the care processes of people with cancer. That is why, at Merck, we are firmly committed to constant innovation. As a result, it allows us to explore new technological avenues and solutions that improve the world where we live.”

Can AI-based technology help us combat cancer?

On February 3rd, the European Commission announced Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. There are four key action areas in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

  • First, prevention through actions addressing key risk factors
  • Second, early detection of cancer by improving access, quality and diagnostics and support cancer screening
  • Third, diagnosis and treatment through actions
  • Fourth, improve quality of life of cancer patients and survivors

Therefore, Merck’s “Fast Forward” initiatives are especially related to the second and third action areas. AI-based technology has strong potential to improve these areas? Why?

This is because the strengths of human beings are totally different from those of Artificial Intelligence. How do we find some patterns from tons of data? Mostly we cannot, but AI can do that. On the other hand, how do AI-based technology guess our feelings or emotions? Of course, some technological advancements will be able to improve this feature. However, our personal relationship helps us imagine how other people feel and think.

Therefore, if we can focus on areas we have advantages of and some technologies support areas we have disadvantages of, what will happen? This assumption leads to better society and this is what Merck wants to do as “Fast Forward”. Science is not everything, but we can make use of it to improve cancer care.