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NEC Highlights AI-Driven Development at Visionary Week 2022

AI Technology is Revolutionizing the Vaccine Development Industry

One of the key sessions at NEC Visionary Week 2022 focused on NEC and its partners' pioneering work in the field of AI-driven vaccine development an area which has undoubtedly become critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and other emerging threats. To further explore this topic, a panel consisting of Takayuki Morita, President and CEO of NEC, Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and Dr. Richard Stratford, CEO and Co-Founder of NEC OncoImmunity AS assembled to discuss the tremendous progress NEC has made in the field and implications for the future. The panel was moderated by Ms. Chloe Cho, an international journalist and CEO and Co-Founder of Brilliant Media & Productions.

Panelists (from left to right) Dr. Richard Stratford, Dr. Richard Hatchett, Takayuki Morita, Chloe Cho

The rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caught the global community unprepared resulting in widespread economic and social damage which will likely linger for several years. The global pharmaceutical industry rose to the challenge, however, creating a vaccine within a matter of months. This enabled twelve billion doses to be delivered in 184 countries around the world. And while this massive effort saved countless lives, there are still several "killer" diseases (such as malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, and influenza) where vaccines are desperately needed . A new outbreak could occur at any moment. NEC has already demonstrated that its AI technology can be applied in the field of vaccine development to make the process faster, more economical, safer, and even personalized-features critical to curbing the potential damage from current and future pandemics.

CEPI is Responding to the Broadly Protective Betacoronavirus with the "100 Days Mission" Project
In order to protect society against future variants of COVID and other viral threats, in 2021. , CEPI launched its ambitious "100 Days Mission" project which strives to develop safe and effective vaccines against viral threats in only one hundred days. According to CEPI the project '' calls on the international community, including governments, industry, academia and international organizations, to work together to achieve the mission, which could prevent future pandemics before they start, saving millions of lives1 ". The global community has already pledged over US$1.5 billion to make this vision a reality. Dr. Hatchett, the CEO of CEPI gave some background on the project explaining added that due to the existing wealth of knowledge regarding coronavirus vaccines, the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in a record 326 days, which is substantial as vaccine development usually takes several years. But he noted that this was not good enough, as nearly twice as many people died in 2021 of COVID-19 compared to the static for 2020 when the vaccine was readily available and global estimates for excess mortality for COVID-19 now surpasses twenty million people. Dr. Hatchett believes that CEPI's partnership with NEC is crucial in terms of creating a more agile and pro-active drug development industry.

NEC Believes the Drug Development Industry is Ripe for Digital Transformation

When asked why NEC decided to enter a new business, President Morita explained that in the 1990s the Human Genome Project started to sequence the human genome, meaning that our DNA can be digitized and subsequently analyzed. Individual human genes can now be analyzed at a very low cost as the price for analyzing one genome has fallen from US$100,000,000 to under US$1,000 in the last two decades. Given NEC's strong history in AI R&D, which includes contributions from industry visionaries such as Yann LeCunn and Hans Peter Graff. NEC found a very strong use case in providing its AI technology to drug development companies, but to accelerate growth in the industry entered the market directly via the acquisition of OncoImmunity in Norway in 2019.

AI Technology is Drastically Reducing Development Times and Making Personalized Cancer Vaccines a Reality

The COVID-19 326-day record is a remarkable achievement for the end-to-end development of a vaccine, NEC believes that its AI technology can help this process move even faster. Dr. Stratford of OncoImmunity believes that NEC's AI technology will facilitate this process in several ways. Firstly, it can accelerate the entire process which will ultimately result in achieving the goal of end-to-end vaccine development in roughly three months. Second, by analyzing the entire library of existing knowledge vaccines which can protect against a broad range of diseases. Thirdly, thirdly this can all be done at a significantly lower cost. Finally, Dr. Startford believes that AI will result in safer vaccines as potential adverse effects in individual patients can now be pre-screened.

Dr. Startford then shed some additional light on NEC's pioneering work in the industry and explained that their efforts started with their work to develop personalized cancer vaccines. Once malignant virus strains are identified, AI technology can be used to identify which treatments can be used for each individual patient. But Dr. Startford emphasized that this needs to be a very fast process, as many of such patients have entered a terminal illness phase. Fortunately, he believes that the "100 Days Mission" project goal is achievable and that they have made tremendous progress in treating ailments such as ovarian, neck and head cancers. NEC and NEC OncoImmnuity are already working with CEPI to create a pan-beta coronavirus vaccine which could future-proof society against future outbreaks.

Drug Development Business is an Initiative in Align with NEC Group's Purpose
Overarching the entire conversation, President Morita mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated societal Digital Transformation by at least ten years. As while this has led to an accelerated rate of technology adoption across all industries, including the drug development industry, better technologies will always be needed to combat future threats. NEC's pioneering AI research is already being applied to drastically reduce vaccine development times and deliver individualized treatment to patients. As such, AI technology in the vaccine development field can be used to realize a greater and future-proofed society, which is in-line with NEC Group's purpose of "Orchestrating a Brighter Future."