Using AI to Unravel Pharmaceutical Supply Webs
Wed Nov 30
The “Made In” label on products is helpful, but can be simplistic (see: conflict meat). In fact, modern supply chains are infamously complex at this point, but what are the implications when it comes to our drugs? Currently, the active ingredients (which is what makes a drug effective) may not have the same origin country as the finished drug. And not knowing how much of the crucial components of our pharmaceuticals are made in or out of the country means our supply isn’t much in our own control.
The FDA testified just how problematic this is to Congress in 2019, highlighting China’s growth as a major concern. (China doubled the number of its active ingredient manufacturing facilities in under a decade.) For the US, this is a question of national security:
- Without intervention, the US could grow even more dependent on foreign manufacturers. The labor cost advantages and less stringent regulations (environmental and otherwise) makes it difficult for US production to compete.
- Moving manufacturing capabilities offshore could leave the US scrambling to produce its own drugs if supply chains are disrupted.
- Quality concerns have resulted in shortages already, hurting the health of Americans.Between 2013 and 2017, 62% of drug shortages were due to quality problems.
But it’s not just the quantifiable supply that worries the FDA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The mystery of the supply chain leaves the US open to greater foreign influence. For instance, one Swiss painkiller maker had an Indonesian subsidiary whose board member had links to a number of Chinese shell companies.
The DHS has tasked Quantifind, Inc. with investigating environmental, social and governance risks to supply-chains. Quantifind, using their AI, would go beyond geographical insights and extend, for example, to media reports that cover a supplier’s potential involvement in human rights abuses.
BELOW THE FOLD BYTES
UN Votes To Prevent More Space Debris
While the US, China, Russia, and India have all conducted anti-satellite missile system (ASAT) tests, Russia’s latest anti-satellite test produced a cloud of debris that threatened orbiting spacecraft and prompted the US to take action. First, the US enacted a self-imposed ban. Then, they encouraged other nations to follow suit, calling the tests one of the most pressing threats to the security and sustainability of space. A resolution was also introduced to the UN against ASAT tests, and was adopted this week with an overwhelming number of countries in favor. Notably, Russia and China voted against (both are leading producers of space debris along with the US).
Faux Nutrition in Faux Meats
While it’s important to reduce our meat consumption and thus carbon footprint, the benefit of going plant-based is often centered on health claims. Those claims are only mostly true. Swedish researchers found that the "texturized" plant proteins used in manufactured meat substitutes contained high levels of phytates, which are naturally found in beans and cereals. These phytates block absorption of key minerals (especially iron and zinc) so marketing claims of high nutrition are dubious since the nutrition isn't absorbed by the body. Not all substitutes suffer the phytate issue. Tempeh, for instance, has microorganisms from fermentation to break down phytates.
🎬 Action of the Week
Curious about the specific vulnerabilities of pharmaceutical supply chains? Check out this McKinsey article on how pharmaceutical companies can become more resilient.
THIS WEEK'S SOURCES
- WSJ: Probing for Weaknesses with AI 4 minutes | 9 days ago
- FDA.gov: Safeguarding Supply Chains 20 minutes | 3 years ago
ASCII-ING ABOUT THE NEWS
! ! ^ / \ /___\ |= =| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | /|##!##|\ / |##!##| \ / |##!##| \ | / ^ | ^ \ | | / ( | ) \ | |/ ( | ) \| (( )) (( : )) (( : )) (( )) (( )) ( ) . . .
What’s this latest mission for?
Space cleanup, of course.
Art Credit: ASCIIArt.eu