Pistoia Alliance survey reveals lack of understanding in laws regulating AI

Published: 21-Feb-2024

Survey exposes knowledge gap surrounding AI legislation, with a fifth of respondents confirming regulations are blocking their research

The Pistoia Alliance, a global, not-for-profit alliance focusing on lowering barriers to life sciences and healthcare R&D, today announced the results of a global survey on the impact of emerging AI regulations for pharma R&D. 

Just 9% of respondents said they know EU and US AI regulations well, with more than a third (35%) having no understanding at all. 

The survey also revealed the top three challenges preventing life science organisations from keeping up with legislation. Complexity and ambiguity of regulations was the most cited (37%), followed by too many different regulations across regions (23%), and insufficient collaboration between industry and regulatory bodies (20%). 

The survey was conducted as part of the Alliance’s commitment to overcome the barriers to AI adoption through collaboration, under its 2024 strategic priorities. 

Currently, 31 countries have passed AI legislation and 13 more are debating AI laws

“From our ‘lab of the future report’, we know AI is top of our members’ investment agendas. However, our new research highlights that legislation is a major barrier to adopting AI successfully.”

“We must bridge the gap between life sciences, technology companies, vendors, and legislators to harness AI in a secure and compliant way to accelerate vital health research,” comments Dr Christian Baber, Chief Portfolio Officer of the Pistoia Alliance.

“The Pistoia Alliance is perfectly placed to create a forum for discussing the ambiguity and complexity of regulations as they arise. Our Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Community of Experts acts as a crossroads between experts in data science, pharma, regulatory bodies and government, and has already made great strides in accelerating AI adoption in life sciences.”

“We now encourage more technology, compliance, and pharma experts to come forwards to join the community, and express interest in our new AI initiatives.”


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21% of respondents said existing regulations are blocking their research. 

Respondents also shared the areas they believe should be prioritised when governments are drafting new AI regulations. The top considerations were patient data privacy and security and ethical guidelines and bias, cited by 57%.

Currently, 31 countries have passed AI legislation and 13 more are debating AI laws. 

Most recently the EU and the US announced new legislation and an executive order respectively. 

The EU’s AI Act will be one of the world’s most stringent and will be particularly relevant to pharma due to the bloc’s large market size and tendency to set standards that other regions follow. 

The EU rules are based on AI’s potential risk and level of impact to consumers. High risk applications such as medical devices, drug manufacturing and diagnostic AI will require conformity assessments, while limited risk applications such as chatbots must be clearly labelled as AI tools.

“AI is new territory for both legislators and pharma companies that we must navigate together. Our members have raised a number of concerns regarding emerging legislation. From ambiguities surrounding risk categories, to challenges around data and AI governance, and the use of synthetic data to train future algorithms,” comments Dr Vladimir Makarov, Project Manager of the Pistoia Alliance AI and ML Community of Experts. 

“The Pistoia Alliance panel of experts will discuss how legal changes may affect research and allows pharma companies to get involved at the regulatory level. This research gives us a strong baseline to understand members’ current concerns, share back to the regulators, and shape our future discussions and projects.”


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