See how Moderna is using OpenAI tech across its workforce

The company has custom chatbots to help with everything from drug dosing to legal contracts.

A newly announced partnership between Moderna and OpenAI provides a real-world example of what can happen when a company leans into generative AI.

The background: Moderna went from a little known pharma startup with no approved products to one of the biggest names in global healthcare when its COVID-19 vaccine was authorized in 2020.

OpenAI saw a similar meteoric rise. Though well known in tech circles (it was co-founded by big names like Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, Microsoft, and AWS), it wasn’t until the company released ChatGPT in December 2022 that the world really started to pay attention.

So, they both have crazy momentum and tons of investment, but what do Moderna and OpenAI have to offer each other?

“We believe very profoundly at Moderna that ChatGPT and what OpenAI is doing is going to change the world.”

Stéphane Bancel

For Moderna, the goal is creating new medicines. It now has 15 mRNA-based medicines in its pipeline, for diseases ranging from cancer to HIV, and it needs at least some of them to reach the market. The company lost billions in 2023 and won’t be able to coast on just one approved product, especially with fewer people getting vaccinated as the memory of the pandemic fades.

OpenAI, meanwhile, needs to figure out a way to turn its LLMs (the AI models that allow platforms like ChatGPT to hold human-like conversations) into profitable products — CEO Sam Altman has described the cost of training and running its AIs as “huge” and “eye-watering,” and the company still isn’t making more from them than they cost.

“If we had to do it the old biopharmaceutical ways, we might need a hundred thousand people today.”

Stéphane Bancel

ChatGPT Enterprise: OpenAI seems to be banking on corporate customers to drive profits. 

In August 2023, it launched ChatGPT Enterprise — an advanced, higher security version of its popular chatbot that organizations can customize with internal data — and earlier in April, Altman pitched the service to execs from hundreds of Fortune 500 companies.

But telling people that a service could transform how their company operates is a lot different than showing them how it could improve productivity — and that’s where the newly announced partnership between Moderna and OpenAI comes into play.

On April 24, Moderna and OpenAI announced that they’d been collaborating since early 2023 and shared details on all the ways Moderna has been using OpenAI’s tech, from a custom GPT that analyzes dosing decisions to one that answers employee questions about company policies.

The integration of OpenAI’s chatbots into Moderna’s operations is increasing productivity, according to CEO Stéphane Bancel, and helping it move closer to its goal of bringing new products to market.

“If we had to do it the old biopharmaceutical ways, we might need a hundred thousand people today,” said Bancel. “We really believe we can maximize our impact on patients with a few thousand people, using technology and AI to scale the company.” 

“We’re looking at every business process … and thinking about how to redesign them with AI.”

Stéphane Bancel

The big picture: Moderna isn’t the first company to adopt ChatGPT Enterprise — an entire section of OpenAI’s website is dedicated to customer stories — but it’s by far the most well-known of the bunch and it seems to really buy into what OpenAI is selling.

“We believe very profoundly at Moderna that ChatGPT and what OpenAI is doing is going to change the world,” said Bancel. “We’re looking at every business process — from legal, to research, to manufacturing, to commercial — and thinking about how to redesign them with AI.”

If the Moderna partnership helps OpenAI lock down more enterprise customers — perhaps some of those Fortune 500 execs Altman prepped earlier this month — it could be a huge win for the company as it strives toward profitability. 

If it helps Moderna create new life-saving medicines, faster, that could be a huge win for everyone.

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