AstraZeneca data and AI ethics

Making advancements in data and artificial intelligence

Rapid advancements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) are revolutionising the pharmaceutical industry. At AstraZeneca, these advances have already begun to change the way we work in several business areas. AI systems can help us improve our supply chain when delivering medicines, design smarter trials and better understand diseases, and match patients with the right clinical trials by creating biological insight knowledge graphs. AI tools have the potential to do this and much more.

Our principles for ethical data and AI

Rapid developments in AI technology have brought us into uncharted territory, and companies and regulators must work together to meet the new challenges posed. Our principles empower us and our partners to navigate this new environment safely and effectively. By encouraging innovation and evolution while maintaining our values, they provide a long-term ethical foundation for our AI work to benefit patients and employees, and enable us to make a positive contribution to society.

Explainable & transparent

We are open about the use, strengths and limitations of our data and AI systems.

  • We explain to people if they are interacting with an AI system and whether interactions are recorded.
  • We are able to explain when and how AI is used to aid a decision that impacts humans.
  • We will ensure appropriate levels of explainability and transparency in line with our legal obligations.

We will ensure our assumptions are clear, we will ensure algorithms are appropriately documented, decisions are explainable as needed, and processes are in place to deal with unanticipated impacts.

  • We can demonstrate our data sources, and how models are trained and maintained.
  • We have the ability to explain processes, data and algorithms when required to do so while protecting our intellectual property.
  • We are transparent about the use of AI to build trust and credibility in all our endeavours.

*Explainable refers to the ability of humans to understand the results of a solution generated by Artificial Intelligence



We endeavour to use robust, inclusive datasets in our Data and AI systems.

  • We seek to ensure our use of AI is sensitive to social, socio-geographic and socio- economic issues, and protect against discrimination or negative bias to the best of our ability.
  • We will continually adapt and improve our AI systems and training methods to drive inclusiveness.

We treat people and communities fairly and equitably in the design, process, and outcome distribution of our AI systems.

  • We are aware of the limits of our AI systems. We strive to apply their outputs in the right context and in a non-discriminatory fashion.
  • We monitor our AI systems to maintain fairness throughout their lifecycle.
  • We acknowledge all data sources and human effort in our Data and AI Systems, while protecting our intellectual property.


We apply governance proportional to the impact and risk of our Data and AI Systems.

  • We diligently assess risk against opportunities to act consistently with our company values.

We take accountability of our use of Data and AI Systems throughout their life cycle, so their use is appropriate and monitored over time.

  • We anticipate and mitigate the impact of potential unfavourable consequences of AI through testing, governance, and procedures.
  • We are accountable for our findings and the recommendations from AI systems. We govern AI-supported decisions appropriately.
  • We recognise and address unforeseen consequences resulting from our AI usage appropriately, and ensure that lessons are learned.

Human-centric and socially beneficial

Where Data and AI is involved, humans oversee the system and are accountable for driving clear, expected benefits to people and society.

  • We apply AI to contribute to a sustainable workforce, business, and planet, to help make AstraZeneca a Great Place to Work, and accelerate our contribution to society.
  • We involve people at appropriate times to responsibly deploy AI where decisions carry a material impact. We harness the capabilities of AI to accelerate the development and delivery of the right life-changing medicines to the right patients with the right commercial potential.
  • We employ human-led governance over our AI systems. We respect human dignity and autonomy and strive to reflect this in our AI systems.

We drive prudent and sustainable energy consumption when using Data and AI systems.

  • We recognise that protecting the environment is an integral part of ensuring AI systems are socially beneficial. We aim to reduce the energy consumption of our AI systems in line with our Ambition Zero Carbon.

Private and secure

We respect privacy and control, and act in a manner compatible with intended data use.

  • We respect privacy and the rights of all stakeholders, and will act in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.
  • We assign appropriate protective measures to keep all information held or generated by AstraZeneca’s AI systems secure.

We employ Data and AI systems that are designed to be secure.

  • We strive to protect our AI systems against information breaches and unintended applications, with mitigation processes in place. We manage our AI systems through their life cycle, including information used and generated.

We review third party AI providers’ data protection standards to seek alignment, and comply with applicable law.

AI-augmented research can revolutionise biomedical research, and requires open and transparent data sharing to fulfil its promise. We are calling on all who share our values to work with us in our continued efforts to strengthen data sharing and collaboration in research.

Mene Pangalos EVP and President BioPharmaceuticals R&D

Why data and AI ethics matters to us

Along with excitement and opportunity, AI systems bring new ethical considerations. At AstraZeneca, we pride ourselves on living our values in everything we do, including our work with data and AI. We are optimistic about maximising the benefits of AI, driving human and machine to embody our company values. Data, AI and digital is a foundational pillar of our scientific approach. Overseeing our data and AI is a key priority as part of our sustainability strategy and company-wide Code of Ethics.

An ethical approach is vital to ensuring the benefits of AI are shared by all. We welcome the guidelines which have already emerged from regulators around the world – but there is more to be done. We want to work with regulators and partners to help shape a sustainable environment for innovative and responsible AI to thrive.

Katarina Ageborg EVP, Sustainability and Chief Compliance Officer

Living our principles

We are determined to learn and continuously integrate the principles into our company’s ways of working. We began the journey by implementing an AI Governance Framework, Risk Framework and Playbook to help our AI developers and users do the right thing. We recognise this is an emerging area in regulation and public expectations, and will continue to evolve our thinking and approach to data and AI ethics as these areas mature.

Veeva ID: Z4-41210
Date of preparation: January 2022