AstraZeneca’s Mohit Manrao: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Collaborate and Innovate: Foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. At AstraZeneca, cross-functional teams working on AI projects in drug discovery and precision medicine research demonstrate the power of collaborative innovation.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mohit Manrao.

As the SVP and Head of the US Oncology Business Unit at AstraZeneca, Mohit is responsible for leading commercial strategy and maximizing performance of AstraZeneca’s expansive oncology portfolio. His passion lies in bridging priorities between the business and health sectors to accelerate a patient-centric business model and shape global health systems to redefine cancer care and outcomes for all patients.

In January 2024, Mohit’s responsibilities expanded and he was appointed President of AstraZeneca (HealthCare) Foundation, overseeing the general management, strategic direction and grant making programs of the foundation. Mohit is also the Executive Sponsor of AstraZeneca’s US Health Equity Initiative, leading the company’s efforts to improve access, affordability, and outcomes for all people.

Before joining AstraZeneca, Mohit worked in the industrial and consumer goods sector of a multinational organization, where he oversaw international marketing, sales and business development and expanded company operations into high-potential markets across four continents.

Mohit received his MBA from the Indian School of Business and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Punjab Technical University in India. He currently lives in Bethesda, Maryland and enjoys spending time with his family.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Thank you for inviting me to contribute. My journey into this career path has been quite an adventure. From a young age, I was always fascinated by technology and its potential to transform lives. After completing my engineering degree, I worked in a manufacturing company, with each role further igniting my passion for innovation. Over time, I realized that my true calling was at the intersection of healthcare, technology, and leadership.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

To me, AstraZeneca stands out due to our bold ambition in oncology to eliminate cancer as a cause of death and push the boundaries of science to help every patient, regardless of background or zip code. This commitment unites our company across all departments, all levels, and all countries.

Coming right out of ASCO 2024, we had a tremendous presence and proudly presented over 2 plenary presentations, 100+ abstracts and 15 oral presentations. This achievement highlights our relentless pursuit of cutting-edge research and our commitment to challenging the status quo for our patients. It’s the collective efforts of our dedicated team that make such milestones possible and demonstrate why AstraZeneca is a great place to work.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As I mentioned, my career has taken some turns, and I am very happy to be where I am today. There are many things — both internal traits and external influences — that contributed to my growth but narrowing it down to three I can point to:

  1. Learning Agility: Early in my career in Japan, my team and I faced significant challenges in blood-based tests that were tied to patient outcomes. Instead of accepting defeat, we questioned every assumption and implemented new technologies, ultimately resolving the issue and improving patient care. This experience taught me the importance of resilience and collaborative innovation in overcoming challenges or setbacks.
  2. Knowing your Purpose: For me, knowing my purpose is about aligning what I love with what I do, what the world needs, and my skill set. This alignment gives me a profound sense of fulfillment and motivation. Rather than viewing my job as an obligation, I see it as an opportunity to do more for patients, embodying the Japanese concept of “Ikigai.”
  3. Empathy: Understanding the emotional and physical toll of cancer on patients is essential. This year at ASCO, I had the privilege of meeting one of our patients who expressed gratitude and how our therapy had given him more time with his family. This reinforced the importance of empathy in our work and continues to motivate me every day to strive for breakthroughs in cancer care for our patients.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI is revolutionizing oncology by enhancing diagnostic accuracy, personalizing treatment plans, and accelerating drug discovery. This disruption is greatly benefiting our patients. By integrating AI, we’ve streamlined research processes, reduced costs, and brought innovative treatments to market faster. More importantly, AI helps us provide better outcomes for patients, which is our ultimate goal.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

Machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics have had the most significant impact. These technologies allow us to analyze vast amounts of data from clinical trials and real-world evidence to identify patterns and predict patient responses to treatments. This capability is transforming how we approach cancer treatment, making it more accurate and accessible.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

At AstraZeneca, we have steadily developed our AI infrastructure, now boasting over 700 data scientists and researchers who drive innovation across our organization. A key moment that comes to mind was embedding these experts into teams to foster partnerships, such as working with Grail to improve early cancer detection through blood-based assays. Companies like and Clinithink also use AI to enhance diagnostic accuracy, finding lung nodules on X-rays and analyzing electronic medical records.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

We are investing heavily in training and development programs to upskill our teams. Critical skills include data literacy, programming, and a strong understanding of AI and machine learning principles. We also emphasize soft skills like critical thinking and adaptability, which are essential in navigating the AI-driven landscape. We are providing enterprise tools to use AI to make the work of many of our colleagues more efficient by taking over mundane tasks, complementing insights gathering, as well as being a companion in day-to-day work.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

The biggest challenge is the rapid pace of technological change. Ensuring that our training programs stay current and relevant requires constant updating and innovation. By fostering a culture of lifelong learning and collaboration, we can ensure that our team remains adaptable and proficient with the latest AI advancements, ultimately leading to better patient care and innovative solutions in oncology.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

AI introduces ethical considerations such as patient data privacy, algorithmic bias, and the transparency of AI decision-making processes. By implementing robust data governance policies, conducting regular audits of our AI systems to identify and mitigate biases, or ensuring transparency in how AI-driven decisions are made, we can build trust with patients and stakeholders by taking proactive steps to ensure our practices protect their privacy. We also engage with ethical review boards and involve patients in discussions about AI applications in their care.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

Innovation is happening so quickly; we must be ready to adapt to take advantage of the opportunities and the potential impact of AI. As an industry, we need to make sure we are not limiting ourselves and our thinking, which would limit the possibilities for how we use AI to benefit patients.

1 . Embrace Change: Accept that AI is transforming oncology and be proactive in adopting and using AI. For example, we integrated AI in our clinical trial designs, which can help us identify the right patients for the right trials and how they are responding to potential medicines.

2 . Invest in Talent: To navigate AI disruption in our industry, it’s crucial to invest in hiring top talent and invest in training and development programs to upskill our teams. At AstraZeneca we actively hire researchers and data scientists specializing in AI and machine learning. Their expertise allows us to develop advanced algorithms that significantly improve our predictive modeling for patient outcomes, ultimately enhancing the quality of care we provide. At the same time, we are bringing in the rest of our colleagues up to date on skills needed to operate in this new world as it’s critical to grow talent broadly.

3 . Prioritize Ethics: Develop clear ethical guidelines for AI use. In 2020, we collaborated with diverse experts to develop principles for ethical data and AI. These principles, aligned with our Code of Ethics and values, guide our decisions to ensure AI innovations benefit patients and uphold societal values.

4 . Leverage Data: AI thrives on data, so invest in robust data management systems as well as data from multiple diverse sources so we remove inherit biases. Our scientists at AstraZeneca use a method called ‘transfer learning,’ which lets us learn from large, simple datasets and apply that knowledge to smaller, more detailed ones. This helps us make better predictions about new drugs, speeding up the process and improving treatments for patients.

5 . Collaborate and Innovate: Foster a culture of collaboration and innovation. At AstraZeneca, cross-functional teams working on AI projects in drug discovery and precision medicine research demonstrate the power of collaborative innovation.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

A common misconception is that AI will replace human jobs like physicians and surgeons entirely. AI is a tool that can augment our capabilities, not replace them. There are many examples and success stories we’re starting to see where AI has helped the patient value chain be more efficient and effective. For instance, a new study showed that AI systems can assist radiologists in analyzing medical images more accurately and efficiently. Instead of replacing radiologists, these AI tools elevate their expertise, allowing them to focus on complex cases while AI helps streamline routine tasks such as image screening and preliminary analysis. This symbiotic relationship between radiologists and AI not only improves diagnostic accuracy but also enhances overall patient care.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

One of my favorite quotes is from the late José Baselga, “Being a great leader isn’t about being the smartest person in the room, it’s about asking the right questions and letting the best argument always win. It’s about unlocking the potential of the team.”

True leadership isn’t about asserting authority or always having all the answers; it’s about fostering a collaborative environment where diverse perspectives are valued, and innovation thrives. As a leader, I’ve found that facilitating open discussions, where every team member feels empowered to share their insights, has often led to breakthrough solutions we couldn’t have achieved alone. This quote reminds me that my role as a leader isn’t to dictate, but to inspire and empower those around me to reach their full potential.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

In the fast-paced world of science, our efforts in health equity must keep up. We need to prioritize patient navigators and other means of community outreach in order to directly reach these underserved populations. For example, in my organization, we advance programs like the CHANGE initiative, which provides grants to US-based nonprofit organizations that enhance access to quality healthcare for individuals facing barriers such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would be to ensure universal access to quality education, particularly in STEAM subjects and advocating for lifelong learning. Education is the foundation for empowerment and progress for future generations and beyond. By providing everyone with the tools and knowledge to succeed in the digital age, we can create a more equitable and prosperous future for all.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can follow me on LinkedIn where I regularly share updates and insights via a monthly column about our work, AI trends, and thoughts on leadership and innovation.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.