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August 22, 2016

Ten Technologies that change pharma industry for good or for bad

If the pharmaceutical industry and the healthcare system as a whole do not adopt to the changes disruptive digital technology is bringing, they will be washed away. That, states Dr. Bertalan Mesko, is not a good thing. We should be prepared for the future of a pro-active, preventive system of healthcare, or all the opportunities new technology offers us, will be lost.

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What happens if the healthcare system doesn’t adapt to incorporate disruptive technologies. The medical system as we know it, would just be replaced by a technology-based service with no personal interaction. Such a complicated system should not be allowed to just wash away; it should be consciously and purposely redesigned, piece by piece.

The farma industry faces the same sort of challenge. Pharma companies need to act now or they will lose business, or even be left with no business at all. What if we will spend a same amount of money, expertise and time on preventing diseases rather than treating them? It would mean a healthier society, and pharma lost the core of its business. Transformation is a better path to follow and Dr. Meskow, writes about ten disruptive technologies or technology enabled developments that are bound to change the pharma industry and healthcare, one way or the other.

Empowered Patients

Empowered patients as equal partners with their caregivers can potentially hack the whole healthcare system. They do their own research and keep informed. If rich enough, they sometimes buy or start-up their own biotech company. However, these E-patients are laymen.  Medical professionals are still needed to provide answers, but they need to treat patients as partners in their treatment. Pharma companies still need to provide medication, but now they need to really listen to patients, even negotiate with them. And proper regulation is needed to prevent garage labs from popping up and ethics to fly out of the window when emotions come into play. Patient empowerment is a helpful movement, but what it can bring can go both ways.

Gamify Health

Motivating medical professionals to prescribe medication and patients to adher tot hem needs renewal. Current methods are obsolete. Pharma companies must turn to gamification to reach people, to help improve adherence and pharma’s image. A recent example: Pokemon Go has an enormous impact, even promoting healthier lifestyles by getting couch potatoes to go outside. And don’t use the term adherence anymore, as it sounds to much like having to follow orders. Let patients make decisions with their caregivers and let them be motivated accordingly

AR, VR change The World

In a world overloaded with information, how do you make information stick inside peoples heads? By giving them an experience that is different from the usual way information is transfered. Augmented and virtual reality can help here. If you have ever had a chance to use a virtual reality device, you can compare the attractiveness of information on a website with seeing how a drug works in 3D and realize the potential that virtual reality holds for pharma.
 

Sequencing Genomes At Home

The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping constantly. When it’s finally available to the majority the whole concept of prescribing medication will change. Pharma needs to get ready for the transformation so it can offer solutions to all. Genomics and truly personalized medicine enable us to receive therapy individually customized to our own genetic background, instead of the blockbusters that are manufactured for millions of people even though we are all genetically and metabolically different.

Quantified Self And All That Data

Wearables and body sensors provide more and more realtime data about a persons health and lifestyle. This can have a big impact on clinical trials as well, e.g. when developing new forms of medication. If pharma changes the method of gathering data as we know it now the cost-benefit could be immense. But we need to keep up to date and stay vigilant about the strides technology makes to be able to truly enjoy the benefits.

DIY Biotechnology

Remember thoese garage labs? They might be the next phase in the development of biotechnology, wher the biggest drug ideas no longer originate from large institutions and pharma companies. An example of the ‘citizen scientist’ isJack Andraka, who developed a really disruptive pancreatic cancer test at age 15. Supporting this kind of initiative may be the key to a future where DIY BioTech can still stay safe. Rules and regulations are there for a reason, but pharma needs to pay attention to the rising stars of garage labs.

3D Printing

The 3D printing revolution has seen manufacturing of medical prostheses, equipment, and now pharmaceuticals. The first drug printed out with a 3D printer was approved by the FDA in 2015. Big changes will come when someone gets a blueprint of a customized drug in a customized dosage related to their genomic background, 3D printing it at the local pharmacy, without the participation of big pharma.

End Of Human Experimentation

The end of having to test new drugs on actual living beings might be nearing. What if thousands of drug targets could be tested on billions of simulations modelling the physiology of the human body in seconds with supercomputers? No more ethical dilemmas, but also cheaper, faster and more reliable research. Combine this with the new ways of collecting immense amounts of medical data and the possibilities are almost endless.

Supercomputers Making Complex Decisions

Artificial intelligence can supplement human medical professionals when looking at treatments or in looking at data from clinical trials. Cognitive platforms, such as IBM Watson, are already used in many ways to analyse big data. In genomic research, in diagnosing but also in biotechnology. This will change the way new drugs are found. While human oversight is and probably will remain important, a machine can analyze with greater accuracy and speed.

Nanorobots In Blood

If the technology of transporting drugs to the actual cellular targets in nanocages becomes viable, the pharma industry will have to start producing different end products to make sure they are compatible with nanotechnology. This requires a radical and difficult new approach to medication, but without it the transformation of pharma could be a hard and rocky one. It’s the most futuristic example, but it’s never early enough to start preparing for a new revolution.

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