The Four Top Tech Disruptions in Pharma

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In May 2018, PharmaBoardroom’s readers were asked what they felt were the biggest new sources of disruption to the traditional pharma industry today. Options included 3D Bioprinting, blockchain storage, genomics and artificial intelligence.

3D Bioprinting

As Figure 1 (below) shows, 11 percent of our survey respondents felt that 3D bioprinting was the biggest new disruption to the pharma industry. The technology allows scientists to fabricate artificial tissues and organs – potentially revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of a plethora of medical conditions. Utkan Demirci of Stanford University notes, “Just as the printing press allowed massive amounts of information to be accessed at low cost for the first time in mankind’s history, so bioprinting could potentially provide a high-throughput and affordable way to assemble cells to make complex tissue constructs that are widely available to a very large number of researchers and scientists.”

Figure 1: PharmaBoardroom Disruption Survey (all respondents)

Blockchain

As PharmaBoardroom investigated in our 2017 special report, ‘Blockchain Enters Biopharma’, blockchain technology – best known to the general public as the underlying technology behind the cryptocurrency, bitcoin – has the potential to fundamentally change the way in which healthcare works and how the pharma industry operates. 20 percent of those answering our disruption survey agree.

The greater degree of security that blockchain provides has already been grasped in countries such as Estonia to store patients’ health records; ameliorating excess costs and potentially improving access to treatments. For drug developers, blockchain-based systems such as BioIPSeeds are providing a way for academia and industry to interact securely.

Genomics

“The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping constantly, and when finally available to the majority of people, the whole system of prescribing medicine will change forever”

The second most popular answer to our survey was genomics, with 24 percent of respondents highlighting it as the biggest new source of disruption to the pharma industry. The cost of DNA sequencing is dropping constantly, and when finally available to the majority of people, the whole system of prescribing medicine will change forever. Instead of blockbuster drugs manufactured for millions, pharma will have to work to produce much more personalized medicine in future. Additionally, consumers can now sequence their own genome for around USD 1,000 (compared to USD three billion ten years ago) and will soon have the power to make more informed decisions about their health

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The most popular answer to our disruption survey was artificial intelligence, which accounted for 38 percent of all responses.

AI is intersecting with pharmaceuticals and healthcare in a number of ways. Techmergence identifies one of the key trends in this space as mobile coaching solutions such as J&J’s Patient Athlete™ program, which is able to advise patients and improve outcomes using real-time data collection. AI also has the potential to revolutionize the lengthy and expensive drug discovery process. Additionally, the ability to analyze large amounts of patient data to identify treatment options using a cloud-based system that can process natural language will help change the face of personalized medicine.

AI technology will also affect the way that doctors interact with patients. As the Medical Futurist points out, it is humanly impossible for even the most acclaimed professors to keep the 25 million papers in the database of Pubmed.com in mind, but AI technology such as IBM’s supercomputer Watson is able to check the medical records and the global literature, then make suggestions to doctors while they are talking with a patient. Doctors are then able to make the final call on a diagnosis with a much wider swathe of information available.

Writer: Patrick Burton

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