Five Ways Innovation Is Advancing Pub...
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Mar
14
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Five Ways Innovation Is Advancing Public Health – Courtesy of Forbes, Joseph Jimenez
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Remarkable progress has been made over the last century in enhancing public health, driven largely by advances in science, medicine and our understanding of how disease manifests in the human body. As a result, the average life expectancy doubled during the 20th century.

While these achievements have been transformational, I believe we’ve only begun to see the benefits for public health that these advances can offer. As we look to the future, I see five ways that new innovations in healthcare could change the practice of medicine for people around the world for generations to come:

1. New technologies could drive greater patient engagement and self-management of disease.

Ask any physician and he or she could tell you that noncompliance with medication regimens is a major problem in treating NCDs. For example, diabetes patients in the United States with the lowest level of compliance have a 30% yearly risk of hospitalization, compared to a 13% risk for patients with a high level of adherence. With nearly 1 trillion connected devices expected to be sold annually by 2020, technologies like wearables and sensors have the potential to lead to better patient engagement, compliance, and prevention. Take Novartis’ work with Microsoft, for example, to use the Kinect system for Xbox to more objectively measure progression of multiple sclerosis symptoms through computer vision and artificial intelligence. Tools like this could help bring uniformity to these sometimes subjective tests, and could give physicians the data they need to ensure patients receive the right treatments in a timely manner.

2. Regenerative medicine could slow the aging process.

By 2050, there could be more than 2 billion people over the age of 60, putting us on the cusp of a potential tsunami of age-related health conditions. Regenerative medicine holds great promise for many common ailments related to aging, and we’re exploring this field as a way to prevent muscle loss. We’re looking into how we can regenerate muscles and tendons by using antibodies that stop muscle from dying. By targeting muscle suppressor pathways, we may be able to improve muscle strength in the elderly, prevent falls and enable exercise. Cartilage repair is another exciting area for regenerative medicine, and we’re exploring ways to regrow cartilage tissue by stimulating stem cells, which could mean treatment options other than surgery for damaged knees or hips.

3. Precision medicine could transform how patients with disease are treated.

Over the last several years, major advances in genomics–specifically, the way diseases manifest and develop in the body at the genetic level–are improving our ability to target illness at each stage and improve the patient experience. As a result, we’re sometimes better able to predict which treatments could be most effective by taking into account patients’ individual differences in genetic make-up, environment and lifestyle. Perhaps the best example of this approach is CART-19, the investigational therapy we’re working on with the University of Pennsylvania. It is designed to hunt and destroy cancer cells, and has shown exciting potential for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Another promising area of investigation is CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). With this technology, we may be able to precisely delete, repair or replace the genes that cause currently untreatable diseases, such as cystic fibrosis.

4. Targeted clinical trials could enable new, more effective treatments to reach the market faster.

As we learn more about genomics, we may also be able to apply these learnings to clinical development, helping speed up R&D timelines for targeted new treatments. Genetic markers, for example, can indicate which patients are likely to benefit from a drug, thereby improving outcomes while allowing patients to avoid potentially painful side effects of treatments that are unlikely to work. At Novartis, we are now using genetic testing to pre-select participants for clinical trials. With this approach, trials can open in as little as three weeks, compared to an average 34 weeks for a standard trial. This could enable us to deliver new, more effective treatments to patients faster.

5. New technologies to more quickly understand and respond to urgent public health crises.

Even simple technologies–such as mobility and connectivity–hold great potential for public health, especially in developing countries. Through our work fighting malaria in Africa, we’ve learned that mobile health can be particularly beneficial where infrastructure is limited and healthcare professionals are scarce. As mobile phones become increasingly common, they become an unexpected force in advancing care. For example, in Africa, where one in six people owns a mobile phone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used mobile tracking technology to predict the spread of the recent Ebola outbreaks. We’ve also had success at Novartis using mobile phones to avoid stock-outs of malaria medicines in rural areas of Africa.

It’s clear that advances in science and technology have the potential to change the way people think about their health and how we as a society manage the cycle of life. As we enter this renaissance period for healthcare, let us work together to ensure a healthier, more connected future for people around the world.



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