5 Biotech and Pharmaceutical Innovation Trends in 2019


New Detection and Treatment for Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, the oldest description of cancer dates back to Egypt around 3000 BC. We’ve been looking for answers ever since. The good news is that there are new detection and treatments for cancer that are providing the way forward to earlier detection and more targeted therapy.

GRAIL, Inc. has a new blood test in development that screens for numerous types of cancer. Investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute confirmed the test has an overall specificity of 99.4%. Results of the multi-center trial were presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology 2019 Congress on September 18, 2019.

By looking for DNA rather than “liquid biopsies,” the test is able to focus in on portions of the genome where abnormal methylation patterns are found in cancer cells. The lead author, Geoffrey Oxnard, MD of Dana-Farber, commented that if the test was in wide use, it would increase the number of patients who could receive more effective treatments.

Non-Opioid Chronic Pain Management

With the rise of awareness of the dangers of opioids, doctors and patients are turning to alternative solutions for chronic pain management. Physical therapy, acupuncture, surgery, injections, and nerve blocks are some of those solutions. However, for Richard Hanbury, the solution to his personal chronic pain would not be found in opioids but in the experimentation of relaxation techniques, pulsing lights, and sound. As he tracked the decrease of his own pain, he began to raise seed funding, and in 2018, with the help of Stanford University and the United States Special Operations Command, put the device to the test.

In January, the Smithsonian Magazine identified Hanbury, founder of Sana, as an innovator to watch in 2019. Sana has developed a non-invasive bio-therapeutic to manage chronic pain while reducing health care costs. The company has created a device that--with the push of a button--the combination of deep relaxation with the promotion of hemispheric balance leads to pain relief in 16 minutes. As of July of 2019, the company had completed the engineering and testing required for review for FDA approval. Pending FDA approval, it will first be available for fibromyalgia treatment. Additional clinical studies are underway for Opioid Use Disorder, Severe Pain, Neuropathic Pain, and Oncology Pain. “The aim,” says Hanbury, “is to create less suffering and a better status of care.”

Virtual Reality is also being used for pain management. VR provides a safe, effective, drug-free alternative in the aftermath of an opioid epidemic. It’s even being used to monitor Alzheimer's disease.

AI Applications

Fast Company identified Arterys as one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2019 for scanning smartly. With long waiting lists and a shortage of radiology specialists, Arterys saw a need for AI to help doctors quickly detect, measure, and track tumor and lesions in CT scans of the lungs and in MRI and CT scans of the liver. In August, a major French hospital signed a five-year deal to deploy the AI platform. The purpose is not to replace human radiologists, but to let the system do manual tasks, allowing the radiologist to focus more on the patient and the experience.

But Arterys isn’t the only company providing AI assistance. Machines are being used to predict, comprehend, learn, and act. From surgery-assisting robots to faster diagnoses, AI has multiple applications in the life science industries. For more read 32 Examples of AI in Healthcare and Would You Trust An Automated Doctor?

Neurological Advancements

By 2050, the cost and diagnosis of neurological disorders is expected to nearly double. The good news is that innovation is happening at a rapid pace as scientists are discovering more about the function of the nervous system on molecular and genetic levels. According to an article in America’s Biopharmaceutical Companies, there are 537 medications currently being developed for the treatment of chronic pain, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, headaches, and migraines. The article highlights disease-modifying treatments for Alzheimer’s that have the potential to stop or slow down the progression of the disease.

According to Doug Williamson, chief medical officer and vice president of U.S. drug development at Lundbeck, hope is right around the horizon. “Just as cancer has progressed from being a death sentence to often being treatable and in some cases curable, the next few decades will see far more effective treatments for a variety of neurological diseases.”

It is not only in medication that we are seeing advancements for neurological diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Earlier this year The Norman Fixel Institute for Neurological Diseases at the University of Florida Health in Gainesville opened its doors. Neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and swallowing specialists, nutritionists, psychiatrists and social workers are all working together under one roof, providing comprehensive and advanced care.

“We are thinking broadly and establishing a coordinated approach to improvement of clinical care, drug discovery, as well as gene and neuromodulatory therapy,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “Our outstanding team of experts will continue to push the boundaries in identifying new, game-changing approaches to treating neurologic disease.”

Direct to Consumer Hearing Aids

InnerScope Hearing Technologies Inc.(innd.com) received the Best Hearing Aid Manufacturer 2019 USA & GHP Award for its innovation in direct-to-consumer hearing aid delivery. The company is working to serve 1.2 billion people worldwide who have hearing loss by providing accessible and affordable solutions. There are five hearing aid manufacturers that control 97% of hearing aids sold globally. The company plans to disrupt this existing product with its patented self-fitting hearing aid that will be distributed through global big box retailers. InnerScope is also conducting a 510K FDA clinical trial on treatment for tinnitus. The goal is to provide quality care to people who previously have been unable to afford hearing devices.

2019/ 2020 Potential Jobs and Opportunities

As we finish out 2019 and enter 2020, the future of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals is promising. Innovations, small biotech startups, and clinical tests are advancing towards earlier diagnosis and more effective treatments. As more advances are made in the life sciences, additional opportunities will open. This is good news for those seeking employment, meaning it’s time to pitch your dream position into markets where they need you, but don’t quite know why.You can check out current openings within the life sciences industry here.

Stay ahead of your competitors. Read Creating a Life Sciences Jobs Where One Doesn’t Exist. Twenty years ago, would you have thought strapping on a headset would be an effective pain management strategy or that a cure for the HIV infection was possible? Go start tomorrow's innovations today. The future is waiting.

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