Dr. Tom Knapman, Director of Strategic Brand at SCIEX, explains how bioconvergent advances will help to drive key health trends in the coming year.
As we move into 2022, we will see more and more advances in bioconvergence – biological, physical, and computing technologies inspired by nature. We expect these top five trends to exemplify the shift from technology-centric approaches of Industry 4.0 to more sociotechnical human-centric ones, which will be the trademark of Industry 5.0. This year, biomedicine will aim to bring new drugs to market faster, more efficiently with lower costs, and with better science to underpin their efficacy and safety.
Normalising ‘pandemic speed’ drug development
The record-breaking speed of the development of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines set a precedent. Drug developers are now under increased pressure to deliver drugs more quickly to clinic and market. To achieve this, drug developers will rely on more efficient, fast, and cost-effective ‘fail fast’ approaches that identify biomarker and drug candidates that will fail sooner, allowing scientists to focus on more promising candidates. Analytical instruments and methods that are faster and have higher throughput, while remaining sufficiently precise and sensitive will be key.
Increasingly frequent vaccinations
We are in a new era for mRNA as we look to upgrading our immune systems regularly, called ‘forever boosting’ to fend against potential viral infections. At the same time, there is increasing research on mRNA’s applicability to treat non-communicable diseases, like cancer. This trend for greater application of mRNA therapeutics, and more generally in the research and development of precision and personalised therapies like genomic medicines, means that we need more powerful analytical tools. It’s no longer enough to know what a compound is and what it’s comprised of. Now, scientists often need to also know exactly how that compound works in human biology.
Antimicrobial resistance and the continual rise of super bugs
We urgently need to focus attention on combatting the insidious and rising epidemic of superbugs. So far, about 700,000 people die a year from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and that number is set to rise to 10 million deaths by 2050. Various measures are needed to get a handle on this problem, from improving hygiene and sanitation worldwide to rapid diagnostics, new vaccines, and alternative antimicrobial treatments to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics and antimicrobials. Rapid global surveillance of drug resistance and antimicrobial consumption by humans and animals also needs to be improved. And for the above, we need advanced analytical tools that are rapid and precise, including mass spectrometry systems.
Greater decentralisation and remote interactions
The increasingly global and digital economy means we can decentralise and be more remote in how we live our lives, including how we look after our health. Telehealth, self-testing at home, and health monitoring using wearable fitness trackers has become a norm. Direct-to-consumer laboratory testing services allow you to take samples yourself and then mail to the lab to analyse your DNA. We’ve also become increasingly aware of vulnerabilities in streamlined and lean just-in-time manufacturing processes. Many businesses are now looking to integrate more supply and manufacturing steps into single locations and expanding their digital capabilities to enable real-time operations and supply monitoring and management. Modern solutions like blockchain can also help facilitate the regulatory compliance. As an analytical technology innovator and provider, we have been focusing on developing more versatile and flexible instruments and methods that can be used in a variety of situations, from small academic benches and dry labs to large industrial manufacturing plants.
Addressing the trends
2022 will see us progress towards better science, enabling the discovery and development of new biologic and genomic medicines. Precision targeted and personalised therapies will deliver improved safety profiles and efficacy, including potential long-term remission and even curative treatment.
Tom Knapman, PhD, is the Director of Strategic Brand at SCIEX and a life science research specialist.