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2020: New Decade, New Disruption

2020: New Decade, New Disruption
(Credit: iStock)

The speed at which healthcare technology is now developing is staggering. From clinical trials for gene therapies that can cure chronic conditions to the use of AI in diagnosing disease, we are starting to see innovations that were once thought decades away already becoming a reality. MedicalExpo e-magazine caught up with Deborah Cockerill, founder and managing partner at leading London-based healthcare communications and marketing company SCIAD, to discuss her healthcare technology predictions for 2020. 

With Fitbit reporting sales of more than 100 million units and other devices such as Apple watches and apps increasingly managing our personal health data, the trend towards smart, healthcare-focused wearables is incessant. Cockerill said:

“We are now seeing companies developing mobile tech to predict asthma attacks based on respiratory data, heart conditions based on heartbeat monitoring and other vital signs, and gastrointestinal tract monitoring based on hydrogen levels in the breath. The intersection between big data analysis and health trends will continue to help us manage potential disease and injury threats in 2020.”

AI is Powering a Diagnostics Revolution

Slowly but surely, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over many aspects of our lives. It is already prevalent in the home with devices such as Alexa and smartphone services such as Siri. Nowhere is this trend more prevalent than in healthcare. Cockerill said:

“The vast amount of patient data now being generated, and the need to monitor, analyze and mine this information, is leading to a revolution in the application of machine learning in areas such as diagnostics. With over 90% of stored patient data held in medical images, we will see AI-based diagnostics innovation moving at an ever-increasing pace in 2020.”

AI concept (Credit: iStock)

Cell and Gene Therapy to Eradicate Genetic Diseases

Cell and gene therapy has progressed hugely since Dr Jude Samulski, founder of AskBio, first cloned the Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) for therapeutic purposes in the early 1980s. The power of these therapies is nothing short of transformative, and with buzzwords such as CRISPR (a technology that can be used to edit genes > read our article here), CAR-T (a type of immunotherapy which involves collecting and using the patients’ own immune cells to treat their condition) and synthetic biology regularly grabbing the headlines, growth looks set to continue in 2020.

The first line of CAR-T therapies has already reached approval, with Kymriah and Yescarta both among those treatments approved by the FDA, according to Cockerill.

“This signals the beginning of a wave of new medicines, with significant research and clinical studies in progress. Next year promises further developments in this sector, with numerous clinical trial outputs and regulatory filings expected.”

Gene editing (Credit: Getty Images)

3D printing generates physical objects from digital files. From visualizing anatomy in three dimensions to holding a 3D-printed model of a human heart, the crossover between this burgeoning technology and patient-specific care is growing rapidly.

“The value of the global 3D printing healthcare market is predicted to reach $2.3 billion by 2020. Some start-of-the-art developments include 3D printing for prosthetics and surgical tools, and tissue engineering.”

Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cells

Stem cell therapy, also known as regenerative medicine, promotes the repair response of diseased, dysfunctional or injured tissue using stem cells or their derivatives. Using stem cells instead of donor organs, which are limited in supply, it is the next chapter in organ transplantation. Cockerill said:

If stem cell innovation becomes mainstream, the possibilities for preventing and curing diseases and extending human life would appear endless.”

“As we move into 2020 and beyond, it is going to be fascinating to see which of these breakthrough technologies actually make it into hospitals and clinics, transforming our healthcare and moving us into a new era for medicine.”

3D printing (Credit: Stratasys)