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Healthcare: Personal Healing

Different bodies have different needs — from nutrients to medicines. That’s where the future of healthcare is

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

World healthcare is up for a big change. The next couple of decades will belong to personalised medicines and preventive care, which will make the world healthier.

In health science, where advances in biotechnology and genomic studies are leading the way forward, personalised medicines and preventive care, through immunisation and functional food, are the most popular words at present. The industry data shows that as high as 94 per cent of the research-based big pharma and biotech companies have already invested in projects related to these two areas, and at least 80 per cent of the world healthcare market will shift towards the resultant products and services.

Tailoring health care to each person’s unique genetic makeup is the idea behind personalised medicine. It can lead to better treatments for diseases and disorders that are incurable with today’s generic approach. While preventive care, through immunisation, nutraceuticals and functional foods, can help in healthy living.

In other words, the modern science of advanced biotechnology and genetic studies is looking back at India’s age-old healthcare tradition of Ayurveda — the knowledge of life — that is based on personalised diagnosis and treatment, in a more scientific way. And, that’s going to be the key focus of healthcare research in the world to 2035.

Ground Research
Over the last several decades, the study of DNA — the genetic material of life as known in the general domain — has progressed at a remarkable scale. From a mysterious mark on an X-ray film in 1953, to a tool that helped in determining the sequence of short nucleotide chains in 1970; today scientists can actually produce their own genetic code of choice, paving the way for a mature and dynamic biotech industry.

Backed by these advanced gene synthesis, companies ranging from small startups to research-driven corporate giants are exploring distinct set of tools that can drastically change the way the life science industry so far targeted end products or identified the market opportunities. As a result, several industry sectors that touch any element of life are reaping tremendous benefits.

“With affordable methods to produce alternative genes, regulatory structures, or even entire metabolic pathways, now available, the range of possible products has grown exponentially, and now we can make new candidates and new antibiotics that will enable us to start fighting back,” said Emily Leproust, CEO of Twist Bioscience and a pioneer in long DNA synthesis, in a recently published health science report.

Preventive Care
While innovative technologies are powering up immunisation against viruses and infectious diseases, the progress in the field of nutraceuticals and functional foods is opening up much bigger opportunities for healthy living and preventive care.

Advancements in vaccine design, formulation, and delivery have already proved effective in prevention of infectious diseases including hepatitis, influenza, polio, rabies, tropical viruses, and HIV/AIDS. Some ongoing projects in the area of therapeutic vaccines are now targeting HIV, HCV, asthma, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, arthritis, periodontitis, and age-related macular degeneration among others. The therapeutic cancer vaccines, including all cancer vaccines, are in various stages of trials; some are even in advanced human trials.

As researchers successfully establish and link foods as helpful in combating a number of degenerative diseases, the industry has already entered the emerging large market opportunity for nutraceuticals and functional foods to combat future diseases. Several research projects are currently going on around the world to establish functional attributes linked directly to the health benefits of various plant and animal foods.

According to latest scientific reports, although a vast number of naturally occurring health-enhancing substances are of plant origin, there are a number of physiologically active components in animal products as well that can play a potential role in optimal health. Consumption of biologically active ingredients in fruits and vegetables can help combat diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and gastrointestinal tract disorders, though a lot more research is required to substantiate the potential health benefits of those foods for which the diet-health relationships are not sufficiently validated.

The New Era
According to Personalized Medicine Coalition (PMC), a global body that represents innovators, scientists, patients, providers and payers who promote personalised medicine concepts, the era of personalised medicines has already begun and the market has already seen some products. It says, at least 20 per cent of new drug approvals in 2014 went towards personalised treatments.

A new research report by KellySciPub indicates that the core personalised medicine market will be worth over $149 billion by 2020 with a compounded annual growth of 8.74 per cent. This market comprises companion diagnostics and targeted therapeutics, and is dominated by treatments targeted at oncology, cardiovascular and infectious disease.

KellySciPub forecasts that the total personalised targeted therapeutic market will grow at an annual rate of 6.47 per cent over the next five years. The companion diagnostic segment will, however, see a growth of 23.71 per cent by 2020, mainly coming from oncology, cardiovascular and infectious diseases.

“Advancing technologies within the liquid biopsy market is also driving the market and will see strategic growth of 20.6 per cent over the next five years,” it predicts.

Personalised therapeutics and associated companion diagnostics are more specific and effective, which allows pharma and biotech companies a significant advantage to cover their research and development costs.

Personalised medicine reduces the frequency of adverse drug reactions and therefore has a dramatic impact on health, while diagnostic companies benefit from lower discovery and commercialisation costs and more specific market sub-types, says the market intelligence provider in one of its latest reports.