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Getting personal with medicine

Michael Townsend of IDC and Infosys’ Subhro Mallik get together to speak about the changing world of personalized medicine, and the role technology could play there.

Highlights

  • It is important to protect the samples, which describe the patient's condition that needs to go to a lab to be analyzed. That Information needs to be transmitted to the manufacturing floor. All that information needs to be tracked carefully.
  • More sources of data… (is) going to call for more and more platforms that are intelligent, that can sort through those and generate the insights that the scientists and companies need.
  • There's a lot of data out there, and it needs to be carefully consolidated as far as being able to be analyzed by different types of analytics, different types of AI software and so on, to get the correct insights.

The year 2020 has had many firsts, largely influenced by the pandemic. During Covid-19, for instance, terms such as phase III clinical trials, which were neither commonly understood, nor spoken earlier, became a part of regular conversations.

When Infosys’ in-house expert and Head of Life Sciences, Subhro Mallik, caught up with Michael Townsend, Research Manager for IDC Health Insights, he expressed his surprise on this transformation.

“There has probably never been a time when so much of our population knew what a phase III clinical trial was,” says Townsend, adding, “But it seems like everybody knows that now, of course, because of the intense push to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.”

Mallik’s thoughts are aligned.

Having spent 20 years as a professional in this healthcare space, he cannot believe that the world has reached a point when everybody in the world is looking up to this sector to be the savior during the pandemic.

“There has probably never been a time when so much of our population knew what a phase three clinical trial was,” says Michael Townsend, IDC.

Townsend also suggests that people have well adapted to things like remote work during the pandemic.

“If you apply it to life sciences and the health care field, the amount of telehealth visits that have quickly become a mainstream way of interacting with your primary care provider, your specialists, and so on, is just amazing,” he says.

Personalization in medicine

Amid the changing environment, what is also picking up steam, according to Mallik, is personalized medicine. He suggests that small, or micro batches of medicines are no longer the center of the conversation.

“You're talking of a medicine for a particular individual, which has become one of the mainstream ways, and potentially the mainstream way of treating some of the more difficult to tackle diseases,” says Mallik, adding that along with the discussion around personalized medicines, or vaccines, comes an essential aspect of managing the supply chain.

“Technology could have, and can be at the front and center of this,” he says.

Townsend says that it is going to be a huge logistical challenge.

“You're talking of a medicine for a particular individual, which has become one of the mainstream ways, and potentially the mainstream way of treating some of the more difficult to tackle diseases,” says Subhro Mallik.

“If you think about it, it doubles or quadruples,” he says, not only talking about the challenge of shipping and supply of medicines, but also how one gets to that stage through collection of patient samples.

The concept of personalized medicines, according to Townsend, is about looking at an individual's blood type, DNA, etc. and designing specific drugs that are more likely to help that particular patient, with that particular set of circumstances.

“So, it's important to protect the samples, which describe the patient's condition that needs to go to a lab to be analyzed. That Information needs to be transmitted to the manufacturing floor. All that information needs to be tracked super carefully,” he notes, adding that patient safety remains at the center of everything.

He believes that technologies such as blockchain could potentially be applied not only in situations of the receipt of the sample, or receipt of the medicine, but also help maintain records.

“Demonstrating that it has been kept at a certain temperature in the truck, in a warehouse, in the airplane, in the doctor's office, before being administered,” he says.

Future of data and medicine

As both the healthcare and the technology space move forward, the collaborative ecosystem will only become more prominent, say the experts.

Townsend says that in fact the developments have only accelerated, especially with the abundance of data.

“So, it's important to protect the samples, which describe the patient's condition that needs to go to a lab to be analyzed. That Information needs to be transmitted to the manufacturing floor. All that information needs to be tracked super carefully,” says Michael Townsend.

“There's a lot of data out there, and it needs to be carefully consolidated as far as being able to be analyzed by different types of analytics, different types of AI software and so on, to get the correct insights,” says Townsend, adding that this gives rise to the demand for more intelligent technology.

Mallik too believes that the healthcare industry is at a tipping point, an there will be a massive adoption of technology going forward.

“More sources of data… (is) going to call for more and more platforms that are intelligent, that can sort through those and generate the insights that the scientists and companies need,” he concludes.

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