It’s the beginning of a new year, so each industry is building upon their success from the last and preparing to continue growth in the future. The world of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology is constantly evolving, with new developments on the horizon that could change things drastically. In 2015, the healthcare sector hauled in $3.2 trillion. What might 2016 hold for the pharma/biotech sector? Here are a few pharma and biotech trends to watch in 2016.
The Rise of Targeted & Specialized Therapies
One of the most influential recent developments has been the emergence of personalized treatment products aimed at very specific diseases or conditions. Herceptin, released in 2006, is a good example. Herceptin treats cases of breast cancer that contain an excessive amounts of a gene that generates a protein which can in turn cause a growth of the cancer cells. Statistics indicate that around 94% of pharmaceutical firms were actively researching specialized therapies like these, and that 20% of FDA drug approvals from 2014 were for personalized medications. This is a truly massive breakthrough, because targeted personalized medications have the potential to lead to a cure rather than just chronic treatment. This is paired with an increase in speciality medications in general. A recent report indicated that there are 7,000 different rare diseases in the world today, and that one in ten Americans was suffering from one of these conditions.
The Growth of Biosimilars
A discussion on biosimilars should be prefaced by a definition of biologics, which are the predecessors to biosimilars. Biologics are composed of massive complex groups of living cells: human cells, bacteria, yeast, etc. However, traditional drugs are a synthetic blend of chemicals and much smaller than biologics. Biologics are used to treat serious diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, and more. Biosimilars are generic alternatives to biologics. The main difference between biologics and biosimilars is that biologics are the “originator” biological drug, while biosimilars are an inexpensive version with the same purpose. Biosimilars are all tested for safety and have proven to be about as efficient as biologics. Europe has been leading the way in biosimilars for the past few years, but the first manufacturer in the U.S. opened in 2015.
The average inhaler isn’t exactly what one would classify as high-tech, but that could change pretty soon. AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline have both been developing a smart inhaler that triggers reminders for the patient when it’s time to take a dosage while monitoring the dosing schedule. Biogen has designed a fitness tracker specifically targeted towards multiple sclerosis. The tracker tracks the patient’s movements to determine the efficiency of the treatment. Technology like these products could end up being a true life-saver.
State-Of-The-Art Technology Hits Diagnostics Too
Fan favorite tech companies like Apple, Google, and IBM are also testing the water of pharmaceutical clinical testing and diagnostics. Last spring, Apple announced a new product called ResearchKit. This is a software platform for app builders to gather data from patients afflicted with a particular disease. ResearchKit technology constantly tracks the patient’s symptoms and how he/she reacts to medications. It can identify which medications were taken; and identify whether the drug succeeded, failed, or had mixed results. Apple developed apps for five of the most common health issues including: diabetes, asthma, Parkinson’s Disease, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer. In the case of the Parkinson’s app, the patient can get critical measurements with ease. By touching the screen of the iPhone, it records hand tremors. Speaking into the microphone evaluates trembling in the voice and gait can be estimated as the patient walks with the phone in his/her pocket.
Pharma In 2016
These are just a few of the developments that will continue to unfold this year. New concepts will be born and progress will be made towards the ultimate goal of completely eradicating a disease. Amidst all the suffering and despite the pain, scientists are on the verge of finding a cure. The hope that’s been growing for the past few years of advances in medicine will continue in 2016.