Dystopian anthology show Black Mirror recently released its latest series, with previous incarnations warning of the perils of medical technology and human failings. But the real world of healthtech is much more optimistic than you’d think.
The COVID pandemic has increased human interest, not to mention investment, in advanced healthcare technology – anticipating the next big health challenges and taking aim at age-old problems in human health. London Tech Week in June placed such faith in the industry that the largest category of talk focused on Health and Wellbeing.
Over the next decade healthtech is set to undergo an even greater level of investment and solve some of the most fundamental healthcare problems we face today. Let’s look at some of the areas of greatest interest.
mRNA – The punch card for modern medicine
Public awareness for mRNA thanks to the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine positions it as one of the most understood medical techniques, but to many the sheer scale of this medical innovation has not quite been realised.
mRNA forms a naturally occurring part of the human body, taking the information from our DNA and allowing it to be translated into all the proteins our body needs to grow, fight disease, repair damaged tissue, and release hormones.
The mRNA in this way acts as a piece of code, and if we can develop our own version of this organic code and introduce it into human cells, then there is almost no limit to what we can make our cells produce. The Pfizer vaccine demonstrated its feasibility, and now we can use this process to rapidly make new vaccines for infectious diseases and potentially even cancer. There is even potential for mRNA to be used in wound and bone repair, taking advantage of the body’s own healing properties and boosting them for patients requiring more support.
Buzz words like “personalised medicine” are all the rage in the boardrooms of biotech firms, but the mass media awareness for this concept has been slower to materialise. The process of personalised medicine is simple enough, each person is unique in regards to their genome and their conditions – we should take a unique approach to their treatment based on this information.
The human genome project was first completed in 2023 after over 10 years of research into one individual’s DNA. This gargantuan effort to read all the information enclosed in our cells is becoming more and more simple, and it will not be long before sequencing the entire genome of an individual patient is routine practice when treating patients with specific conditions.
In the coming decades small firms focused on researching human DNA, highlighting and identifying problematic genetic markers, and developing unique treatments will see an increase in prevalence, and health outcomes around the world will benefit as a result.