Today’s healthcare is mostly sought and delivered around health events: the appearance of symptoms. Professionals respond but often the disease has gone beyond the point at which its reversal is simple, and care very cost-effective. Tomorrow’s healthcare must be geared in much larger measure to transitions between the main stages in life: conception, birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, middle age, the elderly years and the end of life.
Metabesity, a newly coined term that describes the plethora of obesity-related metabolic disorders, will cost the world economy 1.2 trillion US dollars by 2025 and affect more population groups if remains unsolved. What can 21st-century medicine offer to address this global issue?
‘Precision medicine’ (PM) to many people implies expensive genomic testing followed by even more expensive drug therapy. Understandably many developing economies believe that this kind of PM is not for them—not yet at any rate. Or at least, not for the general population.
New Medicine Parters Founder Professor Richard Barker talks about his vision for the future of precision medicine and the challenge of turning huge research projects into routine medical practice. Professor Barker is the author of Bioscience - Lost in Translation?, which provides readers with a global context to problem of effective translation of biomedical research into health system improvements.
At the heart of this book is a mystery. Our everyday experience is of accelerating innovation in many areas that touch our lives. In information technology (IT) and services, we live in an exponential age. But in the area of perhaps our greatest interest—our health—innovation seems stubbornly slow. Before we dive into the mystery further, let us step back and ask some basic questions. What is true innovation? And are we really living in an innovative society?
We believe that traditional health systems are unsustainable. As populations age and chronic diseases multiply, designing systems that treat patients as passive recipients, diagnose their diseases once symptoms have developed and intervene via expensive therapies is a path to ‘medical meltdown’.
A new wave of therapies are emerging. These technologies don’t simply mask symptoms and provide palliative care, but leverage our own biology to target interventions and even cure the previously incurable. ‘Advanced Therapies’ include gene therapies, stem cell therapies and tissue engineered products. These technologies have the capability to target fundamental disease mechanisms, ultimately extending healthy lifespan; in 2030 you might be opting for genetic ‘surgery’, or cellular ‘medicine’ as opposed to popping a pill.
Human longevity is now the subject of numerous scientific papers, magazine articles, international conferences, technology fairs, and earnest seminars among finance executives. There seems no consensus on whether it is a ‘good thing’ since some of the consequences of greater population aging are clearly problematic – for example greater dependency ratios: greater imbalance between those requiring support from the state and those contributing to it.
Most middle-income countries will be expanding their health systems and expenditure over the coming decade. However they see that even countries with high GDP per capita and relatively high share of GDP on health are struggling to make their systems sustainable. How best to focus the additional spend to avoid the problems that all developed countries are encountering?
Precision Medicine holds the key to health system transformation. Professor Richard Barker's latest book - Bioscience-Lost in Translation? - highlights the global problem of the ineffective translation of bioscience innovation into health system improvements and its consequences, analyses the underlying causative factors and provides powerful prescriptions for change to close the gap. It contrasts the progress in biomedicine with other areas of scientific and technological endeavour, such as information technology, in which there are faster and more reliable returns for society.