The global pandemic accelerated both the development and adoption of biotechnology — a field of research as impactful as it is controversial. Biotechnology trends are transforming modern medicine, enabling doctors to diagnose, treat and care for patients with greater speed, safety and effectiveness.
Here are the top trends with the greatest potential to reshape the patient experience and the future of healthcare.
6 Biotechnology Trends With The Greatest Impact
Rapid Drug Development
The rapid release of the COVID-19 vaccine underscores the importance of speed and safety in pharmaceutical development. By early 2021, experts estimate that COVID-19 vaccinations reduced the total number of new cases by 4.4 million. We have biotech data to thank for what is now considered the fastest vaccine ever created in history. Rather than amassing thousands of human test subjects for time- and cost-consuming trials, biotech data allowed researchers to create simulations that explored how the human body would react to new drugs. As a result, researchers expedited the testing and approval process, shortened drug production timelines and ultimately improved patient outcomes.
Traditionally, drug developers formulated medications for only the widest segment of society. Those with a unique immune response were forced to either endure side effects or search for a more effective treatment option. Today, scientists are using genomics to formulate medications that benefit individuals. Tailor-made medications combine patient data and insights from screened clinical trials to greatly improve efficacy and safety ratings. Individualized drug development can also drastically lower side effects and other implications of long-term dependence on prescription drugs.
Gene Therapy & Gene Editing
Gene therapy and gene editing are among the most controversial advances in biotechnology. In its infancy, scientists experimented with genomics as an approach to treating conditions specific to missing or dysfunctional genes. Today, doctors experiment with gene technology to address numerous diseases, including leukemia and lymphoma, both of which are among the most common types of cancer.
One approach involves swapping out an unhealthy or dysfunctional gene with a healthy, fully-functional copy. Scientists can also “deactivate” a dysfunctional gene to prevent the development of a genetic condition or treat existing conditions by introducing a new or modified gene into the body. With 50% of childhood deaths attributed to genetic disorders, the benefits of refining this branch of medicine are impactful. However, understanding how to manipulate genes without triggering an immune response continues to challenge scientists.
Also leading the headlines in controversy is synthetic biology. Synthetic biology involves reengineering organisms to give them new abilities that make them more useful in medical applications (amongst others.) Though similar to gene editing, synthetic biology is slightly different. Scientists retrofit genes with larger stretches of DNA that have either been harvested from another organism or engineered in a laboratory.
Today, this biotechnology trend is primarily used as a research tool to help scientists better understand how genomes work. As research advances our understanding of genetics, scientists hope to unravel the mysteries of cellular signaling, design advanced diagnostics capable of pinpoint accuracy and develop new therapies for hyper-targeting diseases. In the UK, scientists are already using synthetic biology to create living systems that produce small molecules. In turn, scientists hope to develop medications through biological instead of chemical processes, effectively replacing chemistry in pharmaceuticals and resulting in medications that work with greater speed, safety and efficacy.
Advanced Treatment for Life-Threatening Conditions
With one in two men and one in three women at risk for developing some form of cancer in their lifetime, one of the most powerful use cases for personalized medicine is in the treatment of life-threatening conditions. Using genomics, scientists can gain a deeper understanding of a person’s genetic makeup to determine how their body will react to specific cancer cells and treatments. In aggressive cases where time is of the essence, the ability to eliminate trial and error and get a patient started on the best possible treatment for their body’s unique genetic makeup could significantly improve prognoses and outcomes.
Biotechnology Trends Have an Underlying Connection
Access to information is the common thread tying together numerous advances in medical science and the transformative impact biotechnology trends have on the patient experience. Using sensor technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), healthcare providers capture patient data at the point of care and communicate that information in real-time, generating unprecedented volumes of up-to-the-minute data biotech researchers can use to understand broad impact and validate theories.
As data infrastructure continues to improve through the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning, scientists will gain the insight needed to identify trends and biomarkers across an expansive data landscape, leading to greater accuracy, faster diagnostics and treatment, and better overall patient care.
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Learn more about our solutions for biotechnology.