We often hear about rare and orphan diseases and think they must be, well, rare. For every individual rare disease, that is true. But when considered together, a surprising number of people are affected by one of the thousands of known rare diseases. This week we share two stories of how big data and machine learning are being used to better identify and find treatments for these diseases. We also look at robotic hip replacement and the overall improvement in the market performance of medtech companies. Finally, we share an update on recommended screenings for diabetes and why screening at a younger age promises long-term benefits.
Each week, we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
Although an individual rare disease may affect only a few people, there are more than 6,000 known rare diseases affecting more than 300 million people cumulatively across the globe. This is known as the rare disease paradox. Because individual rare diseases affect so few people, the clinical trials are challenging to recruit for resulting in less than 6% of rare diseases having an approved treatment option. Artificial intelligence and machine learning may be able to solve these recruitment shortages through the leveraging of structured and unstructured data in electronic health records.
Numerous organizations are taking approaches similar to that highlighted in our first article this week. For example, AllStripes raised $50 million in a series B round of funding to continue its work mining electronic patient records to identify those with rare diseases. Its tools promise to connect clinicians and patient populations with biopharma companies searching for cures and treatments for those with rare diseases.
Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved Zimmer Biomet’s robotically assisted ROSA hip system. The approval adds to Zimmer Biomet’s lineup of ROSA Robotics systems focused on applications for knee and partial knee replacement, as well as their ROSA ONE application for assistance with brain and spinal surgeries. The ROSA hip system is designed to adapt to a surgeon’s workflow and assist with preparation, positioning and component impactions. To learn more about the growth of the robotic surgical sector, read our most recent industry outlook.
While the biopharma sector rose to the challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the medtech sector faced much more challenging times as patients repeatedly put off treatment, outpatient surgery and other medical care that was not required. In the second quarter, however, medtech stocks, led by diagnostics companies, posted a substantial comeback. Although the long-term outlook for COVID-19 test kits is unknown, for the time being, demand remains high. Additionally, other areas of medtech have shown strong recoveries as patients have started to come in for care that they delayed.
As prevalence for type 1 and type 2 diabetes increases in the United States, a U.S. task force recommended that adults with above average body mass indexes should be screened for diabetes starting at 35 instead of 40 as was previously recommended. The recommendations to screen at a younger age is driven by the fact that the disease is easy to test for and early detection and treatment can mean a lifetime of improved outcomes.
Note, we’ll be pausing publication the week of Aug. 30 in anticipation of the Labor Day holiday weekend. We’ll resume regular publication the following week.