This week we highlight a flood of studies and approvals with a focus on leveraging new technologies, data and gene sequencing to increase patient care. While the life sciences industry has always been on the forefront of innovation, we are now seeing the various components of the ecosystem come together to increase the efficiency and efficacy of discovery, screening, treatment and prevention.
Each week we highlight five things you need to know in the life sciences industry. Here’s the latest.
The University of Maryland Medical Center announced the successful implant of a genetically modified pig heart into a human. Ten genetic modifications were made to the heart to help with the procedure and reduce the chances that the body would reject the heart. This marks the second major milestone in less than six months in the field of porcine transplants as a team from New York University Langone Health successfully implanted a genetically modified pig kidney late last year. It’s still very early stages in the field, but these achievements have the potential to help address the global shortage of organ transplants.
Researchers and health care providers are leveraging technology and breakthrough gene sequencing techniques to reduce timelines and increase effectiveness of patient treatment. In a recent study, a team of doctors sequenced the DNA of 12 seriously ill patients, received results in an average of eight hours, and were able to bring tangible changes in the treatment of five of those patients. This turnaround time is about half of current sequencing records, and the team is convinced it can be halved again. Along with larger gene databases and increased testing accuracy throughout the industry, these shorter turnaround times can result in higher quality of care, avoidance of costly tests and hospital stays, and the chance to deliver life-saving treatments. The study focused not only on the use of new technologies and data analytics, but how the overall diagnostic process can be better streamlined. There are several institutions running similar studies, and this is seen as a major and collaborative step forward in the treatment of patients.
The volume of data that is generated in health care and clinical trials should offer vast amounts of information to support machine learning programs. In reality, the data exists in countless specialized systems, myriad formats and had differing levels of reliability. In order to leverage machine learning in drug discovery and clinical trial design, companies need to start tackling this challenge of interoperability.
23andMe has received their third Food and Drug Administration approval for a direct-to-consumer cancer screening test that does not require a prescription. Their third approval focuses on the identification of a biomarker in the DNA that has been found in studies to lead to a higher chance of contracting prostate cancer. The approval adds to the company’s list of FDA-approved cancer screening reports that help identify hereditary risks related to breast and colorectal cancer. The direct-to-consumer authorizations are the first of its kind and is a step toward helping people proactively manage their health.
Bristol Myers Squibb lays out an aggressive M&A plan, and highlights the challenges in executing on it
While presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference this week, BMS laid out an expansive plan for partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and share buybacks. With $50 billion to invest or return to shareholders through buybacks, they are looking for acquisitions and other investments to diversify their pipeline especially in the immuno-oncology space. However, they also highlight the challenge to finding good M&A targets given the flood of other investments in biotech. This makes it difficult to find a valuation and deal structure that is appealing to both parties, but BMS expects valuations to temper opening up more opportunities for deals.