Tech Scouting Is Key to Scaling Precision Medicine

Written by Teresa Danielle Bergazin & Meghan Hauser

Female doctor working in a laboratory

3 Technologies That Promise to Drive Precision Medicine Forward

Our tech scouts are tracking the new technologies and innovations that are most responsible for driving precision medicine forward. Three of the most promising are 3D printing, genome editing, and wearable physiological monitoring devices.

3D Printing

3D printing is an emerging technology that allows 3D objects to be “printed” layer by layer using specialized hardware and computer-aided design software. Various 3D printing technologies—including ink-jet printing, binder vetting, and stereolithography—can serve as a blueprint for a plethora of pharmaceutical dosage forms. Recently, 3D printing has been used to initiate groundbreaking brain tumor cell research that aims to develop treatments that are more personalized, more timely, and more effective.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Devices and Radiological Health, which regulates medical devices, has cleared a long list of 3D-printed medical devices, including hearing aids, dental crowns, bone plates, skull plates, spinal cages, facial implants, surgical instruments, and Invisalign braces.

Genome Editing

Genome editing is a type of gene therapy that directly modifies pieces of cellular DNA to restore cell function and treat or prevent disease. The FDA has approved several gene therapy products, including Luxturna, which treats an inherited form of vision loss that can result in blindness. Gene editing could potentially treat a range of maladies, including blood disorders, cancer, bacterial infections, metabolic conditions, and other genetic disorders.

One developing therapy involves the genetic engineering of pig organs to be transplanted into humans. Although this treatment is not yet approved for regular clinical use, genetically engineered pig kidneys have been transplanted into a brain-dead patient, and a pig heart has been transplanted into a living patient. The recipient of the heart died 2 months later, but work in this area could one day lead to the elimination of the organ shortage crisis.

Another recently developed approach to cancer treatment reduces the time it takes to modify patients' immune cells from close to 2 weeks to only 24 hours. This cell manufacturing process for chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy highlights precision medicine’s potential to make gene therapy available to more patients by reducing its costs in terms of time, materials, and labor.

Wearable Physiological Monitoring Devices

Physiological monitoring devices that measure and capture information such as temperature, activity, heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), respiration, and sleep quality can empower precision medicine practitioners by providing detailed, real-time insights into the health statuses of individual patients. Wearable monitoring devices that are available to the general public include FitBit, WHOOP, Apple Watch, Garmin fitness tracker, and the Oura Smart Ring. The FDA has also cleared a variety of more specialized patient monitoring devices for emergency use.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for real-time physiological monitoring devices. Use cases that ramped up during the pandemic include monitoring patients at home and dealing with increased demand through better prioritizing treatment to patient risk and need. The pandemic also spurred research and development focused on using physiological monitoring devices for early infection detection within essential workforces, such as  Department of Defense employees. Continued advancement of real-time physiological monitoring—including organizing and integrating the incoming data into repositories and IT systems—will make care more convenient, scalable, preventative, and precise.

Most medical providers now recognize that precision medicine solutions are poised to become integral to healthcare delivery. Precision medicine is already improving care by empowering a transition from a one-size-fits-all mindset to a far more individually tailored approach to disease prevention and treatment. Remaining knowledgeable of emerging technologies through well-informed technology scouting efforts will help actualize precision medicine’s full potential to benefit health and improve patient outcomes.

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