Mobile Health Apps:
Pharma research institutes are already beginning to take advantage of mobile health (mHealth) technology to conduct clinical research. Smartphones with powerful processors and advanced sensors that can track movement, take measurements and record information are highly useful in studies. The more people who contribute their data, the bigger the numbers, the truer the representation of a population and the more powerful the results, so an mHealth app has the potential to engage unprecedented numbers of individuals in large geographical areas. Apple currently has several mHealth apps for clinical research on the iPhone, including apps targeting Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and breast cancer.
Recently, epilepsy drug Spritam became the first 3D printed drug to be approved by the FDA. The drug’s manufacturer, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, says that it makes the oral medication through a three-dimensional printing process, which builds the pill by spreading layers of the drug on top of one another until the right dose is reached.
This technique allows the pill to deliver a higher dose of medicine while being porous enough to dissolve quickly. These attributes can be particularly beneficial for patients who have difficulty swallowing their medication, which can affect treatment regimens.
This breakthrough clears the path for future 3D printed drugs – an area that could change not only the way that drugs are manufactured but also administered. By making slight adjustments to the software before printing, hospitals could adjust doses for individual patients, a process that is otherwise very expensive.
Using Artificial Intelligence
Computers such as IBM Watson, are capable of digesting and interpreting millions of pages of scientific literature and data to assist pharma companies in the development of new drugs. Watson has demonstrated the ability to discover previously unknown connections between diseases and as it continues to learn, it can modify its recommendations.
Researchers and scientists at big pharma companies have already started using Watson to assist in research and development. Johnson & Johnson is collaborating with the IBM Watson Discovery Advisor team to teach Watson to read and understand scientific papers, while Sanofi is exploring how it can speed up the discovery of alternative indications for existing drugs.
Drugs That Target Genes
Precision medicine is an approach that integrates clinical and molecular information to understand the biological basis of disease. This information can be obtained by converting DNA into data through a process called genome sequencing. Researchers can use this data to identify specific gene abnormalities to understand which types of patients a drug will be most effective for. This can aid in the development of new targeted therapies and the repurposing of existing drugs.
Targeted therapies are tailored to the genetic makeup of individual patients so genomic testing is required to decide upon which course of treatment before it is administered. This understanding of the relationship between a drug and an individual’s genes enables doctors to administer the right drug to the right patient at the right dose.