December 18, 2015


A New Era of Health-Care Innovation (Joseph Jimenez, 12/18/15, Project Syndicate)

The new wave of innovation is attributable to three key factors: the ability to personalize therapy, the capacity to get treatments to market faster, and improved engagement with patients.

First, major advances in our knowledge of genomics - specifically, the way diseases manifest and develop in the body at the genetic level - are improving our ability to target illness at each stage and improve the patient experience. Genetic markers, for example, can indicate which patients are likely to benefit from a drug, thereby improving outcomes while allowing patients to avoid potentially painful side effects of treatments that are unlikely to work.

For early-stage breast cancer patients, genetic markers show whether chemotherapy is likely to have an impact, or if hormone therapy alone is the better option. A new lung cancer drug developed by my company, Novartis, is effective only in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who have a particular genetic mutation.

The use of genomic expertise to improve health care is just beginning. One promising area of investigation is CRISPR - a cutting-edge tool that could allow us to delete, repair, or replace the genes that cause disease. As our understanding of the characteristics of a particular patient's illness becomes increasingly precise, treatment will become increasingly effective and will reduce the risk of side effects.

Moreover, advances in our understanding of disease are boosting the efficiency of the drug development process, making it possible to bring new innovations to market faster. For example, genetic testing is being used to pre-select participants for clinical trials, cutting recruitment times. With this approach, research can begin in as little as three weeks, compared to the 34 weeks, on average, for a standard trial. Add to that our ability to analyze data more quickly, and to make more precise decisions about dosing, and the clinical trial timeframe shrinks considerably.

Finally, real-time data and emerging technology tools have the potential to improve patient engagement and adherence, especially among those with chronic conditions caused by non-communicable diseases (NCDs). As the world's population ages, the incidence of NCDs is expected to rise, accounting for 52 million deaths annually by 2030. More than 80% of NCD deaths are the result of chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

Posted by at December 18, 2015 4:21 PM