This post is part of our new Biotech Influencer series in which we interview the world's leading experts to get their take on the state of the industry, the top trends to watch for, and what the future holds.
1. How has the Biotech industry evolved in the past 5 years?
AA: The Biotech industry has seen some of its greatest changes in the past 5 years. I would put the following being most impactful:
- Genomic data has become affordable and accessible to consumers by companies like Mapmygenome.
- The continued evolution of new techniques like CRISPR that are truly life changing.
- Technology like machine learning and artificial intelligence have invaded the world of biotech to bring out some positive and even potentially negative uses.
Also, enhancing life/ longevity research with the use of genomics and other technologies like telomeres and microbiomes have made massive strides.
2. What are the top Biotech-related technology trends you're seeing?
AA: Technology is driving innovation in Biotech and we are seeing a lot more overlap with other industries as giants like Amazon, Google and Apple try and enter this space. Some major breakthroughs include:
- Advances in gene editing technologies such as Chimeric Antigenic Receptor T-cell (CAR-T) and CRISPR-CAS9 gene editing can spur major changes in cancer treatment and in preventing diseases such as cystic fibrosis.
- Big data, visualization improvements and new technologies that allow better visualization such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality impact how genomic data is reported. When you add blockchain technologies to this mix, you have a scope for building a secure and patient-centric collaborative platform for genomics and precision medicine.
- Adoption of artificial intelligence in the Pharma industry with focus on improving efficacy and safety of treatment options increases the relevance of pharmacogenomic data.
- Genomics : As costs come down and regulatory approvals for personalized drugs go up, genomic data will become the foundational data layer for most of drug development and diagnostics.
- CRISPR: massive implications for every human must be considered if ethical and moral borders are crossed.
- Consumers creating and owning data.
3. How will AI change the Biotech industry?
AA: This technology can enable collaboration between real-time patient data and computation technologies to enable personalized treatment. Genome sequencing and analysis are computation-intensive processes. AI helps in improving speed and quality of results.
✅ As AI becomes more omnipresent, consumers will have access to predictive data not just from genomic data but also measuring several indications including general wellbeing.
4. How will blockchain change the Biotech industry?
AA: I think over the next 10 years we will see a drastic change in the blockchain technology as opposed to its present form which is slow, unstable and comes with a risk of scams. There is immense power if the new Blockchain 2.0 can overcome the challenges associated with speed, stability and scams. Some areas where it can be implemented would be the following:
- Genomic data and other forms for research purposes. Genomic data can be shared and monetized but with current infrastructure, may be really slow for large whole genome data. However, considering more streamlined possibilities in the future, there is value in being able to get distributed data that can be accessed securely by researchers and hospitals/payors.
- Government projects to vaccinate babies in all districts.
- Supplying expensive drugs that need cold chain or other storage mechanisms.
- Clinical trials.
- We see that today several companies are investigated for changing records, etc. Blockchains can add a layer beyond the audit trails so anything involving regulatory approvals should have this layer of security.
- Tracking fake medicines or other supplies
- Creating trust between payor, provider and consumer ( healthcare systems).
- Online pharmacies.
- Genomic and other sensitive data security.
5. What's the future of Biotech?
AA: Biotech is bound to touch everyone’s lives in more profound ways than it has in the past. Technology continues to drive innovation in the Life Sciences and Pharma industries. This is good news for genomics and the Biotech industry.
Increasing FDI and government initiatives for improving healthcare delivery could pave the way for newer and more sensitive diagnostic tests and treatments that leverage genomics.
The Pharma industry has been seeing a greater demand for better drugs due to factors such as increasing affordability, prevalence of lifestyle diseases, improved access to healthcare, and a growing aging population. Genomic data and pharmacogenomic tests can help Pharma companies in streamlining the discovery process, while improving their turnover.
As mobile health and wearable technologies continue their dream run, there is space for genomics growth in these sectors.
About Anu Acharya
Ms. Anu Acharya is the CEO of Mapmygenome India, a Genomics company whose vision is “To touch 100 million lives”. In 2013, she introduced the concept of improved healthcare through personal genomics in India. Ever since, she has successfully pioneered the company through growing product lines, expanding affiliate networks, and a Pre-Series A round of funding. Under her able leadership, the company has won several awards and honors: Red Herring Top 100 Asia and Global 2016 , eN-ABLE Startup Award 2016 , Wall Street Journal Startup Showcase 2016 Finalist, ET Startup Awards 2015 – Women Ahead , Nasscom Emerge 50 – League of 10 , Emerging Company of the Year 2015 – Govt. of Karnataka, SMART CEO List of Top 50 Startups, VCCircle Innovative Healthcare Startup 2015 , and more.
From 2000 until April 2013, Ms. Anu Acharya was the CEO of Ocimum Biosolutions, a global genomics outsourcing partner for discovery, development and diagnostics, a company that began as a pure Bioinformatics company. Since co-founding the company in 2000, she has led the company through three strategic international acquisitions, two capital raises for equity investments and launches of several innovative products, solutions and services through its proprietary platform called RaaS (Research as a Service).