The healthcare landscape is changing exponentially and the following technologies are expected to have far-reaching implications in terms of diagnostics, treatments and delivery of care in the future.
- Artificial Intelligence: CAGR of 42% to reach $6.6 billion in 2021
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is defined as the intelligence demonstrated by machines or software with the ability to depict or mimic human brain functions. AI in healthcare aims to improve patient outcomes by assisting healthcare practitioners in using medical knowledge, which has been thoroughly analyzed and memorized by these systems, thereby providing excellent clinical and medical solutions. AI systems have the potential to provide physicians and researchers with clinically relevant, real-time, quality information sourced from data stored in electronic health records (EHRs) for immediate needs.
The AI market for healthcare applications is expected to achieve rapid adoption globally, with a CAGR of 42% until 2021. Excellent patient outcomes, reduced treatment costs, and elimination of unnecessary hospital procedures with easier hospital workflows and patient-centric treatment plans are the prime reasons for the wide adoption and successive growth of the AI market in the healthcare industry.
By 2020, chronic conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, are expected to be diagnosed in minutes using cognitive systems that provide real-time 3D images by identifying typical physiological characteristics in the scans. By 2025, AI systems are expected to be implemented in 90% of the U.S. and 60% of the global hospitals and insurance companies. In turn, AI systems will deliver easily accessible, cheaper and quality care to 70% of patients.
AI is consistently improving the approach and access to reliable and accurate medical image analysis with help from digital image processing, pattern recognition and machine-learning AI platforms. For example, a startup, Butterfly Network, has developed a handheld 3D-ultrasound tool that creates 3D images of the medical image in real time and sends the data to a cloud service that identifies the characteristics and automates diagnosis. Such clinical support from AI is expected to have a significant impact on the overall medical imaging diagnosis market and its growth.
Innovative, automated patient guidance and engagement solutions, such as AI-enabled medication adherence to observe patient devotion by using advanced facial recognition and motion-sensing software, have started to automate one of the major healthcare processes of directly observed therapy (DOT). New entrants with similar solutions are expected to rapidly capture this sub-segment of the market.
IBM Watson Health’s recent acquisition of Truven Health Analytics for $2.6 billion creates a new and important dimension in health data analytics, further strengthening IBM’s already strong healthcare market position.
- Immunotherapies: Checkpoint inhibitors growing at 139% CAGR
Immunotherapy provides therapeutic benefit by focusing on the capabilities of the immune system in regards to the tumor and promises to transform cancer care. It charts new territory in both individual duration of survival and the potential for significant numbers of patients to benefit. For example, malignant melanoma is a significant unmet medical need with limited treatment options. More than 160,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed worldwide with 40,000 deaths annually.
The promise of immunotherapy rests largely in its aptitude for broad application in various patient populations. Once the algorithm for its effective use in the oncology setting is properly realized, the growth potential is humongous. While checkpoint inhibitors dominate the current headlines in the clinical care communities, other promising approaches include novel molecular constructs such as chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), therapeutic combinations with old and new drugs, dosing regimen modifications and vaccines. The market for check point inhibitors was valued at $3 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $21.1 billion by 2020, growing at CAGR of 139%.
- Liquid Biopsy: Potential to monitor tumors non-invasively
Liquid biopsy extracts cancer cells from a simple blood sample and has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment by non-invasively monitoring cancer cells. Today, repeated biopsies are needed to study the changing tumor and present a huge challenge to the patient. Liquid biopsy provides attractive investment opportunities for diagnostic companies. The focus on blood biomarkers, such as ctDNA and CTCs, has unleashed the potential to now track and monitor tumors in a non-invasive manner. It is expected in about two years, liquid biopsy will become an adjunct to tissue biopsy. This technology has proven to be much more effective and detects worsening of a disease condition even before a CT scan. There are key benefits to this technology where “go to the source” is not a concern, unlike tissue biopsy.
- CRISPR/Cas9 (RT): Disrupting the way R&D is conducted and products are developed
CRISPR/Cas9, a gene editing technique, can make targeted modifications to DNA accurately, cost effectively and reliably. In short, it holds the promise of transforming the way R&D is conducted and products are developed across major sectors of the global life science economy. This technique catapulted onto the research scene in 2014, and companies are flocking to provide research tools and develop therapeutics using the technology. Sangamo Biosciences is the most prolific company to have applied one of these technologies—Zinc Finger Nucleases—to the development of clinical-stage human therapeutics. Other companies, such as the start-ups CRISPR Therapeutics and Editas Medicine, have focused on CRISPR, having received millions in VC funding.
However, while human therapeutic applications of gene editing steals the limelight, there are other sectors, including agriculture and specialty chemicals, in which the technology has advanced beyond research onto the market. Gene editing offers the ability to do the following:
- Modify critical traits in crops and animals
- Boost food crop yields and nutrient quotients
- Create crops capable of withstanding blights, pests or climatic extremes
- Breed hardier, disease-resistant farm animals with improved nutritional profiles
An analysis of NIH-funded projects mentioning CRISPR/Cas9 from 2013 to 2015 finds astronomical growth of this promising gene editing technology. From 2013 to 2014, funding grew seven times, and from 2014 to 2015, funding more than tripled. Academic researchers are not the only end users adopting CRISPR/Cas9 as the technique is having a major impact in therapeutics as well. The technology overcomes many of the challenges with RNAi, TALENs and ZFN genome editing tools, promising to be a market worth hundreds of millions over the next few years.
- 3D Printing: Game changer for organ or tissue repair
3D printing technology has enormous potential in healthcare due to its ability to be customized. Customization can dramatically reduce surgery times and medical expenses. Currently, the largest applications are 3D-printed scaffolds or prosthetics (orthopedic implants) and medical devices, such as dental implants and hearing aids. The game changer for 3D printing will be in human tissue printing: printed livers, hearts, ears, hands and eyes, or building the smallest functional units of tissues, which can lead to the fabrication of large tissues and organs. This can be used as surgical grafts to repair or replace the damaged tissues and organs.
It is estimated more than a million people need kidney transplantation worldwide. However, only a little more than 5,000 people receive a transplant, as there is an insufficient number of donor organs. Scarcity of legally donated organs has led to a dramatic increase in a worldwide illegal organ trade. The 3D printing business for healthcare is expected to be worth approximately $6 billion by 2025. Some prominent companies in this field are Stratasys Ltd., Arcam AB, Organovo Holdings Inc., Johnson & Johnson Services Inc. and Stryker.
These five technologies have enormous potential to transform the healthcare industry.
This article was written with contribution from Nitin Naik, Global Vice President of Life Sciences; Christi Bird, Senior Industry Analyst; Divyaa Ravishankar, Senior Industry Analyst; and Venkat Rajan, Global Director of Visionary Healthcare with Frost & Sullivan’s Transformational Health Program.