Manoj Saxena, Managing Director, Bayer Zydus Pharma, talks about how technology has become an essential tool that complements the personal and physical interaction with a healthcare professional to help patients lead a healthier life
William Osler, the Father of Modern Medicine said – ‘A good physician treats the disease; a great physician treats the patient.’ To me, this succinctly explains the benefits of putting patients at the centre of treatment and for this, patient-centric innovation, that prioritises the safety and well-being of patients is fundamental.
Over the past years, the healthcare industry has been witnessing a seismic shift in the way it has approached treatment and diagnosis. Today, the patient is the pivot around which innovations occur, be it in R&D or using technology to ensure healthcare is simplified and accessible. The new approach is also more focussed on ‘prevention’ wherein the industry is now looking at delivering holistic end-to-end healthcare solutions.
Shift in healthcare demographics is fundamentally defining how the healthcare industry needs to engage with the consumer/patient. India has more than 600 million young people and how they look at healthcare is going to define the very future of this industry. India also has a huge aging population and this will lead to industry focus on specific solutions catering to the segment of ‘healthy ageing’.
In our patient-centric approach, Bayer has kept the millennials as well as the aging population in mind as it moves towards developing novel solutions based on the principles of technology, artificial intelligence (AI), biomarkers and/or robotics among others. Technology is now an essential tool that complements the personal and physical interaction with a healthcare professional (HCP) to help patients lead a healthier life and it will continue to play an increasingly important role in the future.
With patients today reading about their ailment on the internet, we have the phenomenon of the ‘google doctor’ that paradoxically juxtaposes with a population who now questions every prescription, every diagnosis of the HCP. They prefer HCPs who are tech savvy, and use emails and WhatsApp for communication. New research and innovation will therefore need to be driven by factors such as convenience and ease of accessibility of information and treatment more than anything else.
Use of AI in finding novel solutions
Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere. In the medical field, AI when combined with big data, can enable a more precise identification of suitable drug targets. It can also help predict the outcome of laboratory experiments and provide us with a better understanding of the day-to-day patterns and needs of the people on which to base our innovation. At Bayer, we are using AI to leapfrog our R&D through a series of collaborations. For example, Bayer and Merck
are collaborating to use artificial intelligence software for Chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH) pattern recognition. CTEPH is a long-term disease caused by a blockage in the blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to the lungs. Development of the CTEPH Pattern Recognition AI Software will use deep learning methodology to support radiologists by identifying signs of CTEPH in imaging scans and ultimately help drive an earlier diagnosis to improve patient outcomes. The software analyses image findings from cardiac, lung perfusion and pulmonary vessels in combination with the patient’s clinical history.
The era of personalised medicine
Today’s generation want customised and tailor-made solutions. Drug discovery has to focus on developing precision medicine that can provide these personalised solutions. The search of such solutions begins with studying and understanding unique individual genetic makeups and disposition. At Bayer, we have invested in BlueRock Therapeutics that is using its unique platform to direct cellular differentiation and genetically engineer cells to create an entirely new generation of cellular medicines in the areas of neurology, cardiology, and immunology.
New models of collaboration
We need quick and new scientific breakthroughs if the industry is to match the pace of change and speed with which the healthcare landscape is changing. The millennial generation is in a tearing hurry for answers. For them, healthy is not equivalent to ‘not being sick.’ They seek holistic solutions and the term ‘wellness’ for them encompasses both mental and physical health. ‘Leaps by Bayer’ is an initiative wherein Bayer is collaborating with external partners and is focussed on curing and preventing disease. We have a two-pronged approach: not only do we invest heavily in a few key areas (DNA editing, microbiome, RNA inhibition, RNA activation, stem cell therapy), but we also actively help build up young biotech companies.
We understand the future lies in new technologies like gene editing and that is what our investment with Casebia Therapeutics is focussed on. Casebia is working to optimise gene editing across multiple disciplines and create therapies that will unlock the full potential of gene editing for patients.
Our synergies amongst stakeholders is also aimed at improving quality of life. We collaborated with FOGSI (Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India) to launch the key practice points for endometriosis – VISION (Valuable Insights in Indian Endometriosis – Redefining Outcomes). Endometriosis is a chronic disease that affects five to 10 per cent of women of childbearing age. About 176 million women suffer from it globally, and of these 26 million women belong to India alone. Over 200 thought leaders were involved in formulating the protocols of practice on endometriosis. The objective of VISION is to understand the current usage pattern of various therapeutic options in endometriosis and develop an algorithm to guide doctors at the point of care in the management of endometriosis based on different patient profiles. The protocol will focus on providing management recommendations for endometriosis to physicians and patients from an Indian perspective.
Patient safety at the heart of patient-centric innovation
We cannot have patient-centric innovation if we do not put patient needs and safety first. Today’s generation is actively engaged in the management of its own healthcare and they are also more likely to stay healthy. Keeping this central to our innovative approach in healthcare, we recently launched ‘SafeTrack’, a quick, simple and convenient adverse event reporting tool for the public. Available in eight different languages, SafeTrack makes reporting adverse events quick and easy. The web-based tool is simple to use, balancing the need to capture comprehensive data against ease and speed of use.
The future of healthcare rests in the hands of millennials that seek quick answers, prefers technology, is ‘App-driven’, more informed and therefore more demanding when it comes to safety, thereby making healthcare better for everyone.