9 october 2018

"Imagine organs printed on a 3D printer". Bayer digital tech lead talks about technologies that will change the medical industry


How does modern medicine develop and what prevents its transformation? The answers to these questions made us support competitive medical startups. So let's talk about the role of hi-tech in health service.

Bayer is a chemical and pharmaceutical company founded in Germany back in 1863. Today it is a huge multinational corporation with more than 115 thousand employees and offices in 79 countries. Bayer's annual revenues exceed €46 billion, or almost $54 billion.

Two years ago, I met a young entrepreneur from Africa who was inspired by TEDTalks clips. To motivate his network, he began to conduct his events and created TEDx brand. This is a vivid example of technologies serving great ideas around the world. One can observe the same picture in the health industry. Hi-tech can make health service accessible even in the middle of nowhere. Many entrepreneurs around the world are working together to simplify communication between doctor and patient. We support such projects within grants4apps program. The combination of technology and business allows the industry to change faster and be more effective, whether it's Asia, Africa or Europe.


How we support healthcare startups

We founded grants4apps as a set of grants for projects that are focused on digital health. Right now supported initiatives cover many other areas, like robotic healthcare solutions. Teams grow with and within Bayer and have no restrictions from the management. All projects develop in a climate of innovative and creative thinking typical for start-ups but absorb Bayer's internal corporate culture. This is a win-win situation, and the steady growth of grants4apps for the last five years is solid proof.

Startup teams are unstoppable. They know that nothing is impossible. In return, the company offers solutions to any structural issue and provides any desired resource.

It is complicated to reach directly to the consumer in healthcare. Corporations spend millions of dollars on advertising and regulatory issues. That is why I call the symbiosis of start-ups and corporations a "marriage made in heaven."


How AI changes the health industry

I can name five health industry fields that will benefit from AI implementation.
1. Drug resistance testing. We now explore the possibility of AI implementing to predict the response of the human body to two chemo drug types.
2. Treatment control. American startup AiCure uses AI to monitor whether patients take their drugs and whether the dosage is correct. A smartphone camera is used to record the data, which then processed by the app to determine if a patient follows the treatment regimen.
3. Drug development. In 2014, IBM Watson announced that Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi began working together to teach the supercomputer to understand the results of scientific research and clinical trials and later develop new drugs and treatment options.
4. It helps patients with Alzheimer disease. The University of Washington is studying the possibility of using AI to improve the quality of life of people suffering from this disease. AI can help create a system that can replace some of the lost memories and restore skills.
5. Health monitoring through wearable technologies.

Why we praise the potential of wearable devices

So far wearable devices are used by geeks and healthcare enthusiasts, but what about the rest of the population? This field has excellent potential for growth and improving medical services for hundreds of millions of consumers (note that we don't call them patients) who suffer from chronic and other underlying conditions.
For example, the ecosystem of wearable gadgets for diabetics should not only create incentives for physical activity. It should also be used for preventive analysis of the vast amount of data generated by the human body. A smart socks system prototype by Heapsylon detect various conditions, from diabetic foot syndrome to peripheral neuropathy.
So what about cancer? Smart bra (or so-called "early warning system") utilizes a set of sensors to diagnose breast cancer. It boasts a detection accuracy of a whopping 90% better than any mammogram.
When wearable devices become more accurate and perfect, they will allow curing chronic diseases.

The combination of technology and business allows the industry to change faster and be more effective, whether it's Asia, Africa or Europe

What we think about the possibilities of 3D-printing

Imagine morning pills printed by a patient, or donor organs that recipients do not need to wait in the queue for months. Here are the healthcare areas that 3D printing can forever change.
1. Personalized medication dosage. A doctor or pharmacist will be able to use individual data for each patient, for instance, age, sex and obtain an optimal dosage of a drug without relying on a predefined package. 3D printing can also allow physicians to print pills with Omni-purpose formulas and treat several diseases simultaneously.
2. Non-standard drug formulation. In the future, 3D inkjet printing technology can be used to create a large number of drug dosage forms.
3. Living tissue printing. Experts assume that in less than 20 years we will see a fully functioning printed heart.

What holds back the digital transformation of healthcare

Some companies are still resisting to innovations. Many health organizations are still practicing outdated technologies, with management zealously pushing anything new away. Simply put, while everyone loves innovation, not everyone welcomes the changes. We need to actively promote openness to high tech both in our own companies and among our customers.

Eugene Borukhovich

Bayer Digital Health Incubation & Innovation head who loves startups, game changers and the sharing economy. 

"The only thing that is constant is change."


Hi-Tech Nation is a media project that originated from the international business forum of the same name. This inspiring page addresses opportunities at the junction of IT and traditional industries, with original content from iconic experts like Nouriel Roubini, Ray Kurzweil, and Ichak Adizes.
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