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Apple isnt just satisfied reinventing health care, its targeting clinical trials as well

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Author : Vivek Wadhwa
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ResearchkitWhen Apple announced, last year, that it was developing a watch that had the functions of a medical device, it became clear that the company was eyeing the $3 trillion health care industry; that the tech industry sees medicine as the next frontier for exponential growth. Apples recent announcement of ResearchKit shows that it has an even greater ambition: It wants to also transform the pharmaceutical industry by changing the way clinical trials are done.

Apple isnt alone. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Samsung and hundreds of start-ups also see the market potential and have big plans. They are about to disrupt health care in the same way in which Netflix decimated the video-rental industry and Uber is changing transportation.

The upshot? We will receive better health care for a fraction of the cost.

This is happening because several technologies such as computers, sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence are advancing at exponential rates. Their power and performance are increasing dramatically as their prices fall and footprints shrink.

We will soon have sensors that monitor almost every aspect of our bodys functioning, inside and out. They will be packaged in watches, Band-Aids, clothing, and contact lenses. They will be in our toothbrushes, toilets and showers. They will be embedded in smart pills that we swallow. The data from these will be uploaded into cloud-based platforms such as Apples HealthKit.

Artificial intelligencebased apps will constantly monitor our health data, predict disease and warn us when we are about to get sick. They will advise us on what medications we should take and how we should improve our lifestyle and habits. Watson, for example, the technology that IBM developed to defeat human players on the TV show Jeopardy, has already become capable of diagnosing cancer more accurately than human physicians can. Soon it will be better than humans are in making any medical diagnosis.

The key innovation that Apple just announced is ResearchKit, a platform for app builders to capture and upload data from patients who have a particular disease. Our smartphones already monitor our activity levels, lifestyles and habits. They know where we go, how fast we move, and when we sleep. Some smartphone apps already try to judge our emotions and health based on this information; to be sure, they can ask us questions.

ResearchKit apps will enable constant monitoring of symptoms and of reactions to medications. Today, clinical trials are done on a relatively small number of patients, and pharmaceutical companies sometimes choose to ignore information that does not suit them. Data that our devices gather will be used to accurately analyze what medications patients have taken, in order to determine which of them truly had a positive effect; which simply created adverse reactions and new ailments; and which did both.

The best part is that the clinical trials will be continuing they wont stop once the medicines are approved by the FDA.

Apple has already developed five apps that target the most prevalent health concerns: diabetes, asthma, Parkinsons disease, cardiovascular disease, and breast cancer. The Parkinsons app can, for example, measure hand tremors, through an iPhone touchscreen; vocal trembling, using the microphone; and gait, as you walk with the device.

Combined with genomics data that are becoming available as plunging DNA-sequencing costs approach the costs of regular medical tests, a health-care revolution is in the works. By understanding the correlations between genome, habits, and disease as the new devices will facilitate we will get closer and closer to an era of Precision Medicine in which disease prevention and treatment is done on the basis of peoples genes, environments, and lifestyles.

Google and Amazon are one step ahead of Apple in the data they capture they offer a repository for DNA information. Google also announced last year that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in a persons tears and transmit these data via an antenna thinner than a human hair. It is developing nanoparticles that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect cancers and other molecules inside the body and notify a wearable computer on the wrist. And it wants to control aging. In 2013, Google made a significant investment in a company called Calico, to research diseases that afflict the elderly, such as neurodegeneration and cancer. Its goal is to understand aging and, ultimately, extend life. It is also learning how the human brain works. One of its chief scientists, who is a mentor to me, Ray Kurzweil, isbringing to life the theory of intelligence expounded in his book How to Create a Mind. He wants to enhance our intelligence with technology and allow us to back up our brains onto the cloud.

We may have been disappointed with the advances in medicine in the past because things have moved slowly because of the nature of the health care system itself. It hasnt been focused on delivering health care it has been about sick care. Thats because doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies only make money when we are in bad health; they dont get rewarded for keeping us healthy. The good news is that the technology industry is about to change all this.

I have little doubt that the next 20 years will be nothing less than amazing as the technology industry eats medicine. But Ill admit that I am not quite ready for Kurzweil to beam my intelligence up into the cloud. Id rather keep this in my limited local storage.

Link to article on Washington Post’s website


About Author
Vivek Wadhwa is Vice President of Innovation and Research at Singularity University; Fellow, Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University; and distinguished visiting scholar, Halle Institute of Global Learning, Emory University. He is author of ”The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent”–which was named by The Economist as a Book of the Year of 2012.

Wadhwa oversees the academic programs at Singularity University, which educates a select group of leaders about the exponentially growing technologies that are soon going to change our world. These advances—in fields such as robotics, A.I., computing, synthetic biology, 3D printing, medicine, and nanomaterials—are making it possible for small teams to do what was once possible only for governments and large corporations to do: solve the grand challenges in education, water, food, shelter, health, and security.

Website: http://wadhwa.com/2015/03/23/apple-isnt-just-satisfied-reinventing-health-care-its-targeting-clinical-trials-as-well%e2%80%8b/

 

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