Despite the challenges of crises seemingly everywhere, there is much to be optimistic about in 2023 and beyond with exciting innovation and developments in healthcare.
As we enter 2023, we are faced with a landscape of crises on multiple fronts: the ongoing aftermath of the Covid pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the resultant inflationary impact on energy prices, overwhelmed healthcare systems, the increasingly evident extreme weather effects of climate change and, for those of us in the UK and Europe, the additional impact of Brexit. So, where is the good news? One answer is in a series of game-changing advances in science and technology with particular application in healthcare.
Gene therapy becomes a reality
One of the most significant good news stories in 2022 concerned 13-year-old Alyssa from Leicester whose incurable T-cell leukaemia has been successfully treated by genetic base-editing therapy, clearing the cancer from her body. The revolutionary therapy was pioneered by a team at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. With huge interest and investment in the potential for CRISPR and other gene editing technologies, expect to see further dramatic steps forward in the treatment of diseases in 2023.
messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) came to prominence during the pandemic through its application in the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccine development. As well as being central to ongoing protection against future coronavirus variants, the advances in mRNA knowledge is leading to new targeted treatments for other diseases, particularly cancer. An agreement of 6 Jan 2023 sees BioNTech partnering with the UK government to trial personalised mRNA therapies for 10,000 UK cancer patients, heralding a new era of further game-changing treatments.
There is scarcely a business area not seeking to deploy AI technology in some form, but the increasing use of AI in healthcare will be especially important in addressing challenges of resource capacity and shortages of healthcare professionals. Currently, AI is being heavily used to support ever more accurate interpretation of diagnostic imaging, such as X-ray, MRI, CT, ultrasound and mammography, as well as in improving the efficiency of resource management by optimising bed allocation, managing hospital resources and using data analytics to identify patterns and predict patient journeys.
Diagnostics – the smell of innovation
Joy Milne, whose husband Les died from Parkinson’s disease in 2015, realised that she could smell the condition, not only on her husband, but subsequently, and with astonishing accuracy, on a wide range of people with Parkinson’s. Building on this accidental discovery, a team at the University of Manchester began working with Joy to develop a 3-minute non-invasive swab test that can identify Parkinson’s disease with around a 95% accuracy. For a disease with no previous diagnostic method, this simple test will help to ensure that people developing Parkinson’s are diagnosed earlier, allowing support and care to be more effectively deployed.
A new dawn for inclusive design and accessibility
2022 seemed to be the year that inclusive design and accessibility went mainstream. GSK’s adoption of Microsoft’s Seeing AI app, allowing people with impaired vision to “read” the packaging of pharmaceutical and other products was features on mainstream TV advert breaks. Apple’s “The Greatest” film, released in December 2022, is not just the best advert they have created in a long time, but highlights the amazing capability that wearable and mobile tech can deliver to support and normalise the lives of people living with a range of disabilities. It stands as one of several developments allowing us to look forward with optimism to a healthier and happier year in 2023 and beyond.