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Continued from Previous…… This series is based on a report from StartUS insights.
Trend #9 – Digital Therapeutics
Digital therapeutics is a new class of evidence-based therapeutic interventions which are non-pharmacological in nature. These are software-based, tech-driven solutions which may be used alone, or along with medications, devices, or other therapeutic measures. Digital therapeutics also give patients greater control over their health and therapy outcomes.
A US-based startup is offering evidence-based digital therapeutics for the treatment of neurocognitive and neuromotor impairments. It is a rehabilitation therapy that uses a medical device and helps patients recover from the neurological deficits caused by stroke. The virtual reality headset from the same startup further immerses patients in a virtually designed world which helps the brain to develop new circuits, and in the recovery of brain-body control. Their software uses proprietary algorithms, improves cognitive functioning of patients, and modifies their challenges.
A German startup is making a smartphone-based digital therapeutic for slowing down the progression of myopia (difficulty to see things that are near, reading) in the young population, particularly children.
Trend #10 – Curative Therapies
Presently, the medical field is divided between chronic care and acute care; chronic care meaning long-term, or lifelong treatment, acute care is for a few days or weeks. Diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, are considered incurable and therefore must be managed for life. A new paradigm shift is taking place due to possibility of curing the diseases, rather than just managing them. Cell and gene therapies are making it possible to cure hitherto incurable diseases and eliminating the need for long-term treatment. In gene therapy, genetic material is introduced into the cells to compensate for abnormal genes, or to alter the metabolic process of the cell. These therapies are already available which make use of genetically engineered viruses to carry the genetic material into the cells.
A British startup develops a proprietary direct cellular conversion platform which can convert any mature cell into any other mature cell type, of course many elaborate processes work in the background to make it happen. The startup is already offering novel cell therapies for musculoskeletal, autoimmune, cancer immunotherapy, eye, and respiratory diseases.
A US-based, clinical-stage gene therapy startup is working on cures for the central nervous system. They have a proprietary vector technology platform which develops novel adeno-associated virus – AAV vectors. Their offerings include some more high technology products also.
It all boils down to two main points
One, the pharma companies must have realized during and after COVID19 pandemic that there is a dire need for developing capabilities to quickly innovate and mass-produce novel drugs, treatment methods, and vaccines to respond to such episodes. It also means making huge money and profits.
Two, the startups are taking the lead, and showing the way to novel therapies. Pharma companies must work with them because their own teams will take a long time to reach there. Pharma companies and startups collaboration is essential.
Where is Pakistan Pharma?
As mentioned in earlier blogs and often repeated that Pakistan Pharma market is unevenly divided; 90% market share is with about 50 companies, and only 10% share is with 700 companies. It means that 700 companies do not have resources to dive into high technology and the likes. The onus therefore would be on the 50 or so companies to take the lead and acquire new technologies because they may have the resources to do so.
Will the top fifty companies go in this direction? There are serious hurdles in the way, even if they desire to do so.
One, the technology is not available indigenously. The research is not done here, and even the facilities are not available. The technical expertise is also not there.
The top companies have invested heavily into expanding facilities for bulk manufacturing of generic drugs, and all of it is based here. Our industry has never tried to diversify its manufacturing into more specialized areas.
Generally, the pharma industry is myopic, it only looks into short term future, even if they claim to make plans for three to five years. If they had visualized ten years earlier, we would have biological drugs manufacturing, vaccines, and more API manufacturing units.
Our regulator, namely DRAP, has never made any effort for developing the pharma industry as per future needs. They are only interested in regulating in the sense of controlling. They did not do any analysis as to what would be required in the next ten years and did nothing to apprise the industry and motivate it to go beyond conventional drugs.
Our governments had had their share of blame. The successive governments had been inefficient, unstable, and drowned in self-interests. They have failed to do any commendable work in any area, including healthcare.
The fallout is that we shall remain dependent on the more developed countries for higher technology methods in healthcare. The flip side is that we shall never get it in time, if at all we get it.
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