27 November 2020

Overview of the MedTech sphere

Which technologies are the best to invest in now

Dmitry Fomin, Rusbase

Currently, two areas are of particular interest to investors in the field of medicine: the introduction of IT solutions into the work of doctors and the development of genetics. Dmitry Fomin, founder of the federal network of multidisciplinary women's health clinics "Fomin Clinic", tells what is happening with these areas now and how they will develop in the future.

IT in medicine

The most relevant systems now are diagnostics, quality control, and medical decision-making assistance systems.

Doctor AI

While public healthcare in Russia is at the stage of abandoning paper medical records, more than two thousand companies around the world are already implementing artificial intelligence in medical products (according to Venture Scanner). Electronic medical records are not only a convenient data storage format, but also an opportunity to analyze them, optimize costs and improve the quality of services. 

Processing and evaluation of all appointments using artificial intelligence in Russia is used in our network, where our own IT product "Asya" was developed for this task: artificial intelligence, based on a huge database and knowledge, helps to diagnose and make the most effective appointments. 

In Russia, the trend for medical decision-making assistance systems is developing locally, and it would be necessary to put this process on track. This will avoid overdiagnosis, medical errors, the appointment of questionable drugs and unnecessary tests. If artificial intelligence is familiar with the principles of evidence-based medicine and the guidelines of world experts, then the doctor will be able to use this knowledge to improve his skills and improve treatment regimens. 

The most famous example of a world–renowned cognitive system is IBM Watson. It is used in a variety of industries, and in medicine, for example, it helps to make accurate diagnoses: This artificial intelligence-based system understands questions formulated in natural language and finds answers to them. IBM Watson constantly studies new books, studies, articles and algorithmizes this knowledge.

Technology versus the human factor 

Often, even experienced specialists and luminaries of science may not take into account all the input data or miss signs of the development of diseases. The work of a person is known to be affected by psychoemotional state, health, concentration and other unstable factors. The computer is not wrong. He can constantly study new research, broaden his horizons and make a comparative analysis in a few seconds. By collecting big data, artificial intelligence improves itself and becomes more accurate. Now such developments are being introduced everywhere. 

Artificial intelligence is also beginning to be used in ultrasound. Many equipment manufacturers are already introducing new algorithms into the software.

The Philips Epiq and Affiniti ultrasound systems have a built–in imaging function during breast ultrasound - this improves the quality of images, simplifies the workflow and increases the chances of taking pictures close to ideal. If earlier the quality and quantity of images depended only on the doctor, now artificial intelligence simply will not miss unsuitable options and will achieve maximum viewability. Diagnostics becomes more accurate.  

Fault-tolerant control system guarantees the accuracy of the IVF procedure: it makes it impossible for parents' biomaterials to get confused in the process of pregnancy management. There are cases when a couple gives birth to someone else's child or when the wrong parent's material is used by mistake. This is a terrible tragedy, and modern technologies, such as RI Witness, exclude the human factor and such fatal mistakes. 

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of such intelligent systems for the medical business – patients everywhere face overdiagnosis and incorrect prescriptions, and doctors face filling out all kinds of papers and ordinary human fatigue.

Simplifying the mechanisms and shifting part of the responsibility to artificial intelligence facilitates the process and reduces risks.

Doctors will not disappear. Thanks to such systems, specialists will be able to focus on scientific activities and training, new discoveries and expertise.

In this case, intelligent systems will not become competitors to them – only assistants. Such optimization is necessary for business: automation of processes and prevention of medical errors, scaling of systems open up new opportunities for entrepreneurs. Intelligent systems and innovations not only ensure equally high standards of service provision, but also allow businesses to grow, strengthening their reputation. 

Molecular genetics

The second promising area for investment is genetic technologies. There are many studies and startups dedicated to the prevention or targeted treatment of genetic diseases. By the way, according to the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 680 dated 28.11.2018 "On the development of genetic technologies in the Russian Federation", the government decided that this direction is important and began to allocate funding for new solutions in the field of genetics. 

Genetic engineering today 

Back in 2014, MIT Technology Review called CRISPR CAS9 technology the biggest discovery of the century. With this method, it became possible to set any set of genetic instructions in the body and apply "genetic scissors".

Last October, Harvard University scientists proposed a new technology of primed editing, which allows you to rewrite the genome. Against the background of already well-studied gene therapy, these discoveries seem to be completely breakthrough: it is quite possible that a future awaits us without genetic, autoimmune and oncological diseases. 

The future of genetics and the ethical question

In the recent past, even the IVF procedure itself was considered something unnatural, was very expensive and complicated. Now this is a routine, ubiquitous practice. With the development of technology, there are opportunities not only for successful conception, but also for the diagnosis of pathologies, mutations at the stage of embryo formation and even for genome editing. Scientists have already managed to grow the first living organism in a bioreactor before giving birth. For ethical reasons, it was not a man, but a kid. 

Yes, so far in world practice, intervention in the embryo genome is considered an unethical procedure. Only one example of human editing is known: Chinese researcher Jiankui He prevented the birth of twins with HIV infection in 2018 (genome editing was coordinated with the parents). As a result of the experiment, healthy children were born with altered DNA. Unfortunately, the scientific community did not approve of these actions of the scientist, and he was condemned. 

Experts predict that this will soon become a routine procedure, and science fiction writers dream of the appearance of superhumans. In any case, in Britain, back in 2016, it was allowed to interfere with the structure of the genome for research purposes, without implanting them in women. And now, at the stage of embryogenesis, it is already possible to influence the hereditary genes of deafness, HIV, dwarfism and phenylketonuria.

Genetic engineering will only gain momentum. This is facilitated by technologies – artificial intelligence, supercomputers, medical assistance systems and automation of medicine. 

Although the medical business is a difficult area for investment, it is becoming more and more expensive: competition is growing, and billions are being invested in the global market. In Russia, the number of unique medical offers is increasing, and technologies are developing. In this context, our clinic is one of the successful Russian cases, which in 2018 attracted 300 million rubles from the TealTech foundation. The coronacrisis has shown that health is a basic need. And if the growth of the private healthcare market was about 10% annually, then these figures will only grow further. 

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