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Why Apple and Google hold the key to avoiding Pharmageddon

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Tech is key to pharma's future according to AAPS keynote speaker
Tech is key to pharma's future according to AAPS keynote speaker

Related tags Pharma industry Medicine Technology

In the future pharma will be reliant on technology, says physician-scientist Daniel Kraft, who warns that companies which fail to innovate risk being left behind.

In the opening session of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) annual meeting in San Diego yesterday, Stanford and Harvard trained physician-scientist, entrepreneur and former TED speaker Daniel Kraft told delegates how advances in technology are propelling everyday life and will be key for the pharma industry in the near future.

“A typical smartphone that we use every day is a billion times more powerful than the supercomputers of the 1970s,”​ he said. “In the 13 years since Apple’s iPod was first launched, the technology advances have dramatically changed the trajectory of the company.”

As a further example of how technology has changed both business and our lives he cited the app Uber which, in the space of four years, has taken pre-existing cell phone systems, GPS technology and blended payment and data apps to revolutionise the taxi car industry and form a company worth $18bn.

Kraft - who is Executive Director of Exponential Medicine, a program that explores convergent, rapidly developing technologies and their potential in biomedicine and healthcare - asked the audience “who is going to build the Uber of healthcare?”

He warned that ignoring the wave of mobile and smartphone apps and technologies could create “pharmageddon”​ for established players in the industry, much like how the one time film pioneer Kodak went bankrupt after failing to innovate following the advent of digital photography.

Becoming more proactive

Cell phone and tablets will play a key role in transforming the pharma industry, Kraft said. “Presently the cheapest tablets are being sold for just $35 and by giving such technology to patients in clinical trials it can transform the way trials are managed.”

Furthermore, tablets and smartphones are absorbing more and more applications and therefore elements of a patient’s health can be easily and efficiently monitored and shared. He added such technology would be used for physician visibility and diagnostics, and with apps being developed to measure potential health conditions such as heart problems – AliveECG measures cardio activity and has US FDA clearance – pharma will become more proactive rather than reactive.

“With such technology we are moving beyond just personalised medicine and into what is known as P4 medicine – predictive healthcare projector and therefore preventative.”

And as for which companies will be the key player, Kraft said it would be the likes of Google, Apple and Samsung which would be dominant in this space, at least in regards to collecting and managing the huge amounts of data generated by such technology. Already, he noted, Google through its R&D subsidiary Calico is developing technology to tackle the problem of aging in a venture with AbbVie, while the firm is also developing contact lenses that can monitor glucose levels in a partnership with Novartis.

Though Kraft did warn of potential dangers of apps including the risk of hacking and questions as to who owns the data, he urged pharma, services firm and academia to become “data donors,”​ in order to survive in this new, technology controlled landscape.

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