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The next wave – Precision medicine – DR. Joanne M. Hackett

Leveraging the nervous system offers huge potential for healthcare. Our nervous system is like our body’s internet and it carries an enormous amount of information. Most of the communication between the brain and the organs of the body is sent via the nervous system. We now have the technology to begin translating and even correcting these communications..

The opportunities this presents for developing precision medicine are immense. Scientists have long known that faulty signals in the nervous system play a key role in driving chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Many of the most effective drugs for treating such diseases are based on molecules that have been found to have an effect on the nervous system. The knowledge of how to decode and encode neural data will open up a new branch of treatments for some of humanity’s most pressing conditions.

Biotech fuelling innovation in medicine

We have already seen acceleration in medical treatments as we build our understanding of other areas of human biology, such as immunology and genetics. Mapping the human genome gave rise to next generation sequencing techniques that spurred a step change in the field of genomics, as researchers moved from studying individual genes which caused disease to understanding the genome as a whole in developing treatments.

Genome-based research is now in use clinically to develop better diagnostics and treatments, as well as decision-making tools for clinicians and patients. In the future, it is likely that patients’ individual healthcare plans will be personalised to their own genetics.

Biotech companies have often been in a position to make breakthroughs that lead to new classes of treatment as scientific understanding progresses. Genentech, now part of Roche, demonstrated the ability of biotechnology companies to raise capital on the public markets to fund the discovery, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of medicines, including the creation of synthetic insulin using recombinant DNA technology. Cambridge Antibody Technology became one of biotech’s biggest success stories after discovering the Humira antibody for the treatment of arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and was later acquired by AstraZeneca. Both companies developed new techniques which resulted in significant innovations in treatment.

Neural interfaces are a powerful new technology that could have the same impact. This is why I was excited earlier this year to join the board of BIOS Health, an agile, fast paced and ambitious entrepreneurial biotech, which is unlocking the potential of the nervous system by using AI-powered neural interfaces that can automatically read and write neural signals to treat chronic disease.

The need for innovative treatments for chronic disease

Chronic diseases account for almost 90% of all deaths and nearly $2 trillion in healthcare spend per year in Europe and the US alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought this issue even further into the spotlight. As healthcare systems across the world battle its impact, the disease has highlighted the need for better treatments for the millions of people around the world who suffer from chronic conditions which make them vulnerable.

Yet the return on investment in pharmaceuticals to tackle these conditions is decreasing, costing billions more every year to bring a fewer number of drugs to market. In fact, the cost of developing a new drug doubles every 9 years.


BIOS - Code the Body can run


For example, despite the fact that cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death worldwide, pharmaceutical companies are hitting a wall in developing new treatments, with over 10,000 compounds tested for each drug brought to market. The last significant innovation in the treatment of late stage cardiac disease was the discovery of the beta blocker in the 1960s.

Chronic disease is such a pressing issue facing our global population that there is a recognized need for a completely different approach. In other words, we need ways to develop treatments that are more effective, cost less to deliver and do this more quickly if we are to tackle the burden of chronic diseases and provide greater quality of life for millions of people. Building interfaces between technology and the human body is one of the most important fields in helping us move beyond incremental changes to our approach to health.


Unlocking the potential of the nervous system

At BIOS we’re building the technology that enables the creation of neural treatments. BIOS has pioneered a method to automatically extract the neural signals regulating physiological biomarkers using an AI-enabled neural interface – creating a new way of investigating conditions that will accelerate the discovery of neural biomarkers. This is the first time we have been able to understand the “language” of the nerves as the basis for delivering treatment and provides the capability to understand and communicate with the nerves and organs directly.

Dr Joanne M. Hackett

Innovator | Advisor | Strategist | Scientist | Mentor Digital Health | Precision Medicine London, England, United Kingdom

A clinical academic, entrepreneur, investor, and a strategic, creative visionair with global experience spanning successful start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Aside from her curious passion for life and positivity, Joanne is known for building innovation, driving personalised medicine and leading through fast paced, complex changing ecosystems and integrations.

Joanne’s goal is to contribute in bringing the world novel, cost effective and simple health care solutions, and she is particularly keen on building the case for prevention, open science and citizen genomics. She has extensive global experience across academic, business and clinical institutions, and enjoys sharing her experiences with the Boards she sits on as well as companies she provides strategic advice to. Dr. Hackett is the Head of Genomic and Precision Medicine at IQVIA and previously was the Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England, where she was responsible for building and commercialising the Trusted Research Environment.

Joanne has been publicly recognised for her relentless pursuit of revolutionising healthcare and has recently been named one of the top six Influential Leaders in Healthcare by CIO Look, the Accenture Life Science Leader of the year 2019, Freshfields Top 100 Most Influential Women 2019, One HealthTech 2018 Top 70 Women in the NHS, Pharmaceutical Market Europe’s 2018 30 women leaders in UK healthcare and BioBeat 2017 Top 50 Women in Biotech Award. Joanne believes in human courage and perseverance against the odds, and demonstrates that positive change, whether in a company or in one’s personal life, can be carved out from even the greatest of trials. As a believer of ‘health = wealth’, Joanne is an internationally known yoga instructor.