KPMG webinar, preparing for the new reality – blog
Our CEO, Neelam Patel, was asked to contribute to KPMG webinar: Preparing for the new reality – Week 19 – Featuring the CBI and MedCity. Asked about what lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the future outlook from a medical perspective, this blog covers some of what she had to say…
It certainly has been an incredible few months for the health and life sciences sector and there is some real promise of breakthroughs in the near future.
So, what is the impact and promise of these innovations to you and me as individuals and to businesses returning back to normal?
Everyone is, of course, waiting for the large-scale availability of an effective vaccine and protection against infection…until then however, what research is happening now that can benefit people and businesses get over that ‘lockdown’ hangover?
Three words are important here, diagnostics, data, and protection.
Firstly, diagnostics… Antigen testing for Covid19 has advanced greatly over the last few months, with turnaround time of results now a matter of hours. We have heard of the saliva testing trials in Southampton, and another innovation is DNANudge, a lab-free Covid19 test with 98% accuracy and results in under an hour. This is the only non-lab, non-human interaction point-of-care diagnostic and is being used in urgent care settings.
Taking it a step further, ARCTEC (Arthropod Control Product Test Centre), at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), is working in partnership with the University of Durham and Medical Detection Dogs to investigate the role that dogs could play in detecting and diagnosing COVID-19. Work has previously shown that dogs are capable of detecting malaria with high accuracy – how cool is that?!
To give confidence to employees and students that going to work and school is safe, the availability of accurate, convenient and scalable diagnostics is a game changer. Providing mass student and staff testing is already under discussion at some institutions. This would not only allow a safe teaching environment, but also scale up lab-based industry/academic research collaborations.
We have seen the power of data, and how disease modelling has enabled prediction of spikes and spread, as well as those in our communities at high risk.
On this point there are a couple of interesting projects to mention:
- A technology to predict and prevent outbreaks of infectious disease and anti-microbial resistance much earlier than ever before by using digital sensing is i-Sense, which is a university collaboration with Public Health England.
- A COVID-19 Symptom Tracker App, developed by King’s, aims to identify how fast the virus is spreading in each area, the highest-risk areas in the country, and who is most at risk, by better understanding symptoms linked to underlying health conditions. This has already generated the presentation of key symptoms of COVID-19 and development of AI diagnostic to predict COVID-19 without testing, based on symptoms.
Finally, back to vaccines and protection.
Apart from the vaccines currently in clinical trials, there is also research into the development of broad-spectrum vaccines. A broad-spectrum vaccine aims to protect against COVID-19, as well as a wide range of coronavirus strains in animals and humans. The impact would be huge if this research programme is positive. It would ensure protection against future infections originating from COVID-19 and other emergent coronavirus strains, including those hosted in animals able to infect humans.
Changing the focus to innovation adoption, we are often asked whether the pandemic has resulted in a change to how innovations have been adopted by the NHS. The answer is that the last few months have shown the ability for innovations to be developed and implemented within the NHS at pace, with systems having been developed regionally to accelerate the evaluation and commissioning of innovations based on demand.
The success has been down to several factors, one of them being a closer integration between the NHS and research institutions, as well as closer partnerships with industry. A great example is the application of real-world evidence on COVID19 incidence amongst high-risk populations, with this real-time data being used in diagnostic technology. So, is speedier NHS adoption and scale up of technology now going to be a part of life? Well, we’ve seen it can be done!
To innovate, businesses also need the right infrastructure and expertise. Looking forward, how will this change? From a recent SME survey that we conducted for health and life sciences companies, the ability to network and interact with a community was still a big priority, however the preferred place of work in the future was considered to be a more distributed model.
For life science infrastructure development within cities, this calls for a creative rethink on the repurposing of existing empty space to allow for ‘urban science parks’, the adjacency to scientific and research expertise allowing for the important collaboration and networking.
With the advanced data-driven medical technologies and innovations we need, the need for a convergence of skills across disciplines and transferable skills is of even greater importance. Perhaps the huge advances in health and life sciences being front stage over the last few months will attract skills and talent from completely different sectors. We hope so!
Listen to the webinar on demand here.