Chapter 9. Trends and Progress – Leading Positive Change

7. Health Sciences and Technologies Overview

Main concept: Health sciences and technologies, aided by accelerating IT and nano science and tech, will deliver evidence-based improvements in disease prevention and management, mental and physical vitality and longevity. As we get ever richer, Medicine’s capitalization will increasingly rival Finance in the FEMMIT complex of top global industries. We’ll end the threat of bioterror and bioerror via molecular counterstrategies that limit the genetically extremely simple threats of pathogens, and augment our growing biological immunity (vaccines, adjuvants) with technological immunity (global sensing, quarantine). Post 2040, only complex actors (humans, AIs) will be security threats to other complex actors, in a significantly more immune future.

Leader’s challenge: Managing Costs as health tech increasingly works, addressing growing Diseases of Affluence.

Summary sentence:

“Digital health is the health that’s accelerative. Public health is the health that matters. The rest is always oversold.”

Area topics:

Digital Health and Diseases of Affluence. IT is the big story of health care, the accelerative part. Watson for oncology, then “Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon health.” Genomic data, microsensors, wireless monitoring. New global health options, such as medical tourism. The medical and insurance professions will slow industry change, but there’s great opportunity to use sensors, smart homes, smart toilets, smart environments, networks for preventive medicine (cancers, toxins) and diseases of affluence (obesity, diabetes, addictions). Lifestyle diseases, still rising today (just like urban crime 1960-1990) will saturate once Watson-level health advice, wellness groupnets, and nanodiagnostic prevention arrives.

Public Health and Disease Control. Clean water and toilets have the greatest marginal impact on global infant mortality. Lab on a Chip (LoC) nanodiagnostics will bring increasingly effective preventative medicine. Most infectious diseases are solvable problems in diagnostics, cellular and nanomedicine. See Lincoln Lab’s DRACO for the future of pandemics.

Medical Biotech, Implants, HMIs. Nanomedicine and nanosurgery will give us new kinds of implants, sensors, interfaces. Drug and sensor implants will greatly improve health management and addiction medicine.

Cellular and Regenerative Medicine and Longevity. Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) and epigenome science will  greatly improve tracking and management of disease. Stem cells and tissue engineering will advance transplants, but will have little effect on the brain. Expect only incremental advances in longevity. Squaring the curve. Superhard 120-yr limit.

Molecular Med, Big Pharma and Enhancement. Drugs are huge business. Usually marginal physiologic but great psychologic value. Biotech is an “industry driven by hope.” It’s never made a net profit as an industry, since 1960’s. We keep giving it billions, and there are big disease cures coming with GRN-based drugs, but don’t expect a profoundly better baseline memory, concentration, energy, longevity, or other such hype. The system is too complex, ethical barriers too high. Almost all human performance enhancement in next 20 years will be environmental and digital.

Books: Creative Destruction of Medicine, 2012; Truth About the Drug Companies, 2005; Innovators Prescription, 2008.

Leadership Questions:

  1. What are your health and wellness research, acquisition, R&D, hiring, training, measuring, & mgmt strategies?
  2. What key disruptions or threats must you anticipate in a world of increasing heath care costs and complexity?
  3. What problems could be addressed and opportunities taken if you had much better health care programs?
  4. How can you get measurably more of the most valuable health capabilities, at an efficient ROI?