CRISPR moves out of the lab and over the threshold
If you had a life threatening condition, would you want to know about it? Whether you do or you don’t, thanks to the blossoming market of DIY healthcare, you can. The digital revolution has enabled the biological revolution, and vice versa. As a result, there is now a plethora of options available to help people to understand healthcare risks. Given that US healthcare spending reached over $10,000 per person in 2016 alone, this could not have come at a better time. Staff shortages and waiting times have become standard problems in medical environments, leading patients to become more proactive about their own health. HealthTech companies and advances in bioscience are enabling this trend, but how?
The elephant in the waiting room…
Tired of leafing through worn magazines in stuffy reception areas, waiting for a doctor ? There’s an app for that. In fact, there are many – as well as different DIY kits that analyse samples of blood, saliva, urine, and even humble photographs. Some systems are more complicated, such as the Oxford Nanopore MinION for DNA and RNA sequencing. To order MinION, clients must meet certain requirements. At the beginning of the year, a paper published in Nature claimed that the device had produced the most complete sequence of a human genome.
Although there are countless new products and services that can offer domestic diagnosis, there is no combined medical system available to consumers as of yet. Mammoth Biosciences, however, was founded in 2017 with a view to change that. The biotech startup wants to democratise medical diagnosis using CRISPR gene editing. CRISPR has quickly become the poster child of biomedical advancement, and with good reason. The DNA editing technique is able to recognise, slice and repair specific sequences in genes, and has been used to search for and destroy harmful pathogens. Mammoth Biosciences’ first product takes this capability and turns it into a widely accessible tool, in the form of a paper strip.
Users place a sample of blood, saliva or urine onto the paper strip, and the system searches for certain sequences. Using a smartphone, users take a photo of the strip and can view their sample results. Mammoth Biosciences’ aim is to enable a holistic approach that removes the need for multiple kits and a set of requirements. The startup is currently looking for partners to enable them to enter the commercial market. Their paper strip could initially be used in healthcare facilities, but the ultimate goal is to move medical knowledge from behind closed doors.
Mammoth Biosciences’ leveraging of CRISPR gene editing represents a continuous movement in the healthcare sector. Due to global connectivity and data flows, medical knowledge can now trickle down from the most prestigious research institutions to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection. This, in part, is a consequence of the wider democratisation of data. Eventually, patients will take full charge of their own health, using traditional services in conjunction with consumer health platforms. As there is no reason as to why individuals should not be able to understand their own health profiles, businesses can expect this to happen quickly. Mammoth Biosciences is just one of the potentially transformative companies with their stethoscope to the ground.
Healthcare is being completely disrupted by a shift in consumer preferences, facilitated and further encouraged by on demand, HealthTech resources. The established patient to practitioner model has evolved into heath-as-a-service, showing that all industries must adapt to new information and technology channels. The most important of these has undoubtedly been the smartphone, and it is this device which will continue to shape the future of personalised health.
Should consumers be able to access in depth information about their personal health? What impact will this have on struggling healthcare providers? How far does personalised healthcare rely on the smartphone?
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