Technology moves at a faster pace than many industry fields can keep up. Yet, while some industries lag behind as far as technology advances are concerned, others like the pharmaceutical industry are in lockstep with such new technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing, to name but a few.
Elfatih Ibrahim is an entrepreneur and the former owner of Maxwell Pharmacy Inc. in New York, NY. He believes that the future of the pharmaceutical industry is bright thanks to the technological advances in the field. “We’re seeing new exciting advances,” he says, “in such specific fields as the development of biologic drugs as well as targeted drug delivery methods. From nanocoating to microencapsulation, the drug delivery methodology will never be the same again.” All of these advances wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for new technology that has come in the recent years.
3D Printed Drugs
When 3D printing first became a reality, it took the world by storm. And while some industries have limited themselves to the commercial aspects of this new technology, others were already using it to create prosthetic organs that are more affordable and efficient.
The pharmaceutical industry took notice of the possibilities of 3D printing early on and labs across the world started figuring out how to use it to make better medications. Elfatih Ibrahim explains that when Spritam was approved by the FDA, it created a buzz in the industry. That’s because it was the first 3D printed drug to hit the market. Because of their porous surface, the 3D printed pills are more suitable for patients who find it hard to swallow medications.
The implications of this new technology are far reaching. It’s possible now to have easily available and less costly drugs everywhere. This means fewer drug shortages and more affordable medications for everyone.
Treatment on the Gene Level
One of the most pressing issues that face the pharmaceutical industry and in particular drug manufacturers is the fact that different people don’t respond in the same way to the same drug. This is why some people display side effects to certain medications while others don’t.
The answer lies in their genes. Scientists are focusing on studying the genome structure to get information about the best drug that targets a specific medical condition. “It’s called precision medication,” says Elfatih Ibrahim, “and it looks for abnormalities in an individual’s genome sequencing that cause them to react to a certain drug negatively.”
With this targeted medication, it would be possible to create medications tailored specifically for certain medical conditions that require a cocktail of drugs. When taken together, drugs can have serious side effects, or they might neutralize each other. But with targeted therapy, it would be possible to chart the best medication course based on a person’s DNA.
Smartphones are practically in every hand these days. Which is exactly what makes them so useful for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Mobile phones can track and monitor a lot of information about the person carrying the phone. Such information as movement, pulse, blood pressure, and other health metrics are important in relation to the effects of certain drugs.
According to Elfatih Ibrahim, this data helps evaluate medications and their effects on the daily lives of the patients. “Information is gathered and processed from different people in real-time,” he adds, “and since we’re getting data from patients in different locations and environments, the data tends to paint a more accurate and comprehensive picture than the information we get from lab tests.”
While 3D printed drugs are considered a leap in the pharmaceutical industry, another application of the technology has found its way into the field of organ manufacturing. Rather than print toys, bioprinters are actively printing organs with tissues that can be used in transplants.
Obviously, this new field has a long way to go before printed organ transplants become a reality but Elfatih Ibrahim notes that some predict that within the next five years printed organs will find their way into research labs. There, the affordability and abundance of these organs will make it easier for scientists to experiment and research the human body without the need for real organs.
As exciting as these new advances seem, it’s still too early to predict their impact on the field of organ transplants. However, there’s no doubt that such a technology could help save millions of lives in the future.
Computers have become an indispensable part of modern life. Many industries are moving toward full automation. That in itself isn’t as bad as it seems. Rather than replacing people, automation frees employees to dedicate their time and expertise in much more needed fields.
Elfatih Ibrahim notes that AI is not a new concept. It has been used in diverse applications from enhancing the online user experience to facial recognition. And it’s the underlying technology of facial recognition that promises to solve many problems in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, a supercomputer developed by IBM called Watson can process thousands of scientific papers in record time. It can also research drug alternatives which would help reduce the costs of pharmaceutical research and production.