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Which areas will rule the future of healthcare innovation

on May 24, 2012

Sometimes it’s hard enough for new healthcare businesses to figure out how to innovate in the current ecosystem. Is there any way we could know what’s going to happen in the future of healthcare?

Bryan Roberts, a partner at the VC firm Venrock, makes some educated guesses in this video from TEDxBigApple, offering his predictions on what areas are going to remain hot in healthcare over the next several years, and what kinds of innovations are going to change the way healthcare is delivered.

“We understand the molecular basis of disease a lot better than we did, and we have a lot of new technology, but we’re stuffing all that knowledge and equipment through a 50-year-old system,” he says. “We need to translate all that knowledge and technology into advances that are a win-win on both a micro and macro scale.”

He predicts that in the immediate near term, DNA sequencing is going to continue getting cheaper and more readily adopted, because DNA is present in so many places (viruses, cells, organs, etc. have it), it’s really sensitive and it’s very specific. Within the next several years, most pregnant mothers will have a DNA molecular diagnostic test that interrogates DNA from the baby from her blood, he says.

Another trend that will continue is the creation of healthcare consumers. These consumers will seek healthcare savings enabled by the relinking of cost and benefit and continued advancements in information technology.

Other slow-moving advancements that will continue being worked on with interest are artificial organs, stem cells and customizable pills, he says.

Long-term, Roberts sees three big things that will have an impact on the healthcare ecosystem. The first is that cancer will become a chronic disease to be managed, much like diabetes or HIV. The second is the discovery that Alzheimer’s isn’t a singular disease, but one with many different forms and molecular bases. Finally, he predicts, we will shift care from hospitals to the home with the help of remote monitoring.

But regardless of what area they’re developed for, he says, new innovations must be robust and cheap enough to be broadly applicable.

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