Star Trek, the classic sci-fi TV series, depicted a far-off future where space explorers traveled the galaxies equipped with cutting edge technology such as a communicator, food replicator and the indispensable tricorder, a hand-held medical device that could scan a person’s vital signs, issue a diagnosis and prescribe treatment in minutes.
Equity portfolio manager Rich Wolf expects that within the next 10 years such devices will be a reality. “For years, I’ve been around bio engineers who have joked about having a tricorder,” says Wolf, who also covers U.S. medical technology companies as an investment analyst. “While I don’t think there is going to be a single tricorder that does everything, I suspect that by 2030 many of us will have devices like it that will analyse blood, do cardiology monitoring and even remotely check our breathing while we sleep.”
We are in the midst of a massive wave of innovation and disruption across the health care sector that has the potential to drive new opportunity for companies, reduce overall medical costs and, most importantly, improve outcomes for patients. “There’s never been a more exciting time in health care, says Wolf “The last time we were close was about 20 years ago when the human genome was first sequenced. That was an important first step. Today we are seeing major advances that have resulted from that first step.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and race to develop a vaccine highlights the important role drugs can play in improving people’s health and longevity, but the wave of innovation reaches far beyond the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Not only are we hearing news of new drug therapies seemingly every day, but leaps in research tools, diagnostics and remote patient monitoring are converging to change the face of health care.
Genome mapping presents huge opportunities
When the human genome was first sequenced about two decades ago, it took a team of researchers nearly eight years at a cost of more than $100 million. Today, a human genome can be sequenced in a matter of days for about $1,000. Subsequent breakthroughs in DNA analysis have led to a new era in the medicine. ”Today we can compare the map of the human genome to mutations that exist as a function of cancer,” Wolf says. “We can then identify specific mutations in the cancer and match therapies to them. We can do a much better job of treating patients as a function of understanding that code.”