Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Medical diagnostics: the data developments taking it beyond identification to predict and prevent disease


Medical diagnostics is big business. In 2012, the European market for medical diagnostics was worth a staggering €70 billion. Contributing to 70 per cent of all treatment decisions and 100 per cent of all cancer diagnoses, medical diagnostics is now following a new pathway towards precision medicine

medical diagnostics

Possibly one of the most exciting developments in medical diagnostics is the technology’s ability to go beyond standard diagnosis of existing conditions to identify and prevent some conditions at a cellular level – before they have the opportunity to establish themselves. This preventative edge has recently accelerated as innovative suppliers seize the opportunities presented by today’s Cloud technology to offer practitioners the capacity to share information.

One of Europe’s leading companies exploring this pathway with its AnalytiXagility data platform is Scotland’s Aridhia Informatics. Founded in 2007 by Dr David Sibbald and Professor Andrew Morris, Aridhia has a 60-strong multidisciplinary team of clinicians, data scientists, software developers and healthcare experts.

One size doesn’t fit all

Aridhia’s Head of Marketing and Communications Pamela Brankin explains how AnalytiXagility benefits medical diagnostics: ‘AnalytiXagility is a secure, Cloud-based data platform that enables research teams to engage collaboratively with data from multiple systems and sources, and thus to address complex data challenges and accelerate collaborative research. It supports a vision of the future where medicine is predictive, preventive, personalised and participatory.

‘To achieve this vision, it’s vital to bring complex data and people together, helping them work together productively,’ she adds. ‘This benefits medical diagnostics by supporting the advance of precision medicine and allowing practitioners to deliver personalised care to individual patients quickly and economically, eschewing the “one-size-fits-all” approach to diagnosis and determining the most appropriate medicine.

‘The practice of precision medicine requires the combination of multiple disciplines – including medicine, data science, clinical research, bioinformatics and molecular biology – with detailed biology such as complex genomic, health and disease data. This collaboration cultivates a deeper understanding of specific diseases and expedites the development of targeted, successful therapies,’ Brankin says. [tweet_dis]‘Collaboration around data is at the very heart of this shift towards personalised healthcare.’[/tweet_dis]

Promoting collaboration

AnalytiXagility recently won its first contract to be applied across an institution, with Holland’s Radboud University. Brankin explains the advantages that the platform offers Radboud: ‘Much like any other research-driven organisation, Radboud faced a number of data challenges. It wanted to improve access to research data sources, offer a safe environment in which to manage this data, deliver the analytics, storage and computer power required by the university’s researchers, and promote collaboration.

‘Aridhia and its partners Vancis and MGRID were unique in their ability to deliver a solution to Radboud’s challenges. The aim of the digital research environment is to provide knowledge, services and solutions to fulfill Radboud’s research information and communication technology needs in a way that fits the individual study. It reduces the IT burden for researchers at  Radboud University Medical Centre (UMC) and increases research efficiency and output, thereby boosting Radboud’s scientific impact.

‘At an individual project level, it means researchers can rapidly extract value and meaning from multiple data types. At an institutional level, it reduces the risks to data security, lowers costs, and ensures the reproducibility and scalability of research. It’s an essential step in future research for the Radboud UMC, and we’re delighted to be working with them,’ Brankin continues.

So what are the next steps for Aridhia: ‘We believe AnalytiXagility is an exact model of Gartner’s Advanced Clinical Research Information Systems (ACRIS), one of the research and advisory firm’s 10 “transformational digital disruptors in healthcare by 2025”. It has been speculated that this technology would take up to five years to reach mainstream adoption, creating a revolution in clinical research that will advance personalised healthcare as the next medical model. We believe AnalytiXagility is one of few such platforms available today.

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AnalytiXagility is already being used to accelerate multidisciplinary clinical and research informatics between and across organisations, increasing speed, efficiency and collaboration. This means medical research will come to clinical, pharmaceutical and diagnostic fruition quicker, leading to better diagnoses and medical care and, ultimately, saving lives.’

According to a recent PWC report, the USA is still the biggest global market for medtech, accounting for around 40 per cent of the world market, and a turnover of more than $1 billion.

A hyper-sensitive revolution

Seattle’s Adaptive Biotechnologies has just been awarded the 2016 Outstanding Achievement in Medical Technology prize at the Leaders in Health Care Awards. Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Harlan Robins and his colleagues had discovered a powerful way to measure the adaptive immune system through high-throughput sequencing, while analysing adaptive immune data from myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) patients’ blood. One run transformed immune sequencing, catapulting the number of known immune receptors from 30,000 (gathered over 20 years) to more than eight million all within a week.

According to Robins: ‘Next-generation sequencing of the adaptive immune system has such broad research and clinical use. Forming Adaptive Biotechnologies in 2007 was the best way to continue the development of the assays and to allow their use more broadly. The company is now the dominant player in immunosequencing, with more than a 90 per cent share of research and clinical markets.’


Dr Harlan Robins

Crucial to this was the development of the ImmunoSEQ Assay and Analyzer platform, Dr Robins continues: ‘T and B cell receptor loci undergo combinatorial rearrangement, generating a diverse immune receptor repertoire, vital for the recognition of potential antigens. ImmunoSEQ Assays quantitatively and accurately profile the T and B cells, giving insights into individual T and B cell clones and characterising the adaptive immune repertoire as a whole, enabling discovery for researchers in pharma companies, academic and private labs. There is also an easy-to-use, data analysis tool specifically designed to deal with inherently large immunosequencing datasets and to provide pre-populated views of key data specific to immune repertoire analyses. The Analyzer also encourages collaboration by making it easy to share data.

‘Immunosequencing describes Adaptive Biotechnologies’ approach to profiling the adaptive immune system by reading the “bar codes” – the combination of DNA sequences on two different parts of each T and B cell receptor – for the entire immune repertoire. Immunosequencing allows the identification and tracking of individual T and B cells by their unique DNA sequences,’ explains Dr Robins. ‘This exquisitely sensitive and accurate method reveals millions of T- or B-cells in a single sample, delivering a groundbreaking insight into individual and collective immune responses.’

Robins is confident about future developments: ‘Other immune-profiling technologies, such as next-generation sequencing (NGS) have revolutionised the characterisation of human immune responses. Adaptive Biotechnologies is working to apply these technologies through its applications to transform the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious disease. Sequencing the adaptive immune system represents the largest potential clinical application of NGS to date. By incorporating immunosequencing into clinical care, the company can enhance the diagnosis, prognosis and monitoring of patients, and transform the way we see medicine.’

This, of course, is the tip of the iceberg but there is certainly much to be excited about in medical diagnostics at the present. Within a few short years, we have only just begun to explore the opportunities offered by the internet and social networking. Combined with advances in how we can predict the cause of disease we have only just scratched the surface of these technologies’ potential.

About the author

Writer, photo journalist, researcher, and editorial and PR consultant, Simon covers a huge range of subjects including health and technology.

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