Buzzwords such as precision medicine and personalized therapies, associated with cancer treatments or advanced stem cell experimental trials, are often used in today´s landscapes. We think that there are already other possibilities as well which support clinicians in identifying precision medicine candidates as well as target patients, but is there more on the horizon? Could personalized medicine be realized for today’s general population?

Emerging biotech startups, like Image Biopsy Lab and Pregenerate, realize that the future of personalized medicine is already here and possible. These enthusiastic companies detect, predict and monitor diseases like osteoarthritis with more sensitivity patient-to-patient or provide in vitro arthritis modeling based on patient derived cells, offering a glimpse into personalized disease and it’s treatment. Not only do these technologies mean earlier, less invasive diagnosis, they also mean doctors can measure response to therapy and thus optimize protocols on an individual basis.

But why osteoarthritis?

Approximately 350 million people worldwide have arthritis, a very complex disease. This number is forecasted to increase in the next 20 years and more than half the people diagnosed with arthritis are under the age of 65 years. In the USA alone, the annual total national arthritis-attributable medical care costs and earnings losses among adults with arthritis were $303.5 billion or 1% of the 2013 US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease involving cartilage, with remodeling of underlying bone, bone spur formation, ligament dysfunction, weakening of adjacent muscles and in some cases synovial inflammation. Osteoarthritis has been linked to heart disease, depression, diabetes and other life threatening diseases.The World Health Organization has even classified arthritis as a burden of mankind. An early diagnostic and interventional approach combined with a personalized medical approach might just be the right approach. In some ways, that could mean improving arthritis outcomes may impact our health far beyond our specific arthritis symptoms by altering patient journeys and managing symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and swelling.

Pregenerate uses scale-able organ-on-a-chip models to replace animal testing in pharmaceutical research for arthritis treatments. This enables pharmaceutical companies to save billions of dollars and improve the success rates of their drugs to market, in part because we can use human cells in our model.

ImageBiopsy Lab works with state-of-the art computer vision and artificial intelligence technology to improve the diagnostic experience of patients and physicians to go beyond the current standard of care.

The current reactive approach to simply replace a joint during the late stages of osteoarthritis is not good enough anymore. The number of invasive joint procedures and the corresponding costs are dangerously rising and there is no stop in sight. In the US alone there are 330,000 hip and 600,000 knee replacements performed every year.

A proactive approach is required to combat these numbers, so that a new knee or hip between 50 and 70 years of age will not become normality but rather the exception. Ultimately, this common technology approach will allow us to stratify patients into targeted treatment subgroups, and even to tell each clinical patient what the best treatment is for his or her specific arthritis needs directly.

An early diagnostic and interventional approach combined with a personalized medical approach might just be the right approach to tackle this “burden of mankind”.

Written by: J. Rosser