Could AI and nanotechnology make cancer therapy affordable for all?

Could AI and nanotechnology make cancer therapy affordable for all?

It could according to Professor Liesbet Lagae, Director of Life Science Technology Activities at IMEC. In this article, Professor Lagae starts be talking about the benefits of Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cells (CAR-T) cell therapy and describes it as “a cell-based therapy that has become a revolutionary weapon in the treatment of previously incurable blood cancers”.

CAR-T cell therapy genetically modifies a patient’s immune cells to hunt and kill cancer cells. It is a form of personalised immunotherapy that can provide lasting remissions, even to terminally ill patients who have just months to live and for whom classic treatment options have not worked.

In response to the question of why CAR-T cell therapy is so expensive, she starts by pointing out point is that “CAR-T is tailor-made for each patient, and behind every treatment lies a highly sophisticated process, which is time-consuming and brutally expensive”. She then goes on to describe the process that makes the treatment expensive.

Prof. Lagae states that most recent insights in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), biosensors, and the Internet of Things could help overcome the current roadblocks in making personalised cell therapies affordable. Her view is that “The solution to democratize these therapies lies in automating their manufacturing process, which would reduce the cost, time, and risks significantly. This will require several engineering breakthroughs but is technically possible”.

Recent advances in chip technology provide inspiration due to the the extreme miniaturisation of transistors as more transistors on smaller circuits enables new and stronger technological abilities.

Each year, $3.2 trillion is spent on global healthcare making little or no impact on good health outcomes.

To address this issue, the World Economic Forum created the Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare to accelerate value-based health systems transformation.

This council partners with governments, leading companies, academia, and experts from around the world to co-design and pilot innovative new approaches to person-centered healthcare.

Prof Lagae says “Enormous capital spending has gone into chip engineering, resulting in the development of materials and systems on scales so small a new window of opportunities opens up: the ability to screen, select, and even genetically modify cells”. Her view is that if these techniques are leveraged to advance medical research, modern technology holds the potential to create and mass produce small machines that are able to re-engineer the immune system. The result would be a true revolution in the treatment of diseases, unparalleled in effectiveness and safety.

She then goes on to outline how governments could help to accelerate research dramatically by e.g. aligning strategies and pooling resources.

Her view is that patient-derived cell therapies have the potential of saving lives when conventional approaches fail and that “The world is counting on its leaders to build the public-private partnerships that will ensure this significant medical breakthrough becomes accessible to everyone who needs it”.

Source: World Economic Forum website