Thursday, November 12, 2015 – Vancouver, BC

Report from BCTIA
This article is Part Four of our series covering the top tech sectors in British Columbia. This week’s topic is life sciences.

Medical innovations are prompting a revolution in healthcare systems the world over. Personalized medicine, along with advancing technology, will have a profound effect on health professionals’ abilities to diagnose and treat.

We chatted with LifeSciences BC president and CEO Paul Drohan about what personalized medicine is and what’s on the horizon for the life sciences sector.

Personalized medicine is, essentially, tailored medicine. By looking at an individual’s molecular, genomic level, medical professionals can mitigate adverse drug reactions, make accurate diagnoses sooner and empower patients with better understanding of their own health.

Personalized medicine is made possible by technology that focuses on the molecular level, Drohan explains. Companies like Microbiome Insights Inc., which was recently a finalist in the BCIC-New Ventures Competition, are looking beyond the surface. The company provides tests and analyses of microbe samples. The microbiome, which is the community of microorganisms in our bodies, is increasingly being studied for its effects on health.

LifeSciences BC is a champion of personalized medicine in British Columbia. The Personalized Medicine Summit they partnered with released a report this year detailing the benefits and logistics of personalized medicine. In addition to improved healthcare, patient empowerment and the potential for future medical discoveries, personalized medicine could also have a significant economic impact.

“BC needs to rapidly and collectively implement personalized medicine to provide the best healthcare in the world to our citizens, potentially reduce the cost of healthcare delivery and benefit economically from the resulting new industries,” the Personalized Medicine Green Paper states.

Personalized medicine might not be fully implemented for another 10 years, but we can expect growth and change sooner than that.

“In the next five years, I think we’re going to see a greater demand for industry to provide better outcomes at a reduced cost to the healthcare system. I think we’re going to see the development of wellness programs, where you go to a more preventative state of disease management,” says Drohan.

Data collection will become a significant player in better understanding disease, he says. Data collection and personalized medicine will allow for more medical accuracy and innovation.

Rise of “the new patient”

Empowerment is also a growing aspect of health and wellness. “FitBits are a great example of being more active and of trying to measure wellness,” says Drohan.

While these sorts of apps and programs aren’t medical, lifestyle apps indicate individuals’ desire to better understand and manage health.

“People are looking for ways to manage their own health. That’s a precursor to a world where people take far greater control of their health. Many people are getting their genome sequencing done and seeking out doctors who know how to interpret this.

“This is the new patient, which is more consumer driven. And the consumers are going to drive the need for physicians to be more aware of genomics.”

Rising life sciences companies in BC

PHEMI specializes in medical data management, and can notably provide support for personalized medicine, pharmacogenomics and microbes. PHEMI was on this year’s Ready to Rocket Life Science List.
Lungpacer was developed as a weaning device for patients who have been on a respirator. It’s minimally invasive, and activates the diaphragm so critically ill patients don’t lose strength in their diaphragm muscles. Lungpacer was also on this year’s Ready to Rocket Life Science List.
MetaOptima has created Molescope, an app that helps monitor potential indicators of skin cancer. With this merging of medical and communications technology, people can track their moles and seek medical attention if need be.