Industry 4.0 in healthcare involves the adoption of numerous advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing, digitalization, user response data (ergonomics), Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality, and big data mining. Stakeholders in the healthcare industry are relying and amalgamating on biology, IT, nanotech, and engineering to redefine multiple possibilities. This mass convergence of multiple fields and technologies is known as bioconvergence, which is considered the rising technological wave of the 21st century. Bioconvergence is an end-to-end approach addressing different stages in the biotech chain such as biomimicry, bioprinting, diagnostics, and omics. Bioconvergence integrates biology with different engineering fields such as physics, nanotechnology, advanced genetic engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence, electronics, and material science.
The global health industry has undergone dramatic transformations in recent years owing to two key factors:
According to studies, global healthcare expenditures are significantly soaring and expected to account for USD 10 trillion by 2022, owing to increasing life expectancy and rapidly aging population coupled with the growing burden of chronic ailments such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. As per reports, 50% of the U.S. population are suffering from one or more chronic diseases and account for 85% of the total U.S. healthcare expenditure. Chronic diseases can be prevented or their onset can be delayed by early and accurate diagnosis and medical intervention. Healthcare systems across the globe are focusing on devising strategies to develop early & accurate medical intervention and deliver preventive medicine. Combining digital and genetic technologies can support identifying and resolving complexities associated with chronic diseases. Growing demand for value-based care approaches is promoting healthcare systems to transition from volume-based care models to value-based care models.
The life sciences industry especially the pharmaceutical sector is facing major challenges in regard to the rising costs of drug discovery and development. Costs associated with drug development have sharply increased over the years and the return on investment has drastically declined accordingly. As per industry reports, analyzing 12 renowned public pharmaceutical companies, the return on investment for drug development decreased from 10% in 2010 to 2% in 2018. The above challenges are driving global health systems and bio-pharma sector to undertake revolutionary measures in developing personalized, effective, and precise solutions. This has given rise to bioconvergence, an innovative multidisciplinary approach integrating various technologies from engineering and biology forming the future base of medicine and healthcare.
Bioconvergence is rapidly developing & growing and is finding use-cases in agriculture, food, energy, climate, security, and various other industries apart from healthcare. Some of the examples are brain-computer interfaces to examine the underlying causes and triggers of neurological diseases, hybrid biochemical materials used in building functional living human 3D tissue cells for regenerative medicine, target delivery vehicles in drug delivery composed of nano-robotics and material science, and hybrid devices & bio-sensors for improving continuous monitoring and diagnostics. The bioconvergence revolution’s economic benefit and social impact seems enormous and as per an industry report, bioconvergence can deliver a direct economic impact of USD 4 trillion per year over the coming decade or two. Bioconvergence has remarkably contributed in the global response towards the COVID-19 pandemic and supported the development of rapid diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines.
The growing burden of chronic diseases is plaguing the global population and driving market stakeholders to make remarkable breakthroughs in the field of bioconvergence. Some of the applications wherein, bioconvergence is being used is gene therapy, drug delivery, regenerative medicine, diagnostic & biological sensors, bioelectronics, and precision medicine. Enhancing the precision and accuracy of drug delivery in humans has been a major challenge for the medical fraternity. The bioconvergence and the development of nano-robots from biological systems, has helped improve drug delivery to target cells.
Owing to the accelerated economic growth and scope of development is driving developed countries to rapidly adopt bioconvergence solutions. For instance, Israel is devising strategies to build a high economic value, innovative, and competitive industry. Israeli government recognizes the potential of bioconvergence and the role it will play in supporting academic activities, clinical trials, drug developments, and drawing investments from foreign corporations. Israel has a competitive edge over most of the other developed countries in terms of expertise in AI & computational biology, advanced life sciences research, innovative bio-pharma capabilities, and a well-established & integrated healthcare system. The abovementioned factors are anticipated to position Israel as the powerhouse of bioconvergence revolution.
In May 2022, Israel’s Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology designed a five-year plan to develop the bioconvergence field amounting to USD 127 million. Furthermore, there has been widespread adoption of bioconvergence across global research institutes and centers. For instance, in the U.S., the KOCH Institute at MIT, WYSS Institute at Harvard University, Bio-Design & BIO-X programs at Stanford University, and Weill Neurohub Institute in San Francisco are undertaking bioconvergence projects. Similarly, KAIST & KIST in South Korea and CRUK institute for cancer research in UK are focusing on developing and growing their solutions in bioconvergence field.
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