Challenges in Healthcare Innovation | Summary and Q&A

December 15, 2017
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Challenges in Healthcare Innovation


Healthcare faces challenges in drug discovery and development, but advancements in biology, computer science, and engineering offer opportunities for disruptive innovation.

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Key Insights

  • 💰 Healthcare represents a trillion-dollar challenge that is ripe for disruption.
  • 👶 The convergence of biology, computer science, and engineering offers new opportunities for understanding and manipulating biology.
  • 🖤 Drug development is hindered by a lack of understanding of disease biology and a long and expensive process.
  • ☠️ Preclinical testing advancements and improvements in clinical trial design have the potential to reduce the failure rate of drugs.
  • 💊 Regulatory bodies and payers are increasingly supportive of transformative medicines and diagnostics.
  • 😨 The entire value chain, including distributors and providers, is aligning with the goals of delivering value-based care.
  • 😋 The convergence of biology and other industries, such as food, consumer products, and energy, offers opportunities for disruptive innovation.


let's talk about the challenges that we see in health care and let's talk a little bit about where we can see a room for improvement and disruption so imagine for a second if we could begin to design our medicines as opposed to just discover them what would happen if we could develop a fundamental understanding of what drives disease can we transfo... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is drug development in the healthcare industry a long and expensive process?

Drug development involves making fundamental discoveries about disease biology, proving the safety and efficacy of drugs, and convincing stakeholders to adopt innovations. These steps require significant financial investment, time, and resources.

Q: How can understanding disease biology lead to improved treatments?

By understanding the underlying biology of diseases like sickle cell anemia, researchers can develop targeted therapies, such as gene therapies, that can address the root cause of the disease. This approach has been successful in diseases like cystic fibrosis and holds promise for other conditions.

Q: What factors contribute to the high failure rate of drugs in clinical trials?

Many drugs fail in clinical trials because of a lack of understanding of the underlying disease biology. Without knowing the specific outcome to target or the underlying cause of the disease, it becomes challenging to develop effective treatments.

Q: How can advancements in preclinical testing and clinical trials improve the drug development process?

Technologies like organ-on-a-chip models allow testing drugs on human cells in a controlled environment, providing more accurate predictions of safety and efficacy. Additionally, advancements in genomics and machine learning can improve patient selection for clinical trials, leading to higher success rates.


In this video, the speaker discusses the challenges and room for improvement in the healthcare industry. They explore the potential of designing medicines instead of just discovering them, understanding the underlying biology of diseases, and accelerating the process of taking innovations from the lab to the patient bedside. They highlight the increasing convergence of biology, computer science, and engineering, which opens up new possibilities for understanding and manipulating biology. The speaker addresses the high cost and risk inherent in drug development and the need for better technologies. They also discuss the difficulties of clinical trials and the potential for disruptive technologies to revolutionize healthcare.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the current challenges in the healthcare industry?

The healthcare industry is faced with several challenges, including the need for better technologies to diagnose, treat, and manage diseases. Despite the large investment in research and development (R&D) by the biopharmaceutical industry, many diseases still have unmet medical needs.

Q: Why is drug development a long and expensive process?

Developing a drug is a complex and costly process. First, a fundamental discovery about the disease has to be made, followed by proving the drug's safety and effectiveness in human trials. Additionally, convincing relevant stakeholders to use the innovation and ensuring it reaches the patients adds to the time and cost. On average, it takes around $2.5 billion and 10 to 15 years to bring a drug to market, considering all the failures along the way.

Q: Why do most drugs fail and what is the impact?

The vast majority of drugs fail due to a lack of understanding of the underlying disease biology. Even when drugs are approved, there is often an element of luck involved. This high failure rate adds to the overall cost and time invested in drug development and slows down progress in finding effective treatments for diseases.

Q: How can the convergence of biology, computer science, and engineering revolutionize healthcare?

The convergence of biology, computer science, and engineering provides new tools and insights for understanding and manipulating biology. This convergence allows for the shift from experimental science to an engineered discipline. The ability to engineer biology opens up possibilities for developing new therapies and diagnostic methods. For example, gene therapies, cell therapies, and the engineering of biological systems are emerging as new modalities in healthcare.

Q: How can preclinical testing be improved?

Traditional preclinical testing using mice and petri dishes is not always predictive of how a drug will behave in human beings. However, advancements in technology, such as organs-on-chips, allow for more accurate testing on human cells in a controlled environment. Having human system models for preclinical testing will make the process more reliable and predictive.

Q: What advancements are being made in clinical trials and regulatory approval?

With improved understanding of disease biology and the emergence of powerful new therapies, the rate of success in clinical trials is expected to increase. Predictive preclinical testing, combined with better patient selection based on disease biology, will lead to more effective trials. Regulatory bodies, such as the FDA, have become more supportive of innovative therapies, resulting in more approvals for groundbreaking treatments.

Q: How do payers and providers fit into the healthcare innovation landscape?

Payers, such as insurance companies, assess the value of new therapies rather than viewing them as a cost burden. If a therapy provides transformative benefits, payers are willing to pay for it. Providers, who are on the front lines of patient care, are also looking for ways to deliver value to their patients. They are interested in transformative technologies that improve patient outcomes and align with the shift towards value-based care.

Q: How is the convergence of biology and other industries taking place?

The convergence of biology and other industries is already happening. Companies are using biology to disrupt sectors like food (solving food waste), consumer products (creating sustainable materials), and energy (engineering cells to impact energy production). Biology is becoming a part of every industry, leading to transformative advancements and rethinking of information technology itself.

Q: Why is biology considered the original information technology?

DNA and cells can be seen as the original software and hardware of biology, respectively. Scientists are now able to store information, such as videos, in the DNA of bacterial cells using CRISPR technology and retrieve and replay that information. This convergence of biology and information technology represents a full circle, with biology becoming the original information technology.

Q: What are the potential benefits of innovation in healthcare?

Healthcare innovation has the potential to revolutionize the industry by providing more precise and personalized treatments, accelerating the time from benchtop to bedside, and enabling the use of prevention as a form of therapy. It aligns stakeholders across the value chain and ultimately benefits patients by improving outcomes and transforming the way diseases are managed.


The healthcare industry faces significant challenges but also exciting opportunities for improvement and disruption. The convergence of biology, computer science, and engineering is unlocking new potential in understanding and manipulating biology. With advancements in technology and increased understanding of disease biology, it is possible to improve drug development, preclinical testing, clinical trials, and regulatory approval. Payers, providers, and regulators are becoming more supportive of transformative therapies. Furthermore, innovations in healthcare have the potential to extend beyond the industry itself, impacting other sectors and redefining information technology. This is an exciting time to be in healthcare, with the potential for significant advancements and improvements in patient care.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Healthcare accounts for a significant portion of the economy and is projected to double in the next three decades, creating opportunities for disruption.

  • The traditional process of drug discovery and development is expensive, time-consuming, and risky.

  • Advances in biology, computer science, and engineering are converging, enabling the potential for designing and engineering medicines, as well as understanding and manipulating biology in new ways.

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