An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Or should we say ‘an app a day’ nowadays? Both, says Chris van Hoof at the SMB-meeting ‘Digital healthcare’ on March 4. Because both expressions hint at prevention or early capturing of health problems. And the app a day hints at close interaction with the user or the patient. Personalization is crucial to a sustainable healthcare system.
“Disease interception and prevention linked to behavior change are seen as the keys to a sustainable healthcare system. How to get there is a formidable challenge”, says Van Hoof to the group of SMEs in health care at the SMB-meeting.“ Therefore, we need chip and digital technologies.”
Chip and digital technologies
“In 50 years, chip technology has led to an incredible revolution in processing power which has fueled a digital transformation in many sectors,” explains Van Hoof. “Consequently, we can now predict and prevent problems in several industry sectors. Look at complex machines. Today digital twins of these machines exist – a virtual model of the real machine, and through which we can predict when a problem may occur, and we can intervene or maintain in time. And the next step is: human digital twins!”
Human digital twins
Van Hoof: “Creating a digital twin will require getting massive and highly-diverse data from a person and their environment and creating a model. Using this model, we will be able to detect earlier and to give personalized insights and advice to the clinician, the patient, and the user.“
“We focus on specific digital twins: a digital gut twin and a digital stress twin because of their importance. Over time, additional digital twin models will be added and combined. To get there, we need a combination of new sensors and new analytics. OnePlanet Research Center is working on several innovations on this area, such as the Ingestible, a swallowable smart sensor pill.”
A human digital gut twin
“The focal points of our human digital gut twin are protein digestion, functional disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and dysbiosis,” says Van Hoof. “Almost 20% of the population has functional gastro-intestinal problems – pain, nausea, constipation/diarrhea – and today symptoms are treated. By having sensors travel through the gastro-intestinal tract, we aim to add reliable diagnosis and more targeted treatment. But also aim to detect inflammation, its severity and location and the effect of treatment. And by monitoring short-chain fatty acids, we gain insight in the balance of the gut microbiome and may use the insights towards dietary advice and interventions.”
In a matter of 2 years OnePlanet went from crude first versions to more and more advanced prototypes. Today’s status: an ingestible the size of a standard FDA size 1 capsule. 3.5 times smaller than a typical capsule endoscopy pill.
“To prepare the pathway to human health and animal health and wellbeing, we are currently conducting tests in a SHIME system,” continues Van Hoof. “With this in-vitro GI system in place in Wageningen, we can assess sensitivity, specificity, safety, and so on in a representative environment. Our plans are to get this in first in-vivo tests early next year, and over the next 3 years we will conduct several application studies in close collaboration with experts in Radboud University and Wageningen University & Research. And we partner with companies to bring first devices through regulatory approval and to the market.”
Van Hoof concludes his keynote with a call to action: “You may think that these innovations are strictly for large international medical device companies, pharma companies, food & beverage industry and consumer electronics companies. No. OnePlanet’s aim is to bring technologies to market in many ways and particularly with SMEs and startups. It’s not a zero–sum game – we see opportunities for startups, SME’s and large companies. Together.”
Want to learn more? Check out the full presentation of the SMB meeting ‘Digital Healthcare’ on March 4: