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How can we leverage drug development in life sciences in Ireland?

Tim Cotter

Lead for Life Sciences, Business Consulting, Grant Thornton

Elaine Daly

Partner and Head of Business Consulting, Grant Thornton

We are living in an age of increasing pharmaceutical innovation, which can solve some of the most complex medical needs of an ageing patient population.

Transformative patient care is achieved by advances in treatment that improve patient outcomes or quality of life. This through developing innovative, novel products that treat previously untreated illnesses (usually due to complexity) or by radically improving existing treatments.

Ireland provides in fact a world-class base for life sciences’ product development. All of the top ten most innovative pharmaceutical companies have operations in Ireland. Seven of these have facilities that are involved in the manufacture of medicinal products. Those can help treat or even cure complex medical needs in key treatment areas such as oncology, cardiology, rheumatology and diabetes.

Innovative medicines personalise patient care?

Innovative medicines can by all means have a transformative effect on a patient’s quality of life. Ireland is host to a multi-million euro study, “The Irish Personalised Approach to the Treatment of Haemophilia (iPATH)”. Which is jointly conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and Shire in partnership with the Irish Haemophilia Society.

The study is developing innovative approaches to improving the treatment of haemophilia. This by looking at genomic differences in haemophilia patients, which as a result could potentially open the door to the personalisation of therapies. Novel products for haemophilia, such as extended half-life products, can reduce the annual amount of infusions needed by 59%. This can drastically increase the quality of life of the patient.

AI can improve efficiency in getting drugs to market

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning present opportunities to improve both healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. According to the Financial Times in 2018, 15 life sciences companies added AI to their drug discovery processes. AI has the potential to reduce the inefficiency of drug development. Which can cost billions of euros and take many years to get a product to market. Any technique that can reduce costs and speed up development timelines will have a profound effect on patient care. It will also allow innovative therapies to reach the patient at a faster rate.

Additionally, there are significant opportunities for companies to leverage AI and machine learning techniques to analyse anonymised patient data to spot signs of disease that will enable the possibility of more targeted and personalised medicine. There is moreover an excellent opportunity to leverage the large concentration of life science and technology companies with operations in Ireland to capitalise on the new technological approaches to drug development and patient care.

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