In a recent issue, TIME rounded up 12 medical innovations that will transform "medicine at a remarkable pace" over the next decade.
The 12 innovations that will change health care in the 2020s
- Innovation: Drone-delivered medical supplies
Innovator: United Parcel Service CEO David Abney
Several operations have recently set their sights on delivering medical supplies via drone, and a big name in the effort is United Parcel Service (UPS), led by CEO David Abney. Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted UPS approval to expand its Flight Forward program, which uses drones to deliver medical samples and medications between hospitals. But UPS isn't the only name in the game. Wing, a division of Google's parent company Alphabet, also received FAA approval to make drone deliveries for Walgreens and FedEx. In Africa, the startup Zipline already delivers medical supplies to villages in Ghana and Rwanda.
- Innovation: Big, searchable health data
Innovator: Christine Lemke, co-founder and president of Evidation
Tens of millions of people use wearables that track their health data. Now, data firms are looking into creating anonymous, searchable databases that aggregate data from wearables that researchers can use for studies. For instance, the data firm Evidation, co-founded by Christine Lemke, has developed a tool that aggregates the health information of three million volunteers for use in peer-reviewed medical studies.
- Innovation: A stem cell cure for diabetes
Innovator: Doug Melton, co-founder of Semma Therapeutics
Ten years ago Doug Melton, a Harvard biologist, started researching how stem cells could be used to cure diabetes. In his research, Melton found that stem cells can create replacement beta cells that produce insulin. In 2014, he co-founded Semma Therapeutics and developed a small implant that holds millions of the replacement beta cells and blocks immune cells. "If it works in people as well as it does in animals, it's possible that people will not be diabetic" when treated with the implant, Melton said.
- Innovation: A more diverse human genome bio bank
Innovator: Abasi Ene-Obong, founder of 54gene
While white people are in the minority globally, they make up almost 80% of subjects in human-genome research. To address the discrepancy, Abasi Ene-Obong founded a startup called 54gene that collects genetic data from volunteers across Africa to diversify drug research and development. "If [African people] are part of the pathway for drug creation, then maybe we can also become part of the pathway to get these drugs into Africa," Ene-Obong said.
- Innovation: A different approach to clinical cancer research
Innovator: Sean Parker, founder of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, which is a network of top research institutions including the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering, aims to identify and break down obstacles to innovation in cancer research. To help accelerate the research process, the network will accept approvals from the Institutional Review Board of any of the participating institutions in order to "get major clinical trials off the ground in weeks rather than years," according to Sean Parker, founder of the institute and former president of Facebook. The institute has brought 11 projects to clinical trials since it was founded in 2016.
- Innovation: Mind-controlled wearables
Innovator: Thomas Reardon, CEO and co-founder of CTRL-Labs
CTRL-Labs has developed a wearable device, called the CTRL-kit, which wearers can control with their minds. When the person wearing the device thinks about a movement, the device detects the electrical impulses that travel from their brain to their hand. The device holds the potential to allow patients recovering from debilitating conditions to access new forms of rehabilitation, according to Thomas Reardon, CEO and co-founder of CTRL-Labs.
- Innovation: Handheld ultrasound devices
Innovator: Jonathan Rothberg, founder and CEO of Butterfly Network
To close the gap in access to medical imaging, Butterfly iQ developed a handheld ultrasound device. The device costs $2,000 compared to the $100,000 cost of a machine in a hospital. While the device isn't as precise as hospital machines, Jonathan Rothberg, founder and CEO of Butterfly Network, said the goal is that the devices will make scanning more routine.
- Innovation: Cancer-diagnosing artificial intelligence
Innovator: Shravya Shetty, senior staff software engineer at Google
Lung cancer is usually diagnosed in its later stages, TIME reports, and early screening can lead to bad results, such as misdiagnosis. Shravya Shetty, senior staff software engineer at Google, and her team at Google Health built an artificial intelligence (AI) system that detected 5% more lung cancer cases and had 11% fewer false positives than a group of radiologists. While the technology isn't yet where it should be, Shetty said it could have a big impact in the future.
- Innovation: AI that can read scientific papers
Innovator: Joanna Shields, CEO of BenevolentAI
More than two million peer-reviewed research papers are published each year, which is too many for scientists to read themselves, TIME reports. To help science keep up, BenevolentAI created an algorithm that can read through the research papers to detect previously overlooked discoveries related to disease, drugs, and genes.
- Innovation: 'Walmart-ification of health care'
Innovator: Sean Slovenski, SVP & president, Walmart Health & Wellness
More retailers are entering the health care market, and a company at the forefront of this movement is Walmart, according to TIME. Leading Walmart's push into health care is Sean Slovenski, a former Humana executive who now heads Walmart Health & Wellness. Tn September, Walmart opened its first Health Center, where customers can get primary care, vision tests, and lab work, according to TIME. The potential is "huge," TIME reports, but so are the possible repercussions. For instance, health care providers might struggle to adjust to retailers' lower prices, according to TIME.
- Innovation: 3-D hearts
Innovator: Charles Taylor, founder of HeartFlow
A lot of patients with suspected heart problems have to undergo invasive procedures to diagnose blocked arteries. To make the process less invasive, Charles Taylor founded HeartFlow to create personalized 3-D heart models that doctors can use to diagnose patients, allowing patients to avoid invasive procedures during the diagnosis process.
- Innovation: Virtual reality-centered rehab
Innovator: Isabel Van de Keere, founder of Immersive Rehab
In 2010, Isabel Van de Keere was left with a cervical spine injury and severe vertigo after a work accident. After years of neurological rehab, de Keere founded Immersive Rehab, a startup that aims to incorporate virtual reality into neurological rehab. Virtual reality gives patients access to a variety of exercises, making rehab less monotonous and frustrating for patients (Park, Becker's Health IT & CIO Report, 10/29; TIME, 10/25).