Digital medicine is poised to transform biomedical research, clinical practice and the commercial sector. Here we introduce a monthly column from R&D/venture creation firm PureTech tracking digital medicine’s emergence.

Technology has already transformed the social fabric of life in the twenty-first century. It is now poised to profoundly influence disease management and healthcare. Beyond the hype of the ‘mobile health’ and ‘wearable technology’ movement, the ability to monitor our bodies and continuously gather data about human biology suggests new possibilities for both biomedical research and clinical practice. Just as the Human Genome Project ushered in the age of high-throughput genotyping, the ability to automate, continuously record, analyze and share standardized physiological and biological data augurs the beginning of a new era—that of high-throughput human phenotyping.

These advances are prompting new approaches to research and medicine, but they are also raising questions and posing challenges for existing healthcare delivery systems. How will these technologies alter biomedical research approaches, what types of experimental questions will researchers now be able to ask and what types of training will be needed? Will the ability to digitize individual characteristics and communicate by mobile technology empower patients and enable the modification of disease-promoting behaviors; at the same time, will it threaten patient privacy? Will doctors be prescribing US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-cleared apps on a regular basis, not just to monitor and manage chronic disease but also to preempt acute disease episodes? Will the shift in the balance between disease treatment and early intervention have a broad economic impact on the healthcare system? How will the emergence of these new technologies reshape the healthcare industry and its underlying business models? What will be the defining characteristics of ‘winning’ products and companies?

These are just some of the questions we plan to ask over the coming months. In the meantime, we introduce here some of the key themes shaping R&D in the digital medicine field and focus on what they might mean for the biopharmaceutical and diagnostic/device industries.


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