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Spoonful of Tech

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

We highlight the top 3 emerging technologies in the world of pharma. This segment features recent innovations in nanotechnology, 3D cells and cultures, and big data, which could have a major future impact on R&D programmes.


The U.S. FDA have recently unveiled a new application enabling real-world patient data to be easily collected and combined with traditional health datasets, assisting drug development research. Named ‘MyStudies’, the app has an open-source code that allows users to customise the digital platform for their own purposes. The patient data can be obtained from a variety of sources, including electronic health records and mobile devices. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb commented: “Our hope is that the collection of more real-world data directly from patients, using a secure app, will lead to more efficient product development and assist with safety monitoring.”


A new device that enables accurate assessment of real-time functionality of 3D cells and cultures has been developed by a team from the University of Cambridge. The creation holds great potential to better understand the mechanisms underpinning diseases and lead to the development of new therapies. Although 3D cell cultures have been developed before, assessing their functionality in real-time has proved challenging. The innovation here is that the cells are grown within a soft, sponge electrode rather than the rigid metal electrode typically used. This both provides a more natural environment for the cells to grow and enables analysis to be carried out in real-time.


An innovative device could lower the cost of and speed up the early stages of drug development. Georgia Tech researchers have, using low-cost electronics, created a device that can record multiple parameters on the same cellular sample, enabling the efficacy and toxicity of potential drugs to be assessed much faster than current methods allow. With its additional potential application in other areas, such as in the development of personalised medicines, the technology is likely to be on the radar of pharmaceutical companies in the near future.

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