In recent years we have seen dramatic advances in our understanding of the intricate and dynamic relationships that underpin our immune responses. This knowledge is being used to develop exciting new treatments for complex conditions such as cancers, infections, and autoimmune disorders. New analytical techniques are providing ever deeper insight into disease biology and immunity, and also allow the intelligent design of new therapeutic approaches.
Technologies that enable high-resolution, high-throughput analysis of the effectors of pathology, and the responses of affected tissues and immunoprofiling are maturing. This allows physicians to build a detailed picture of patients’ disease and immune responses, and to monitor even small changes over time. By continually improving our understanding of how diseases develop and progress, and of how a patient responds to their disease and to their treatment, existing treatments can be refined and new therapeutic opportunities may be identified.
The insights made available by such technology are causing a step change in the way we think about and manage complex disease, away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach and towards a ‘by-patient’ model, with a flexible treatment plan informed by detailed monitoring of the subject. This is the emerging era of precision medicine.
Improvements in analytical platforms are not only changing our diagnostic and monitoring capabilities, but are also guiding the development of increasingly targeted and tuneable therapies. These next generation treatments offer extraordinary control over the quantity, timing and even location of delivery of the therapeutic agent. Whilst previous therapies might have had significant undesirable off-target and side effects, we are seeing new agents that are capable of recognising their targets with remarkably high specificity, as well as treatments providing for selective induction, such that the agent is only active at the particular time and location that the desired effect is required. These modern therapies are less sledgehammer, more scalpel.
Many precision therapies arise from incremental changes; refinements to existing technologies to improve specificity or efficacy, or to incorporate additional control elements (such as on/off switches, or self-destruct signals etc.). Innovators must consider their patent portfolio as these changes arise, not only to confirm that the existing portfolio still provides protection for the improved agent, but also to capture the new features in patent applications in their own right for complementary protection, and also additional patent term once IP surrounding the base platform technology has expired.
Perhaps most exciting of all is that these innovative analytical and therapeutic platforms are reaching maturity at the same time. Soon these complementary technologies will be deployed together – precision diagnosis, precision treatment and precision monitoring. This offers unprecedented opportunities for the treatment and prevention of complex disease.
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