To say the medical field is large is an understatement. The valuation of the global healthcare industry’s stands at a staggering $12 trillion today. Over the past decade, medical research has expanded significantly and remains a substantial area for investment. Nevertheless, allocating this funding is not always straightforward or easy.
The primary obstacle is the neglect and insufficient financial support for treatments of numerous sectors within the medical realm. This is because treatment funding is, understandably, often focused quite heavily on a select number of diseases, primarily the ones that impact higher numbers within a population. Heart disease or COVID-19 are key examples here. To date, the NIH has received almost $4.9 billion to fund important COVID-19 research on diagnostic tests, vaccines, and treatments. While funding for common diseases is essential and understandable, it doesn’t change the fact that other, less common diseases still heavily impact peoples’ lives.
Conditions like gut issues, allergies and sensitivities, migraines, autoimmune disorders, and other chronic conditions can be incredibly debilitating, but often go unnoticed. Another problem area is ‘Neglected Tropical Diseases’ (NTDs). As of 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that around 218 million people in lower and middle-income countries were at risk of onchocerciasis. Sadly, this is only one out of many debilitating NTDs affecting people across the globe. It has been estimated that NTDs have affected more than 1 billion people who live in poverty-stricken communities.
There are many areas of research that don’t get the attention they deserve and treatments that have yet to be discovered. However, advances across the technology landscape are bringing new opportunities. Artificial intelligence has been at the forefront of these developments, opening up a realm of new discoveries in the medical sector. The application of AI in healthcare has seen a recent rise, with AI already being used to accelerate mainstream drug discovery. With its power and the range of benefits it has to offer, AI has the potential to be the much needed bridge for research and discovery for deprioritised or underfunded areas of medicine.
Maximising AI’s potential in medical advancements and drug discovery
AI can be applied to accelerate discoveries by ‘filling in the gaps’ based on the scientific body of knowledge thus far. AI has the power to help bridge this gap by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and accelerating research and development efforts.
The technology can also be used for simulations and modelling clinical trials. Primarily, AI can help design more efficient and optimised clinical trials by identifying the most relevant patient populations, endpoints, and dosing regimens. This not only reduces trial duration but also minimises the number of participants required, thus saving costs. Additionally, AI can assist with risk reduction, helping to simulate different scenarios and assess potential risks and challenges in a virtual environment. This allows researchers to proactively address issues before embarking on costly real-world trials, reducing the likelihood of trial failures.
However, AI’s potential extends far beyond simulating virtual clinical trials and can be used to help with drug discovery and development when it comes to underfunded medical treatments. For example, AI algorithms can sift through extensive datasets of biological interactions to identify potential drug candidates for underfunded medical conditions. By rapidly screening millions of compounds, AI can pinpoint those with the highest likelihood of success, saving valuable time and resources. AI can also predict potential safety issues early in the drug development process, helping to avoid costly late-stage failures. This is especially critical for underfunded treatments, where the margin for error is significantly smaller.
There are even options today for medical scientists to access vast bodies of data about user health (with their permission) from global, AI-powered apps and networks, to fuel their research. This means that researchers have the option to use AI to support treatment discovery, and additionally have a more holistic pool of data – based on a broader demographic – to work with. For example, early studies from our sister company Rejuve Biotech showcase how AI can significantly shorten the data analysis process and rapidly develop novel therapeutics to help people live longer.
As AI continues to expand its role in research, it offers the potential to unlock new dimensions of medical understanding and treatment development, thereby fostering a more inclusive and equitable approach to healthcare advancement.
AI-driven longevity products: Prolonging health and wellness
AI could also be used to address current imbalances within drug discovery. The current set up of the pharmaceutical industry means that profit is the number one priority. This means that some treatments and therapies have more prominence than others. For example, at the moment, the mainstream view is that a natural substance can’t cure a disease by itself, but the fact of the matter is, within the pharmaceutical system, if a natural compound is found to be successful in treating a disease, a synthetic version is created. This is purely because it can be patented, which means the pharmaceutical company can monetise its discovery.
And even when there is funding in areas like cancer and heart disease, the necessity of funding being leveraged towards finding a cure, without thinking holistically about patient health. Millions of dollars goes toward cancer research for example, but the mainstream cancer therapies are still chemo and radiation, which are big money earners, with no research into whether we could reverse the cancer state using the patient’s own immune system, rather than a cut/burn/poison approach.
Numerous companies are utilising AI to explore health-enhancing products in new areas. Initiatives such as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health are using AI to investigate complementary and alternative therapies, such as herbal remedies and acupuncture, uncovering their potential for improving well-being and addressing health concerns.
Moreover, supplement providers like Life Extension are leveraging AI for innovative health and longevity products. AI-driven research is transforming the supplement industry, leading to novel products that meet specific health needs and enhance overall quality of life.
In the evolving landscape of healthcare, AI is a powerful tool that not only enhances traditional pharmaceutical drug discovery but also opens new avenues for exploring alternative health solutions and treatments. This diversified approach to research and development holds the promise of providing patients with a broader spectrum of choices to support their health and well-being, ultimately contributing to finding a broader range of treatment and therapy options for those that are to support health and longevity.
By Jasmine Smith, CEO of Rejuve.AI