Virtual MedtecLIVE and MedtecSUMMIT Newsroom
In the summer of 2019, not many people would have been familiar with terms such as “polymerase chain reaction” or “antibody test”. But the situation is different now, as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic: medical analytics and diagnostics, previously activities that simply happened in the background, have suddenly found themselves in the limelight.
Even so, there is much more to laboratory analytics and diagnostics than merely evaluating coronavirus tests. They are closely interwoven with trending themes such as personalized medicine, automation processes and digitalization, making them a key element in the medicine of the future. What does the Covid-19 pandemic mean for laboratories right now, and which developments in laboratory diagnostics currently have to take a back seat? These are all questions that will play a part at MedtecLIVE & SUMMIT in April 2021.
A sector with potential
There are many points of contact with medical laboratory diagnostics. All sample material, such as blood samples or saliva, can be examined in precise detail to identify their structure and detect any diseases, for example those caused by bacteria or cancer cells. Statistics from GlobalData reveal clear growth in market volume between 2016 and 2021. In Germany, too, the laboratory sector is experiencing an upswing. “We are clearly perceiving growth in the laboratory diagnostics sector,” observes Claudia Englbrecht, Public Relations Manager at biotechnology industry association Bio Deutschland. “Germany is well prepared in this regard by international standards. We also have many companies that are leading participants.”
Where to from here?
Speaking of laboratory diagnostics, there is one subject that has become increasingly important in recent years: personalized medicine. For Englbrecht at Bio Deutschland, it is fascinating in the extreme: “Personalized medicine is definitely something we have to mention among the important trends in the sector. This involves companion diagnostics, and for many medications it is possible to check whether the medication will be able to help a patient or not, based on an analysis of blood or cancer cells, for example. That is a major part of molecular diagnostics.”
The vfa, The German Association of Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, already counts 80 medications capable of being used in personalized form using medical diagnostics and laboratory analytics. “Personalized medicine works only if the diagnostic, pharmaceutical and medical technology components work closely together. MedtecLIVE & SUMMIT, in April, will offer the perfect opportunity to engage on this question in depth and obtain relevant information,” says Christopher Boss, Director MedtecLIVE. He sees the many chances that can be offered by bringing these different subject areas together. Dr Ilja Hagen, Project Manager Healthcare at Biopark Regensburg, also notes the growth in this field: “Personalized medicine and the associated biomarkers and companion diagnostics have experienced rapid growth. This is bound to continue, and remain a focus for development. The same applies to Point-of-Care Testing (POCT) and wearable diagnostics.” Even so, other themes also have a part to play: “We are looking at the subject of microbiota/microbiomes in humans and their impact, or whether they cause disease,” says Professor Andreas Schwiertz, head of Research and Development, Molecular Biology and External Services at MVZ Institut für Mikroökologie GmbH in Herborn. He takes a positive view of the new attention being paid to the sector: “Because it boosts the importance of molecular biology. But there has also been a huge increase in the time spent on the many samples and processing them, which of course is another factor,” he notes.
How Covid-19 is impacting on the sector
The virus brought with it a lot of work for the 2,250 or so laboratories in Germany. Evaluating Covid-19 tests requires a lot of time, money and people. In other words, it is a major challenge for many laboratories and their staff, to the point of becoming a stress test. The pandemic has a significant economic impact on companies dealing with the coronavirus. “By comparison, the needs of all other fields are much lower, because the crisis and the overloading in the coronavirus area have pushed many other subjects to the back, and many operations in hospitals are being delayed. Diagnostic functions are not being used to the same extent as they were before the pandemic,” Englbrecht observes. The result is a divide between a lot of work and not enough work, between economic upswing and making losses
Digitalization – an element in the growth of analytics and diagnostics?
Digitalization is gaining a foothold in many fields of medicine, and it is justifiably a core topic for MedtecLIVE & SUMMIT. Laboratories are another ideal location where digitalization can contribute to an improvement in medical performance, observes Dr Jörg Traub, who holds a qualification in IT and is CEO of Forum MedTech Pharma e.V.: “Data-based models are becoming more and more important in the area of analytics and diagnostics, which means digital platform technologies, networked data and artificial intelligence are also growing in significance. There are already some highly promising approaches in this area that must be rigorously integrated into R&D and ultimately into standard healthcare in order to make the transition from standalone solutions to integrated systems.” Dr Guido Schütte is head of Central Western Europe DX at Siemens Healthineers and a problem-solver for key challenges facing laboratories. He describes the trend toward digitalization: “It is precisely the themes of digitalization and automation that play a critical part in improving efficiency. Efforts in this regard proceed in numerous directions: for example, automating routine workflows in the laboratory to free up tight human resources and letting them devote their energy to more important activities in all areas of sample evaluation. This also serves as a lever to maintain a balance between the increasing demand for high-quality medicine and limited financial resources.”
What does the future offer?
Medical analytics and diagnostics is a complex sector without which our healthcare system would be unable to function. In personalized medicine, there is major potential for the future in the field of oncology in particular. “But reimbursement poses difficulties in this area. The question of whether diagnostic agents can be refunded is a complex one,” Englbrecht notes regarding the current situation. Dr Georg Kääb, Senior Editor at the Life Science platform, takes a similar line: “The future depends very much on the overall conditions governing innovation, and also on the incentives for innovation. If everything is viewed only from the perspective of cost, and all that is expected of laboratory diagnostics is constant increases in speed and quality coupled with decreasing prices, the path will be difficult for any innovation. This is precisely where the coronavirus crisis must serve as an example for us all not to make savings at the wrong end.”
MedtecLIVE together with MedtecSUMMIT
The MedtecLIVE exhibition together with the MedtecSUMMIT Congress is a leading networking platform for the international medical technology scene, and its second virtual edition will take place online from 20 to 22 April 2021. The focus will be on innovative products, solutions and services all along the medical technology value chain. Companies, associations and institutions engage in networking at MedtecLIVE to cultivate contacts, share ideas and create new innovations. At the prestigious MedtecSUMMIT, manufacturers, users and researchers discuss future developments on an interdisciplinary basis. Forum MedTech Pharma e.V. is the honorary sponsor of MedtecLIVE and MedtecSUMMIT.