The 2020 Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies distills more than 1,700 unique technologies to a list of 30 technology profiles that will significantly change society and business over the next five to ten years. In the fields of Life Sciences and Healthcare, speeding up drug discovery, enabling personalized healthcare and empowering modeling of COVID-19 therapies and healthcare systems are just some of the ways in which top emerging technologies are helping us tackle the ever-increasing challenges of our complex world. Let’s take a look at a few of the technologies and trends that are fueling advances in Life Sciences and Healthcare, with several ranking in Gartner’s top 5:
- Formative artificial intelligence (AI)
- Digital me
- Composite architectures
- Algorithmic trust
- Beyond silicon
One does not have to be an expert to know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on the rise across a variety of industries and sectors in recent years. Gartner identified “Formative AI” as a Hype Cycle Trend #4. Formative AI is a type of AI that is capable of dynamically changing in response to a given situation. There are further sub-types, including technologies that can produce tailored models to solve specific problems and AI that adapts dynamically over time, creating novel content or altering existing content, including video and images. Other emerging technologies Gartner included in this trend include composite AI, small data, self-supervising learning and differential privacy.
Formative AI has many positive uses in drug discovery, synthetic data generation and even in the arts. On the other hand, this type of AI can produce new or altered artifacts based on original content — a technology responsible for deep fakes. The rise of the use of deep fakes as weapons in the disinformation campaigns in politics and business will be a growing concern over the next 5 years.
Gartner’s Hype Cycle Trend #5 is “digital me”. This is a broad category for digital models that represent humans in both real and virtual worlds. As technology integrates with people (and vise versa) more and more, the opportunities to create digital versions of ourselves are on the rise.
Examples of this include bidirectional Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs), wearable or implantable devices that can monitor electrical activity in the human brain and use electrical stimulation to alter it. BMIs enable two-way communication between a brain and a computer. While there are many potential beneficial uses of this technology, like helping people with mental health conditions, boosting energy and improving mood, BMIs raise social and ethical concerns and are vulnerable targets for hackers.
Digital Twin, or Virtual Twin, is a specific category under the broad “Digital Me” umbrella. Digital Twin technologies opened up new possibilities for many industries, from aviation four decades ago to manufacturing, and the most recent frontiers: Life Sciences and Healthcare. By understanding and representing the invisible or hard to see, Digital Twin enables us to represent life in new ways. Digitalization has been a mainstay in designing, building and maintaining products for years. But however sophisticated and complex the manufactured products may be, the human body is the world’s most complex and intricate system.
Just like the concept of modeling an entire jet airplane was revolutionary 40 years ago, creating comprehensive digital models of the human body might still seem like science fiction to some. In 2014, Dassault Systèmes unveiled the Living Heart Project, the world’s first realistic 3D simulation model of a whole human heart. Since then, this translational research initiative to revolutionize cardiovascular science through realistic simulation is establishing a unified foundation for cardiovascular in silico medicine, serving as a common technology base for education and training, medical device design, testing, clinical diagnosis and regulatory science. With the goal of applying the power of realistic simulation to human modeling to revolutionize medical care, they are creating a path for rapidly translating cutting edge innovations directly into improved, personalized patient care.
Further moving from “things” to life and expanding way beyond the human heart to better understand the intricacies of the entire human body system, Dassault Systèmes wants to be “the da Vinci of life”, serving humanity with Digital Twin innovations for surgery, drug discovery and novel therapeutics, according to the company CEO. Dassault is putting a model of the full human at the center of the healthcare modeling continuum, from cellular models on one end to the population-level models at the other. As modeling moves along this continuum, the level of complexity as well as the kinds of simulation changes, allowing us to get answers to different questions.
Specific examples of individual- and population-level modeling — especially important right now, in the time of the global Coronavirus pandemic — are virtual twins being used as tools in treating COVID-19 and modeling the entire healthcare system. From modeling cellular-level responses to specific treatments of the disease to modeling the operation of the entire healthcare system, including the supply chain, such digital twin modeling allows for real world feedback to be incorporated into the models, as they get further developed and refined.
“The most impactful part of this technology is that healthcare in general is so complex. It involves so many different disciplines that speak different languages, have different ways of thinking, and understanding,” said Steve Levine, the senior director of virtual human modeling at Dassault Systèmes. “And they all come together when you actually create a virtual twin.”