“Going forward, it will no longer be enough to treat symptoms of illness.” – Ben Wiegand, Ph.D., Head, Disease Interception Accelerator
What is disease interception?
The central concept is simple: stop disease before it starts. To do so, we must identify early biomarkers of high risk populations, such as genetic, epigenetic, and metabolomics approaches, discover the critical mechanisms of action that lead to disease, and develop ways to subvert those processes early on, before they have the chance to cause disease. It’s an entirely new way of approaching pharmaceutical innovation that will have a profound effect on every aspect of health care, not only for the patients, but also from the way we fund R&D to patient education.
What diseases are you studying?
We are focusing on type 1 diabetes, presbyopia/cataracts, oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, and cervical cancer. In addition, we recently expanded a global network of partnerships to research three particulary devastating diseases that have high unmet needs: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), perinatal depression, and gestational diabetes.
COPD is the third-leading cause of death worldwide. We are working to identify at-risk and early-stage individuals using radiology and molecular biomarkers so we can stop the destruction of small airways in the lungs, which contribute to the devastating effects of COPD.
Perinatal depression is a major depressive disorder that begins during pregnancy or within six months postpartum, and has a lifetime prevalence of 10–15 percent. Undiagnosed or untreated it can have serious health affects for both mother and child. We are working to establish screening methods to identify, profile, and track at-risk women to help point them to the needed intervention(s) to improve their health and that of their child during pregnancy and beyond.
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) affects up to 15 percent of pregnant women worldwide increasing their risk of pregnancy complications in the short-term and, longer term, putting both mother and child at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. We are working to identify and monitor women at risk of GDM in order to stop disease progression.
Why is a new approach necessary?
We’ve come a long way in treating disease, and have so much further we can go to move disease care to health care and personalize solutions for people that maintain health. The convergence of science, big data and technology affords our industry a unique opportunity to spur innovation. We believe in the approach of disease interception and its potential in creating a fundamental paradigm shift in individual health care and for societies globally.
What is different about the way you’re approaching R&D?
Transformational innovation requires a holistic approach that integrates scientific discovery, novel therapeutics, precision diagnostics, and new business models to advance solutions. We are partnering with and growing a global network of researchers, entrepreneurs, government and patient organizations, and life science companies to address disease areas that have a high unmet need and very real interception opportunities in the not too distant future.
Learn more about the Disease Interception Accelerator here.