The Year Ahead: 2023 Trends Shaping Diagnostics & Life Sciences
Laboratory professionals in all areas of science have experienced significant changes in recent years, and 2022 was no exception. As steady progress continues in returning to normalcy as we’ve learned how to manage COVID-19, the emergence of mpox last year brought a new set of challenges for healthcare professionals, laboratories and diagnostics developers to navigate. Confronting and containing the spread of other infectious diseases like tuberculosis, influenza A and B as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also remained top global health priorities, as was testing to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, tickborne diseases and more.
Additionally, chronic disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s were top of mind last year for diagnostics and drug R&D teams alike. Efforts aimed at understanding the underlying causes of these health conditions continue to be aided by advances in automation and technologies like whole genome sequencing, gene editing and proteogenomics – all of which hold exciting promise for improving the health and wellbeing of humans worldwide.
Experts in the diagnostics and life sciences industry look back on 2022 and lend their insights on the major trends and technologies shaping laboratories in 2023.
Innovation in Solutions for Life Sciences R&D
Kevin Willoe, Vice President and General Manager, PerkinElmer Informatics
“With continual innovation in solutions for life sciences R&D comes ever-expanding volumes and complexity of data. Unfortunately, much of that data can remain untapped if it is siloed with individuals or teams or not accurately captured. To help make more timely and informed clinical candidate decisions going forward, scientists need to be able to securely, intuitively, and quickly find, analyze and share critical discovery-stage data, as well as do reliable predictive analysis. These same challenges and needs also extend from research and discovery to clinical development. Here too cloud-native software solutions can facilitate the scientific process by enabling stronger trial data centralization, collaboration, reproducibility of results and workflows. This also dovetails with the core need to meet the rigors of compliance and audit trails to help support safety for patients.”
Use of Disease Models with Increased Physiological Relevance for Improved Predictive Validity
Jacob Tesdorpf, Life Sciences Market Segment Leader, PerkinElmer
“In research and discovery, one of the major trends taking hold in recent years continues to be the use of disease models with increased physiological relevance that promise improved predictive validity of safety and efficacy in patients. While the first steps were done using human-derived cell lines in 2D and 3D cultures, we now see the ascent of organoids and microphysiological systems built with iPSC or primary cells that mimic not only cellular behavior but also complex tissue behavior in response to treatment.
Recent publications explore the power of such systems to better predict clinical safety at the pre-clinical stage. Models of liver toxicity alone can help to bring safer drugs to market faster while potentially saving billions of dollars by increasing the success rate of clinical trials. At least three technologies are poised to accelerate this development in 2023: better microfabrication techniques including 3D bioprinting, which enable improved microscale bioreactors to grow the models; precise base editing methods that allow for tailor-made cells to recapitulate disease genotypes and phenotypes; and artificial intelligence/machine learning, accelerating the analysis of these complex datasets to better predict clinical outcomes.”
Innovation Aimed at Uncovering the Causes of Chronic Disease
Yves Dubaquie, Senior Vice President of Diagnostics, PerkinElmer
“Long COVID has renewed the scientific community’s interest in diagnostics for chronic disease, and for good reason. An estimated one in five individuals with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection develop post COVID conditions such as fatigue, “brain fog,” difficulty breathing or joint pain, which may last for weeks, months or even longer. Recent research shows that individuals with long COVID were more likely to have autoimmunity markers in their blood than those who had recovered quickly or never contracted the virus. This should tell us that further development of new and existing diagnostic tools to understand immune response at the cellular level will be worthwhile in 2023 and beyond, not only for long COVID, but for other conditions too. Current research around chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), for example, could lead to improved diagnostics and treatment for more people affected by this lesser understood condition.”
High Parameter Cell Analysis Drives Precision Medicine
Craig Monell, Vice President of Business Operations, PerkinElmer’s BioLegend
“Advances in high-parameter flow cytometry and multiomics enable and support unprecedented abilities to interrogate immune cell populations for a large number of markers that are vital for research into diseases such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, vaccine discovery, infectious diseases and more. Technological progress is yielding unprecedented insight into both normal human function and abnormal states associated with disease, allowing detection to be performed at the level of a single patient, specific tissue, and even at the individual cell level across several thousand cells simultaneously. This revolutionary capability is rapidly evolving and will continue to drive breakthrough discoveries in 2023 and beyond.”
Metagenomics in Clinical Research and the Expanding Role of WGS in Precision Medicine
Dr. Madhuri Hegde, SVP and Chief Scientific Officer, PerkinElmer Genomics
“Multiomics is the future of biological analysis. In the year ahead we can expect continued advances in related technologies. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) continues to prove its utility in the diagnosis of rare/complex and common diseases, with some estimates showing that this method improves diagnostic yield by 40 to 60 percent. The emerging field of metagenomics in clinical research settings also shows promise. Discoveries enabled by this next-generation multiomics approach leading to data convergence from different platforms for clinical care combined with microbial and viral genome analysis, will ultimately help genetic counselors and clinicians reach diagnoses faster and initiate actions to improve health outcomes for patients they serve.”
Achieving Operational Excellence Through Automation
Carola Schmidt, General Manager of Automated Robotic Solutions, PerkinElmer
“Compounding the issues associated with today’s laboratory personnel shortage, labs continue to be challenged by ever-changing quality and regulatory requirements. Fortunately, technological advances have paved the way to combat these obstacles in the form of automation. We will see more automated solutions come to market enabling labs to free up personnel for more sophisticated work where their expertise is needed. These solutions will also be proven to improve the accuracy and throughput needed to enable physicians to make critical, time-sensitive clinical decisions 24/7. It will be important to seek out lab automation that is SMART: scalable, modular, agile, reliable and tailor-made to accommodate various needs.”
Newborn Screening Programs Will Become More Accessible and Robust
Petra Furu, General Manager of Reproductive Health, PerkinElmer
“In 2023, we should expect newborn screening (NBS) programs around the world to continue to become more accessible, comprehensive and accurate in diagnosing babies with rare diseases and inherited disorders. This will include the expansion of NBS panels to include disorders such as the progressive neuromuscular disease, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). In regions of Denmark and Spain, SMA screening is already underway, while pilot studies elsewhere in those countries – as well as in Italy, France and the UK – could eventually spur other regions to follow suit. Furthermore, the Australian Government recently announced a $39 million investment to increase the number and consistency of conditions screened across the country, and in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana Health Services recognized Newborn Screening as a health priority. There is a strong will to increasing the number of newborns screened for sickle cell disease (SCD) from its current level of 4% to 50% by 2030. Big, bold commitments such as these will hopefully continue in the year ahead.
Furthermore, technological improvements will be a driving force behind future advances in NBS globally. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) studies underway around the world are reaffirming the utility of this approach to NBS, not only as a second-tier test, but to effectively and expediently identify more newborns likely to develop a rare disorder.”
High-Precision T Cell Testing Becomes a Reality
Phill Keefe, Chief Executive Officer for PerkinElmer’s Oxford Immunotec
“Research aimed at understanding immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 have solidified the critical role T cells play in how the human body responds to infection. As a result, vaccine developers are eager to incorporate T cell testing into their clinical trials not only for future COVID-19 vaccines, but those to help prevent and defend against other infectious diseases too. In 2023, high-precision routine T cell testing will no longer be an aspiration, but a reality.”
Tick-Borne Diseases on the Rise
Maite Sabalza, PhD, Scientific Affairs Manager for PerkinElmer’s EUROIMMUN US
“Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) have become a global public health challenge. In recent years, both tick-borne pathogens and TBD cases have increased globally. TBDs are the most common vector-borne diseases in the United States, with Lyme disease being the most reported TBD. Furthermore, tick surveys have shown that tick populations have expanded to new areas of the country at a rapid rate. As more cases are being reported, it is critical to detect TBDs accurately and rapidly in order to provide early treatment. TBDs include Powassan virus which is mainly transmitted by the same ticks as Lyme disease. With the expanding territory of I. scapularis, and significant increases in the number of Powassan cases in the last decade, there is an urgent need for methods to detect POWV and other non-Lyme TBDs.”
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