May 13, 2019
Technological Gaps for Lung Disease Patients Beg Innovation
“Oxygen. Everything needs it: bones, muscle, and even, while it calls the earth it’s home, the soul.” - Mary Oliver from Thirst
The poetry isn’t lost on scientists. Oxygen is the life-force that fuels the complex human body. Each bodily system relies on it, and on each other in turn. And Lung Disease, unfortunately, attacks the very core of it.
Every five minutes a woman in the US is told she has lung cancer (American Lung Association). Every five minutes someone in the UK dies of lung disease (British Lung Foundation). The prevalence of lung and respiratory-related diseases is at epidemic levels and contrary to novice assumptions, lung disease is not exclusive to smokers. The causes can be genetic and, in a growing number of cases, geographical and environmental, too. Yet despite a complex causal system, funding for research remains low.
The quest for data is even more urgent for patients with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension (PAH) and Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension (CTEPH) because there is no cure. There is only management through surgical and pharmacological approaches. With 17,603 global clinical trials for lung disease in the field (at the time of this publication) (clinicaltrials.gov), scientists are working feverishly to provide novel forms of relief.
CTEPH (Chronic Thromboembolic Pulmonary Hypertension) is characterized by an abnormal prevalence of blood clots, for which the solution is often surgery. Companies like Sensome, who we met at TechTour Paris, are innovating to solve for arterial blockage. But even for patients who are eligible, surgical procedure isn’t a cure. Patients can still suffer from CTEPH symptoms later on - albeit to a lesser degree - and even experience a recurrence. In this scenario, early detection and careful monitoring are the keys to minimizing these risks. For instance, high blood pressure may indicate something sinister but with consumer products like Withings, Apple, and FitBit going medically mainstream, patients are able to gain more control over their experiences.
PAH (Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension) is another condition for which blood pressure is a critical metric. Symptoms are managed primarily with medication and via precise monitoring. Currently, there are limited tools to successfully measure endogenous vascular Nitric Oxide. But the ability to do so would help identify the right medication for the right person at the right time, and would be considered an exciting win amongst the PAH innovation community.
Positive outcomes rely on a trifecta of research, funding, and innovation. To answer this call G4A has launched a challenge dedicated to Pulmonology. We are looking specifically for solutions around early disease recurrence detection, coordinated care support across teams, and detection of Nitric Oxide.