Medical innovations by researchers all biotechnology over the globe have vastly improved both length and quality of life for billions of people. Many pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology, device and diagnostics companies have helped people live longer, with less pain and greater quality of life.

Here we take a brief look at 4 such revolutionary developments:

1. Next generation opioids

For patients in serious pain, doctors often prescribe morphine, oxycodone, pethidine, and tramadol. After surgery or major injuries, painkillers aid in the recovery process. In an individual’s last moments of life for, morphine grants them a much need relief from untreatable pain.

However, the unreliable crop size of poppy plants, and diversion into the lucrative trade of heroin, renders such painkillers expensive, makes supply restriction tough, and limits access to painkillers for those who really require it.

To counter such shortfalls of medications derived from plants, synthetic biology professor Christina Smolke is developing a method to synthesise opiates from yeast. This could radically reduce the cost of opiates by 90% and may pave the way to produce other medications that are currently plant-based.

Her long-term goal is to achieve poppy-free, commercial-scale production of opiates in a few years, and perhaps even a non-addictive form of opium within a few years.

2. New Alzheimer’s medication enhances grip strength

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval gammagard liquid, produced by Baxter, as a treatment for multifocal motor neuropathy (MMN). This disorder mainly affects patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and is a progressively worsening condition where muscles in the extremities gradually weaken, to the point where it inhibits the performance of simple tasks such as bathing and using cutlery.

This first-in-class drug is the first medication available for MMN, and in clinical trials, has been shown to improve mean grip strength in the affected hand by 23% compared to a placebo. In addition to improving the grip strength, it has enabled lower deterioration rates of 1.5 times as compared to placebo. Additionally, the treatment was so effective that 69% of participants on placebo were allowed to switch to reap the benefits of this new drug.

3. Oncology – Multi-cancer drug

Currently termed as VAL-083, this is a first-in-class drug developed by DelMar pharmaceuticals that has been proven to be safe and effective against multiple cancers, such as lung, brain, cervical, ovarian tumors and hematologic cancers.

Research has shown that VAL-083’s unique mechanism of action is radically different from current platinum-based chemotherapy and exhibit lesser susceptibility to drug resistance mediated by the p53 gene, which plays a central role in the protection of the body from cancer, and is responsible for initiating programmed cell death, when a cell becomes cancerous or damaged.

In a phase I clinical trial involving brain cancer patients, it was remarkable that more than 20% of patients have survived for more than twelve months following the current drug’s failure to treat such patients.

4. Alternative cancer treatment

Currently, those who are diagnosed with solid cancer, the hardest type of cancer to treat, have no alternative other than to undergo chemotherapy. A novel drug, Kevetrin, allows such patients to have access to more treatment options.

As the CEO of Kevetrin’s manufacturer, Leo Ehrlich explains: “Kevetrin is unique in that it is not a chemotherapy [drug] and acts by targeting multiple biochemical pathways to control tumor development in cells with diverse mutational background. Kevetrin has now shown at this stage of its development its enormous potential.”

In the pre-clinical trial testing, it has proven to be extremely effective. After three weeks of tests on pancreatic cancer, it showed an average tumour volume shrinkage of 67% and a delayed growth of greater than 94% with no significant weight loss in the animals.

In a phase I trial, it was administered once weekly for three weeks, that being one cycle, and a break of a week between cycles. The patients received four full cycles of the drug, and has shown remarkable results of cancer stabilisation despite the low dosage. MIMS

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