I believe in science, medical research, and technology that delivers advanced healthcare to battle or beat disease. That’s why when I began covering medical device manufacturing and technologies in the ’90s, I so hoped something – medical or biotech – would be developed to help my father. At that time, he had beaten prostate cancer, was suffering the effects of his Parkinson’s diagnosis, and then had a heart attack (the day my younger sister graduated from Kent State University).
Many of the medical advancements I was covering at the start of my career could have helped my father but were only in the research and development (R&D) or clinical trial stages. Today, many are available, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS), which relieves some Parkinson’s symptoms including tremor, stiffness, slowed movement, freezing of gait, and dyskinesia (abnormality or impairment of voluntary movement).
Even though my father didn’t benefit from these technologies, medical advancements aren’t slowing down, and I would venture to guess that every subscriber of Today’s Medical Developments has at least one story of how life-saving medical developments helped them or someone they love. My mother had arthroplasty on both knees, allowing her to get back to a pain-free life. Not too long ago, a friend had a hip replacement enabling her to participate in family activities as simple as walking and bicycling. A cousin has gained more control over his diabetes since switching to an insulin pump.
While total knee replacements aren’t new, incremental improvements in materials and designs have raised the expected longevity of these implants so patients are eligible long before the original suggested age of 65. Decades of R&D continue to advance medical technology, and it’s precisely why the U.S. now has three vaccines to protect people from COVID-19. To deliver effective, precise, and consistent vaccines, it’s also imperative to use good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant equipment, facilities, and procedures – think automating manufacturing equipment from production through packaging, seamless integration of cloud-based IT systems, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital twins of plants to instantly view operations so every step can be optimized and scrutinized. And, if there’s a manufacturing or quality concern, it can be caught quickly (as was the case with Emergent BioSolutions issues manufacturing Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine) and corrected.
I haven’t been able to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad since 2007. This year more than a half-dozen of my friends will face the same type of Father’s Day I do; only it’s because they all lost their fathers to COVID-19. I am hopeful that as more people roll up their sleeves to get the shot (and continue to wear masks, where appropriate) the country and the world can get on a path out of this pandemic – all thanks to the years of R&D and manufacturing technologies implemented at record speed.