Mylan Hackathon 2018: Synergizing to solve key medical challenges

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Hackathons are great fora where collective creation is encouraged and supported to try and solve a problem that can potentially impact key issues. When hackathons are focused on a cause and looking to solve challenges in the medical field, they get even more important and engaging. I was at the Mylan Hackathon 2018 yesterday in Bangalore. Here are my key takeaways from the event.

Mylan is a global pharmaceutical company with an ambitious mission: To provide the world’s 7 billion people access to high quality medicine and set new standards in healthcare As an industry innovator, Mylan and their teams were very excited to be one of the few pharmaceutical companies in the world to host hackathons. Hackathon is about thinking differently. It is about engaging a different set of people in an environment that is riddled with innovation and  using the incredible wealth of knowledge that we have, to innovate and provide answers for next generation healthcare and access for 7 billion people. This made the Mylan Hackathon 2018 one of a kind.

The 2018 Mylan Hackathon is about collaborating to create something innovative. The most innovative teams, it turns out, have diverse members, with unique interests and expertise, that come together in surprising ways. All the 45 teams that I met there were full of creative energy and had very unique takes on solving issues. They were given 5 key challenges from which they had to pick one to solve. The challenges were

Adverse Event Reporting

Pharmacovigilance, also known as drug safety, is the pharmacological science relating to the collection, detection, assessment, monitoring, and prevention of adverse/side effects with pharmaceutical products. However the side effects of drugs very rarely get reported once the drug enters in to the market. There is no easy mechanism for the patient to report these effects he/she encounters after intake of the drug. The pack insert usually contains an email id which the patient can email the details to. But the leaflet contains a lot of information and is thrown away in a majority of cases. Doctor also need a fill a form with the details and most of todays’ HCPs in India don’t have time to fill in all the details. Knowing the side effects of the drug is of vital importance to HCPs, drug manufacturers and regulatory bodies.

Technology Aided Early Diagnosis And Detection

Only 12.5% of cancer patients get treatment in early stages. In other words, late detection of cancer is the cause of 70% deaths in India. According to WHO, At least 8.8 million people die of cancer annually due to late diagnosis. Some early signs of cancer include lumps, sores that fail to heal, abnormal bleeding, persistent indigestion, and chronic hoarseness. Early diagnosis is particularly relevant for cancers of the breast, cervix, mouth, larynx, colon and rectum, and skin.

Also in the developing markets Doctor to population ration and qualified hospital staff to population ratio is very imbalanced.  This leads to a high volume of specimens and reports to be analyzed by qualified staff like radiologist, pathologist. The unavailability of these qualified personnel in all care centers leads to long diagnosis time as the specimens and reports have to be mailed to other locations and then brought back. With the advent of technology , looking for solutions that can  be used to detect early cancer symptoms and  help tackle the resource scarcity problem  by automating  preliminary analysis of specimens and reports

Patient Real-World Outcomes Tracking

A drug molecule is sold to the general public for a particular disease/indication following extensive clinical studies on patients and healthy volunteers. As the molecules are tested in a clinical setting (there are often numerous inclusion/exclusion criteria), is there a way to use technology to map the following post drug launch  (list not exhaustive)

    • Patient experience with the drug in the real world post launch
    • Subgroups of patients who experience maximum benefit
    • Building a repository of treatment cases/paradigms for healthcare providers
    • Identification of patients for patient assistance programs etc

How can technology/AI be used more extensively to ensure the right patient benefits from the treatment

    • Using technology to identify the right patient- in many countries, especially in the developing world, limited data and statistics are available through public sources on the number of patients suffering from a disease, number of patients likely to contract a disease due to other conditions etc.

Tuberculosis – Patient Adherence to Treatment

Tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death globally and resulted in 1.8 million deaths in 2016 alone. 95% of TB deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries like India, African countries, china etc. Tuberculosis is a serious form of infection that affects lungs and at times other parts of the body like bones, joints and kidneys. It is caused by bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. A previous study showed that TB killed 60,000 children below 15 in India, the highest in the world, in 2015. It is estimated that about 40% of the Indian population is infected with TB bacteria which is roughly 50 crores of population, the vast majority of whom have latent TB rather than TB disease.

India is a hub of TB and different factors play pivotal role for a person become TB patient or a primary TB patient become DR-TB patient, starting from –  lack of awareness, lack of knowledge at doctors as well as at patient level, poor economic conditions etc. But among all most prominent reason for a primary TB patient become drug resistant TB patient is “Poor patient adherence to therapy”. TB treatment is min. 6 months to max. 24 months long, based on type of TB. But in many cases after 2-3 months when patients are in recovery phase, patient stops taking the medicines, assuming he/she got cured already. Because of this, after few months or year patient develop resistance to primary drug and become DR-TB patient

Track Mylan ARV Products

The modern pharmaceutical supply chain is complex. Medicines are made from ingredients sourced from different countries. Final formulations are then exported. Packaging, repackaging, and sale can happen in many other countries. Drugs change hands many times between the manufacturer and patient; every transaction is an opportunity for falsified or substandard products to infiltrate the market. Changes to the drug distribution system by introducing effective end to end tracking could improve drug quality around the world.

Given the complex and very important nature of the challenges on hand, I was expecting only a few teams participating, but to my surprise, there were 45 teams there. Students, professionals and Mylan employees alike. They were are working on key tech areas and trying to come up with solutions that will impact million lives if not more. The key difference between most other hackathons and Mylan hackathon was that here I could see that the  teams were thinking beyond a hack and wanted to make a viable solution that was also a feasible solution

The Mylan leadership was there lending a hand and actively helping the teams. The company and WHO were there and very willing to throw their weight around the solutions and see them actually scale in the real world.

To me, the Mylan Hackathon was the right mix of technology, support from corporates, business sense and problem solving. I am rooting for the solutions to actually become real world life savers. This was indeed a good group of people hacking for a cause.

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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