Public health

Clinical care, Personal/public health, Public health

After several years of dismal market activity, 2024 is already looking up for deals in the pharmaceutical industry, with a recent flurry of billion-dollar mergers and acquisitions. Is this trend being driven by the impending loss of revenue caused by soon-to-expire blockbuster drug patents? And what does it mean for earlier-stage biotech startups?
Belgium is one of the top countries in the world for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Despite the high cumulative success rates of these interventions, disproportionally little attention has been given to the health of both mother and child during and after pregnancy. With the HEART (High risk for pre-Eclampsia after Assisted Reproductive Technology) project, Belgian researchers strive to understand why some women have an increased risk for pre-eclampsia after IVF and whether biomarkers can be identified to estimate these risks early in pregnancy or even before conception. They aim to raise the standard from successful conception to improved child and maternal health.
While a vast majority of women experience vaginal yeast infections, research has fallen short in providing an effective treatment approach. However, hope has emerged recently with the development of new model systems that allow exploration of the complex vaginal environment. Organ-on-chip models enable researchers to examine the interactions between human cells and microbes in a more accurate manner, offering the potential for the development of new therapies.
Even though endometriosis impacts millions of women globally, the condition remains poorly understood and researched, leading to delayed diagnosis and lack of effective treatment. Encouragingly, there are promising recent developments in the field coming from Belgium. Professor Hugo Vankelecom’s research group at KU Leuven uses advanced cellular models, known as organoids, to delve into the disease and expedite the drug discovery process. The Danish BioInnovation Institute now offers the team an incubation program to pave the way towards industrial success.
It’s been a Barbie world this summer with crowds of pink-clad moviegoers flooding the cinemas. Simultaneously, we’ve been witnessing a rush of ‘pink’ fundraising for women’s health start-ups. From pre-clinical to clinical: more companies are entering the field and developing solutions for women’s unique needs. But is their focus broad and innovative enough? And are pharma companies paying attention?
After a therapeutic drug hits the market, it is crucial to continuously gather, analyze, and report data regarding its safety and potential side effects, a practice known as pharmacovigilance. Unlike clinical trials, this involves real-world data (RWD), presenting unique challenges in terms of both quality and quantity. The Belgian BELpREG project seeks to employ RWD for monitoring drug utilization during pregnancy and investigating potential safety implications for both maternal and child health. This initiative holds great promise, although it faces substantial hurdles on its path to success.
After recovering from metastatic colon cancer, Stefan Gijssels became a patient advocate dedicated to improving the healthcare system that saved his life. As Chair of the Belgian Patient Expert Center (PEC), he has helped to establish a training program turning patients into patient experts who can provide stakeholders like hospitals and companies with valuable insights during the innovation process.
Femtech is a growing field that has rapidly expanded from niche market to global ecosystem. From period-tracking apps and smart pelvic floor trainers to wearable breast pumps – both start-ups and well-established multinationals are prioritizing tech innovation in women’s health. But are investors keeping up with this trend, or is the strong gender skew in venture capital hampering the femtech field?
Every family needs groceries, and most people regularly venture to the supermarket to gather supplies. If researchers can help shoppers make healthier choices, we can improve the obesity problem in a simple yet effective way. But until recently, nobody really understood what motivated people to choose certain products – we knew what they bought, but not why. We’ve therefore investigated shoppers’ choice strategies, hoping to use this information to help people choose healthier.
Unprecedented collaborations between different pharmaceutical companies have resulted in extraordinary progress for HIV patients over the past four decades. From the first ever treatments, to single pills and now even long-acting injections, treatment options have come a long way. In this interview, Dr. Theresa Pattery (Head of Disease Management Programs at Janssen Pharmaceutica) tells us of this long journey and talks about the role of drones and phones in the world-wide fight against HIV.
How are we going to feed an expected 10 billion people by 2050 in a sustainable way? It is a daunting task. Our climate is changing, and a combination of environmental and economic factors are already resulting in widespread food shortages. There is no simple solution to this problem, but innovation in the food and agtech sector will help alleviate the burden. To make this possible, stakeholders – including researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, and governments – need to make agrifood innovation a priority immediately.
The microbiome has been a trending scientific topic in recent years. Researchers have uncovered correlations between the human microbiome and a wide range of diseases and health states, ranging from digestive issues to mental wellbeing. But no matter how fascinating these academic findings may be, translating them into concrete clinical applications remains a challenge. How can we enable more efficient clinical valorization of microbiome insights, and pave the way from pattern to patient?
Current cleaning and disinfection practices in food industries are insufficient to destroy unwanted bacteria lurking on surfaces, according to recent Belgian research. Cooperation between diverse types of bacteria makes them stronger and more resilient, causing huge damage in terms of food spoilage, recalls, and health issues. Understanding the development of these microbial communities and their underlying cooperation is vital for assuring food safety, and may lead to developing better forms of biocontrol.
Being overweight is not only bad for one’s health – it also costs society a lot of money. Every year, the Belgian government loses at least 4.5 billion euros due to the direct and indirect costs linked to excessive weight and obesity. As with COVID-19, this issue needs to be tackled as a public health concern: the responsibility of both individuals and policymakers.
Long COVID is a less talked-about aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet its impact on society is already profound. Although this problem is still largely flying under the radar of the life sciences industry, a couple of first movers have already initiated clinical programs to address the condition. If more companies move into this space, long COVID may prove a catalyst for R&D in other related and underserved indications, like chronic fatigue syndrome.