Innovation state: Paranicas explains how life sciences, tech firms are advancing health care

By Brett Johnson
New Brunswick | Feb 19, 2020 at 6:10 am
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Dean Paranicas, CEO and president of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, isn’t just another state trade organization leader.

Given that at least 11 of the Top 20 medical technology companies have a presence in New Jersey, representing them — as the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey does — means giving a voice to a big part of one of the country’s most vibrant industries.

Paranicas, whose association also serves the interests of many of the state’s top research-based biopharmaceutical firms, doesn’t take the responsibility lightly.

And he’s got a lot to say about why it’s worth paying attention to some of the revolutionary technology coming out of the Garden State’s health care sector. 

ROI-NJ: Health care has, of course, been a hotbed of innovation, but it seems like the excitement for bringing together technology and health care is at high point right now — how do you see it?

Dean Paranicas: There definitely has been a convergence where the two have a strong relationship and are experiencing the synergistic benefits of pairing up together. On one hand, we’ve had extraordinary discoveries on the medicine side — with the development of good therapies and cures that we’ve never had before. But, in order to really assess the effectiveness and success of those products, you need to have highly refined technology that can measure the progress of treatment and maintain an understanding of what impact medicine is having on a patient. When you look at current devices in the wearables space or health-related phone apps, or even how sophisticated devices are in a doctor’s office or clinical setting compared to where they were not too long ago, you realize the technology curve is accelerating tremendously. And, especially in terms of how products are being refined for the pharmaceutical industry, these advances are coming more quickly — and they have to, given the pace at which drugs are being researched and developed. Also, with the advent of Obamacare, that’s been a shift of patient care in which more emphasis is put on the outpatient than inpatient settings. And the minute you had that outpatient emphasis, the relevance of technology that could monitor patients and make sure they’re being compliant with medicine — and you need a certain level of technology that’s capable of dealing with the everyday rigors of life.

ROI: What are some particularly relevant recent advances in health care tech?

DP: Today, you have something like artificial intelligence being utilized in drug development, enabling research-based biopharma companies to determine at a much earlier state in the R&D process whether a compound is more or less effective. That allows a drug to fail faster if it’s not going to work or if it’s showing progress, to move forward more effectively. This contributes to a more effective approach in medicine. The two other areas that come to mind as far as how tech is changing the landscape is, first off, in personalized medicine. What can happen is, a doctor can assess your molecular structure versus another patient and make a determination about whether you’ll be more receptive to a particular treatment or medication versus another patient. That type of analysis relies on sophisticated tools. Another area in health tech that’s very important is in the pharma sector continuous manufacturing. There has been a trend of pharma companies moving toward this way of expediting the manufacturing process for more than a decade, and New Jersey — Rutgers, specifically — happens to be home to this approach. I would also note that we’ve been increasingly seeing major tech companies from other industries, such as electronics, adapting tech for utilization in health care, including new MRI machines. There’s a lot going on and, unsurprisingly, our member companies in New Jersey are involved in a lot of these things.

ROI: It seems as though, over the past few years, there’s a constant stream of announcements about health care organizations forging new partnerships with tech companies. What’s driving that — and what side of the equation is often the main beneficiary?

DP: There’s no end to the number of collaborations that are occurring out there between large and small companies. What’s driving it is what’s more broadly driving collaborations over years: Combining relative strengths. And the organizations collaborating with tech companies often have a lot of expertise in house already, which makes them even more effective collaborators. They’re taking technology developed perhaps for another context and applying to the context of medicine. So, these companies are just as often contributors as they are beneficiaries. And we’re a nerve center of that intellectual output in New Jersey. There’s a lot of instances of that here, especially considering the academic community we have and the important part they have in that. You have that at Rowan, Princeton, NJIT and other institutions — all working with tech companies, as well as life science companies, to make advancements and apply them. There’s a lot of exciting work being done in medical technology here, which everyone can benefit from.

ROI: As much as there seems to be a current atmosphere of collaboration, tech startups entering other markets aren’t always thinking about collaborations — they’re aiming to disrupt the more entrenched, traditional industries. Do you expect there will come a time when there’s more tech companies coming to this industry with that same attitude?

DP: Life science companies have what I like to call a noble calling. They’ve been at it from the time medicine was created. They help patients — and, to reach that primary goal, they need to innovate. That’s the life blood of the companies we represent. So, I think when it comes to other actors entering into this space, such as tech companies, they want to perpetuate that same goal. Tech companies might be starting from a different reference point sometimes, but if they see their technology can benefit patients, they’ll look for opportunities to do with other companies in life science — because they want to be part of achieving better outcomes. That’s what I see on the horizon.

Conversation Starter

Reach the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey at: hinj.org or 732-729-9619.