Vår ferbruarikrönika på Lytics.ai 2016

The more we observe, the less tricky

I used to run a lot. Not at a competitive level but long distances daily for year after year. My pace is now at a different level and during my runs I can appreciate just to sit down to figure out where my mind wants to take me.

Long-distance running year around has not only trained my body to physiologically adapt to various conditions. It has exercised my brain and nervous system to regulate and program my system to proactively react to environmental influence as well as to variations in the internal body balance. The quality I appreciate most is the predictive value of how my body will react and perform next time when I take the first step. The anticipation is the treat I get from the regular exercise where my body and brain frequently sample information and continuously tune my system.

My endurance and performance is very much related to the presets and modulation of my cardiovascular and muscular functions, all controlled by my vivid central nervous system. That’s how it works. And my body settings are the result of continuous input and real-time processing and analyses, resulting in regulated and readjusted settings.

Urine is an important part of my past and present life. The secrets behind the way our kidneys work helped me as a researcher to dig into the complexity of homeostasis, the state where my body functions are regulated to optimal performance. The enormous amounts of urine I produce when my blood is filtered in my kidneys runs through machinery that makes sure that nothing I need go to waste. Good stuff is recovered and only metabolic residual products are [normally] leaving my body. This sophisticated regulation is, again, the result of a continuous process regulating andtuning my body for optimal performance.

From urine production to breathing air. Shaping good and useful medicines is a really challenging area as we rarely find shortcuts to useful and safe drugs. Drugs that help patients to swiftly restore or offset the painful mess from a disease. One reason is off course that we know too little about what’s really going on in the complex universe residing inside the patient’s skin. During my 25 years in pharmaceutical research and development with specific focus on lung diseases and primarily chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) I feel frustrated that we still to date, haven’t gotten further helping these patients. I believe one reason for failures is the overarching design of the research and development process, too often designed to figure out the benefits of a product and product sales.

Most of the time research is investigating specific mechanisms, which is a sound and reasonable approach. However, when we take the next step in the research process where we add additional pieces to the puzzle’s mystery we’re running into trouble. Just because the way a specific low-level mechanism interoperates and influence the whole organism is a big-data-issue.  That’s almost always the intriguing challenge we face when we test new chemical entities or biological compounds, only because everything we do results in a cascade of internal events: to our benefit; something my body may fight, try to avoid or work around; events that may be a risk, or even hazardous.

The same reasoning goes for more or less any disease, being not just one diagnosis. COPD is a complex disease that has developed over time and developed into various states of irreversibility. That’s really the painful fact of our current scientific insights, that patients who consult their physician because of their lung problems cannot be treated to reverse their COPD to normal but instead leaving them with relieving treatment. Okay, you would think you could just say: “quit smoking and you’re better off”. It’s not as simple as that. COPD is a complex disease and smoking, however fundamentally instrumental in the development of this terrible burden, is just one of many variables in the equation that describes a COPD patient’s life in an environment with a multiplicity of distressing influences. On top of this, many of the patients have a history that is important to understand to provide best care, and furthermore, most patients have accumulated symptoms indicating [several] other diseases of diagnoses.

Phew, that’s a tough message, I know.

The good news is that I believe we can do something to fix the problem. In Lytics we look at the complexity this way: what is the problem we need to find a solution for, what are the needs of an individual or a patient, and how does it all come to together in an individual-centric insight. The methodology and technology we developed and use provide a new platform that takes us so much further.