For the 2018-19 Modeling the Future Challenge, students will analyze one of the biggest concerns in America – the cost of healthcare. Each year in the United States, millions of Americans are treated for chronic diseases or illnesses. According to the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S. health care spending reached $3.3 trillion or $10,348 per person in 20161. Health care spending accounted for 17.9 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Half of all Americans live with at least one, and one-fourth have at least two, chronic diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
These and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in America, and they are also a leading driver of healthcare costs, as much as 86% by some estimates2. On the other hand, we know that as much as 60% of the cost of chronic diseases can be prevented by eating well, being physically active, avoiding tobacco and excessive drinking, and getting regular health screenings. But not all diseases can be prevented, and some diseases will continue to progress despite the best care available. Many patients suffer for years, struggling to manage chronic conditions.
However, new therapies are showing promise to combat these diseases and illnesses. Researchers are developing potential cures and treatments for some of humankind’s most devastating diseases through the use of ground-breaking scientific discoveries. New technologies are being developed to augment, repair, replace, or regenerate organs, tissues, cells, genes, and metabolic processes in the body. For example:
- The recently publicized “CRISPR” technology is rapidly advancing to allow for direct modifications to cellular codes that may have gone awry.
- Cell therapies using various types of stem-cells are advancing opportunities to repair damaged tissues.
- Other innovative bio-engineering techniques such as 3D bio-printing are beginning to enable the creation of new tissues and organs to replace lost functionality.
These technologies and other biomedical advancements like them are already starting to alter the practice of medicine. New therapies are currently being researched with the potential to revolutionize healthcare for conditions from arthritis to kidney failure. These breakthroughs will be relevant not just for saving lives and easing chronic pain, but also for other forms of medical needs such as drug testing, toxicity screening, cancer treatments, injury repair and more.
On the whole, future cures such as CRISPR, biofabrication (3D bioprinting), cell-therapies, and other bioengineering technologies have the ability to save millions of lives, ease the suffering of patients around the globe, and become a multi-billion-dollar industry. Treatments of many medical conditions have already begun to be affected by new therapies either in clinical trials or on the market. These conditions include (but are not limited to):
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Hematological disease
- Kidney disease (ESRD)
- Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Non-fatal burns
- Ophthalmology (Glaucoma)
- Hearing loss
In this year’s Modeling the Future Challenge students will identify one way in which they think a future cure will change healthcare. Students will select a chronic disease or illness in which researchers have demonstrated progress on a future therapy using one of the technologies mentioned above. They will analyze data on the occurrences and severity of the disease or illness, and they will mathematically model how they expect the development of these new therapies to change the way the disease affects our healthcare industry, insurance, government, or society.
Specific datasets about the chronic conditions and future therapies being developed to treat them will be made available at the launch of the introductory Scenario Response phase of the competition in November. To start exploring the topics now and get a more thorough understanding of the types of technologies poised to change the future of our medical systems please visit these resources pages:
- Alliance for Regenerative Medicine: this organization includes good background information on multiple types of future cures including four major areas: (1) Gene-based medicine, (2) Genome Editing, (3) Cell Therapy, and (4) Tissue Engineered Products & Biomaterials.
- The Broad Institute: This page includes some good information about CRISPR technologies.
- Sculptio – What can we achieve with a bioprinter today: this article includes good background information on how 3D bioprinting works and where some of the big progress areas have been made.
- Gerteis J, Izrael D, Deitz D, LeRoy L, Ricciardi R, Miller T, Basu J. Multiple Chronic Conditions Chartbook. AHRQ Publications No, Q14-0038. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2014. Accessed June 28, 2018.