Life sciences save lives

By Pekka Simula 2 January 2017

As Herantis’ CEO I look back at 2016 with pride for being part of this team. Our passion is to translate cutting-edge science toward a breakthrough in the clinic. And in 2016 we were the first in the world to treat a patient with a gene therapy that aims at repairing the lymphatic system.

As a father however I look back at 2016 still mildly shocked and with gratitude to everyone involved in the hard world of healthcare and in the high-risk business of life sciences. Without them we would now have one child less.

It all happened very fast. First, just a fever – that happens all the time. Next, the high temperature resisted routine antipyretics – that’s worrying. A visit to the doctor who correctly suspected pneumonia and immediately sent us to the hospital. Pneumonia was confirmed by x-ray at the hospital however it had escalated into sepsis. By the time I realized what had happened the child was on i.v. antibiotics and recovering almost as fast as it all had started.

Only then did it really hit me: With a delay or mistake or bad luck at any point we could have lost our child. And hundred years ago there wouldn’t have been much hope anyway.

My next thought as life sciences professional was admiration of the expertise and technology, which saved our child and are still so often taken for granted.

The well-trained general practitioner immediately saw the urgency thanks also to a quick CRP test – developed based on scientific research. High-resolution x-ray images were sent digitally so fast that the pediatrician was ready to start the treatment in literally ten minutes after the images were taken. Tests for choosing the best antibiotic have taken years of effort to develop, not to mention the efficacious drug also known to be safe for a small child and optimized for the best dose for age and weight. A tiny cannula for the tiny veins – someone, somewhere has taken that through the slow and expensive development and approval processes and validated it for compatibility with all imaginable drugs. Patient monitoring system adjusted for children to alert on heart rate and oxygen saturation. Needles and vials for drawing blood to follow the recovery. Waste management and sterilization processes to avoid cross-contaminations. Every single piece of equipment you see in a hospital has required countless hours of research and development and testing to ensure safety, efficacy and functionality.

Every single piece must function correctly – a single failure in any part could cause death. Some pressure on quality control, eh?

And the physicians and nurses and other staff who – after years of excellent training – work hard including long night shifts to perform their miracles and still stay positive to support the worried parents. And please note that this was a general hospital in Finland. Not a fancy private clinic. Not a university hospital.

My warmest thanks to the staff of Jorvi Hospital’s pediatric emergency and pediatric ward, and to everyone working in life sciences for better treatments for patients in need. Scientists, clinicians, developers, investors, regulatory authorities – thank you.

Happy New Year!