Modern healthcare is amazingly multidisciplinary

Pekka Simula 05.04.2018

Finland’s national TV channel YLE covered (in Finnish) an advanced therapeutic procedure in March 2018. For the first time in Finland a Parkinson’s disease patient received an innovative device for the administration of CDNF, which is a novel investigational drug aiming at a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s. The procedure itself was relatively routine: DBS, a standard Parkinson’s therapy requires a very similar operation. What really caught the attention was yet another specialty. The neurosurgical procedure was assisted by a robot, which was guided by specific software for sub-millimeter precision.

A single procedure introduced several novel technologies developed independently by different teams in different countries! This all has required thousands of working hours by experts in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, software development, precision engineering, mechanics, material technology, intelligent image processing and so forth. Everything must work reliably, be perfectly fail-safe, and integrate seamlessly with the other pieces. All those tools need to be used by healthcare professionals trained on each and every one of them. And most importantly, as opposed to most other areas, clinical operations cannot be perfected through trial-and-error: Errors are simply not tolerated. Everything has to work perfectly from the very first time.

Knowing how frustrating it is to connect your laptop computer to a standard video projector, it appears like a mission impossible to combine several independently developed cutting-edge technologies and feel absolutely confident that they work as expected.

One word to explain it: collaboration.

Collaboration doesn’t mean just sharing information and agreeing on interfaces. It really means working together. The scientists and engineers and clinicians need to be brought together. They need to understand the strengths and limitations of the complex technologies of each other. They must have the opportunity to consider risks from all angles and mitigate them, and debate and argue and agree on the best approaches in each scenario. Only then, with each party confident, the system will be ready for prime time toward its goal – changing the world for the better.

Collaboration like this is very complicated and challenging. It requires great teams of patient experts who dare leave their comfort zones when necessary. It demands flexibility and openness.

Above all it requires belief. Aiming at a breakthrough means doing what no human has done before. Something as challenging can only be reached by teams who really believe in what they are doing.

At Herantis we absolutely believe. (And we are very grateful for the European Union for believing too!)

Herantis’ CDNF aims at a breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. CDNF is currently in a clinical proof-of-concept study in the TreatER project funded by the European Union.