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Manufacture Technology and Equipment

Future or Science Fiction?

What will medicine look like in 2050? Bertalan Mesko’s job is all about looking at which technologies could transform our lives – and healthcare.

Bertalan Mesko always wanted to work as a scientist, but after achieving his goal and becoming a researcher focused on genetics, he realized that something wasn’t quite right. He also had a self-confessed “geek” love for technology and science fiction, and he wanted to incorporate these aspects into his career. After completing courses at Singularity University and Harvard Extension School focused on the future of medicine and science fiction, he created a new role to combine the fields – “The Medical Futurist”. Today, he focuses on writing books and giving keynote speeches on the trends shaping the future of health and medicine, with an emphasis on the digital revolution. We caught up with Mesko to find out more about his career and thoughts on the future. 

What led you to focus on being an author and keynote presenter rather than a traditional scientist?

My career focuses on conducting research with my team about which technological trends could have the biggest impact on our lives, medicine and healthcare. Writing books, giving keynotes globally and communicating about the results through social media are just side effects. Our job is to build bridges between what’s possible today and which science fiction technologies could become real in the future. The purpose of science fiction (besides cognitively entertaining us) is to push the boundaries of science. Science fiction always asks the question, “why not?” and encourages us to keep expanding our scientific knowledge. This notion is my constant inspiration when thinking about the future of healthcare.

What are the most disruptive health technologies that you think the pharma industry should keep an eye on?

We need an innovative pharma industry. The world of technology is changing medicine and healthcare so fast that pharma must find new solutions to thrive on – that also still ensures that products are safe and regulated.

One interesting technology is gamification, which could perhaps help improve both adherence and pharma’s image. Look at the effect a game like Pokemon Go had on people’s lives – it got people off the couch and outside, taking, the literal first steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

Augmented reality and virtual reality, with devices such as Google’s digital contact lenses or Oculus Rift, are also technologies to watch because they present a new view of the world through digital information. If you have ever had a chance to use a virtual reality device then you can compare the attractiveness of information on a website versus seeing how a drug works in 3D, and realize the potential that virtual reality holds for pharma. The experience is so strong you will surely not forget it anytime soon. And isn’t that what we need to do to keep on top in a world overloaded with information?

Another technology to consider is body sensors (inside and out) that measure health parameters in a comfortable and cheap way to provide crucial biological data. The success of clinical trials largely depends on how medical professionals collect data about their patients. Imagine this being solved and made constant and automatic by increasing the use of health sensors. If pharma changes the method of gathering data as we know it now then the cost-benefit could be immense.

All of this said, we need to keep up to date and stay vigilant about the strides technology makes to be able to truly enjoy the benefits.

If you were to make a call to action of the pharma industry, what would it be?

I’m passionate about patient empowerment and patient design. Both are perspectives that have changed how healthcare has been delivered over the course of hundreds of years. Patient empowerment makes patients equal partners with their caregivers. Patient design simply involves patients in designing products and processes for them. Companies need to acknowledge patient empowerment and add patient design to whatever they are developing. Traditional drug development is not enough anymore. Digital health solutions can better enable worldwide compliance, but developing digital health is only possible by listening to patient needs. And this is where I see the biggest gap in pharma companies.

You will shortly be giving a presentation at an upcoming event on serialization…

Yes. I will be giving a talk on serialization at NEXUS 17. Drug serialization is one of the greatest transformations currently affecting the pharma supply chain and offers many opportunities for innovation and advancement. I will discuss this, as well as the need for science fiction in healthcare, why we don’t have it already, and the positive impact technology can have in helping to shape the future of healthcare and the pharma industry.

What’s your ideal vision for the future of healthcare?

I also write short sci-fi stories – and I wrote one about the vision of future healthcare here (

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About the Author
Stephanie Vine

Making great scientific magazines isn’t just about delivering knowledge and high quality content; it’s also about packaging these in the right words to ensure that someone is truly inspired by a topic. My passion is ensuring that our authors’ expertise is presented as a seamless and enjoyable reading experience, whether in print, in digital or on social media. I’ve spent fourteen years writing and editing features for scientific and manufacturing publications, and in making this content engaging and accessible without sacrificing its scientific integrity. There is nothing better than a magazine with great content that feels great to read.

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