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Burrill predicts health care will get personal by 2020

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Health care was placed in G. Steven Burrill’s line of vision for his 2008 BIO presentation, "A 20/20 vision to 2020."

He saw major industry shifts over the next 12 years, with health care becoming more personalized and refocusing on treating wellness instead of sickness.

Burrill, as CEO of Burrill & Co., spoke to a full house Wednesday at the Bio International Convention at the San Diego Convention Center about health care changes he expects to see sooner rather than later.

“For thousands of years, patients waited till they were sick to go to a healer where they either got better or died,” Burrill said. “That will all change.”

Burrill re-introduced Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) as the next one-stop shop for consumer health care needs. The major distribution centers will take blood, genotype each individual and give out pills. They will even have shirts with sensors for patients to wear so the can be monitored as they go about their day.

These "minute clinics" will be staffed by nurse practitioners because doctors will not be needed due to the massive amount of information available online, Burrill said. The average consumer will be able to utilize this form of health care at a much lower cost and on a more personalized level thanks to new diagnostic and monitoring systems.

The new systems will work off of biomarkers to determine the molecular links for most diseases and all individuals will undergo genetic screening to understand diseases at a biochemical level.

“It will be the beginning of an era of molecular medicine," Burrill said. "They will no longer be treating diseases but mutations.”

Mutation-specific medicine will enhance the personalized angle of health care. Nano devices will be placed in blood vessels, which will have the power to properly diagnose patients.

“The technology for these changes already exists today, the only thing left to do is to integrate them into our current health care system,” Burrill said.

The United States is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies and currently ranks low on the global scale of health care systems, costing twice as more as it does compared to other countries, according to Burrill. It is likely these health care changes will be applied in other areas of the world first, he added.

Another major shift is from patients relying on their doctor’s knowledge to self-care. The mass of information online will far outweigh a doctor’s knowledge. Genetic networks and bio-banks will be able to crunch medical information based upon the individual’s personal history and genetic makeup to diagnose and suggest treatments.

There also will be digestible or disposable chips that can explain what activity is going on in a body, making consumers more responsible for self-care with help from WebMD (Nasdaq: WBMD) and Google Health (Nasdaq: GOOG) to self-diagnose.

“By 2020, babies will have chips placed under the skin so they can be biotyped at birth,” Burrill said. Throughout their life, personal health information will be stored on these chips.

Medicine also will change drastically by 2020. According to Burrill, 50 percent of prescribed medicines do not work as they are intended, and over the next year, drug approval will become much more difficult.

“Nutraceuticals -- medical food -- will become even larger than the drug world,” Burill said.

Changes in the food chain will be dramatic. The effects are already being felt in school meals, organic foods and the removal of trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. The United States will undergo a behavioral change of focusing on health and fitness for life.

As these changes take shape, the pharmaceutical and biotech clusters in San Diego, Boston and the Bay Area will become less important as the industry shifts to a more global level.

Send your comments to Christine.Meade@sddt.com

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