BBC World News Horizons examines global burden of fighting disease

Date: 30.04.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 17.49
Category: BBC World News
In the fifth episode of the series, Adam Shaw talks to Lord Professor Ara Darzi about the increasing global burden of disease, and how the nature of disease is changing as we all live longer.

Professor Darzi, until recently a British Health Minister, now specialises in robot-assisted surgery at Imperial College London. He has been at the forefront of healthcare innovation for nearly two decades and has pioneered many new technologies.

In this episode, Adam and Professor Darzi discuss how technology has doubled our life expectancy, but as we live longer we are suffering more from diseases like diabetes and cancer.

Professor Darzi said: “Our healthcare systems are designed to treat the sick, it’s a sickness service. When you look at the burden of disease, which is increasing at the moment, which is mostly chronic non-communicable disease, then you will come to the conclusion that’s the wrong model. What we need is a health and a wellbeing service rather than a sickness service.”

Chronic diseases will require new drugs. Horizon’s reporter Dumeetha Luthra travels to Boston in the US to visit the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, where researchers are creating so called “organs on a chip”. Dumeetha is shown a “lung on a chip” containing living, breathing lung cells that have been laid down by using microchip-like printing techniques. The hope is that it could soon be possible to shorten clinical trials by using these chips to test the effectiveness of new drugs at a fraction of the time and costs associated with traditional animal testing.

Diabetes is set to become the biggest chronic disease worldwide and China is already having to cope with huge numbers. An estimated 90 million adults in China are diabetic.

James Chau travels to Shanghai for Horizons and visits the Lilly Research and Development Centre where they are using Chinese medicine and new techniques to treat Type 2 Diabetes.

Finally, back in Boston, Dumeetha Luthra looks at DRACO, a broad-spectrum anti-viral drug, which could be a ‘Penicillin moment’ in the treatment of viruses. The handful of existing anti-viral drugs tend to be very specific and work against a single virus. DRACO has so far been shown to be effective against 15 different viruses, opening up the possibility in the long-term of a cure for everything from the common cold to HIV and the Ebola virus.

The Horizons series, sponsored by DuPont, airs weekly on Saturdays at 01:30 and 08:30, Sundays at 14:30 and 20:30 (all times GMT).

The sponsorship arrangement was facilitated by BBC Advertising, which sells advertising and sponsorship solutions on behalf of BBC World News and bbc.com.

Further information, online videos and behind the scenes content can be found at www.bbc.com/horizonsbusiness (non-UK only) or follow Horizons on Facebook and/or on twitter at @horizonsbiz.

Notes to Editors

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Broadcasting on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May 2013

For more information contact: Jessica Culshaw, BBC World News at Jessica.Culshaw@bbc.co.uk