The past year has seen a surge in innovation in the medical and life science fields. Newly published patent application and granted patents reveal applications of artificial intelligence software as a medical device, and nanotechnology to these fields.

In 2017, IBM received a patent for drug discovery using machine learning. U.S. Patent No. 9,536,194 is directed to a system and method for analyzing chemical data. The artificial intelligence uses machine learning to predict whether a given chemical can treat a particular condition including a predictive module to determine whether a given chemical could be used to treat a given disease and what side effects are likely to occur. The ’194 patent is an example of the growing use of artificial intelligence in drug discovery and computational chemistry.

The use of nanotechnology in drug delivery has also seen a marked rise. U.S. Patent No. 9,925,149, issued in 2018, discloses the use of nanoparticles to deliver nutraceuticals and bioactive compounds across cell membranes and biological barriers. The use of nanoparticles is intended to overcome limitations created by the body’s reactions.

Software and software applications are increasingly being applied to the medical device and health tracking fields. Apple recently obtained a patent directed to an “electronic device that computes health data.” U.S. Patent No. 9,723,993 is directed to an electronic device including a camera and sensors to compute the health data of the user. Of note, the patent’s illustrations show Apple’s iPhone performing this function. Oxygen saturation, pulse rate, and perfusion index are among the tracked conditions identified in the patent.

Virtual reality and augmented reality also occupy an expanding role in the medical field. The recent publication of an international patent application (PCT/US2016/056727) discloses the use of augmented reality for surgical navigation. The disclosed AR system creates a multi-dimensional patient-specific model. This virtual model would be combined with a live feed of the patient during the surgery, providing additional information to the surgeon during a procedure.

Intellectual property will continue to reflect the technology advances in the medical and life science fields, promising interesting patents and publications in the year to come.