Where can you benefit from the brightest minds in healthcare research?
With the success of Covid-19 vaccine programmes around the world, we’ve seen a demarcation between the countries who are reaping the rewards of decades of investment in science, technology and medicine and those who haven’t. So, which countries are hotbeds for medical progress and whose populations will benefit from their breakthroughs?
We’ve looked at three factors to determine the top nations for medical research. Nobel prizes won, number of papers published since 1996 and average number of citations per paper (being referenced by other scientists gives an indication of the quality of the papers). And to give you a taste of what’s on the agenda, we’ll highlight a few doctors and scientists in each country who are running critical research behind the scenes.
And so, in no particular order:
The home of so many medical discoveries and innovations throughout history, including antibiotics, the smallpox vaccine, IVF, general anaesthetic and the hip replacement – to name but a few. It also boasts the most famous free healthcare system in the world – the NHS. Established in 1948, it was the first time anywhere in the world that completely free healthcare was made available on the basis of citizenship rather than the payment of fees or insurance.
After the US, the UK holds the most medical Nobel Prizes, with 31. British medical researchers have published over 1.3 million papers and each one has an average of 29 citations.
In terms of research being made today, the UK is a leading voice in immunology, especially as it relates to stem cell research. Prof. Persis Amrolia at UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London, is researching how to genetically re-engineer children’s immune cells to attack leukemia, and early results “show unprecedented complete response rates in otherwise incurable patients,” which is incredibly exciting news.
As the biggest economy in the world, it’s pretty obvious America would turn up on this list. Although healthcare is expensive in the US, it has the reputation for being one of the best in the world. In fact, they have the most Nobel Prizes for medicine by far with 102, they have published 4.5 million medical research papers, and each has an average 31 citations.
One of the most exciting areas of research being made in the US today, is in gene therapy. Mark Tuszynski, professor of neuroscience at the University of California, researches how it can be used to treat dementia. Earlier this year, he started a three-year trial to deliver a gene to Alzheimer’s patients that helps cells produce a protective molecule that will stop the spread of the disease in the brain, meaning patients will not get any worse with their memory loss or cognitive decline.
Germany boasts one of the oldest public healthcare systems in the world, dating as far back as 1883 to Otto von Bismarck’s Sickness Insurance Law. Today, healthcare is still mostly funded by the government (at 77%).
Last year, the German government set aside €13 billion to support medical innovations and technology. This was on top of tax cuts for companies heavily investing in research and development.
Attitudes like this have helped Germany build one of the most robust science and technology industries in the world, and its medical prowess is proven by the stats. It has the third most medical Nobel Prize winners in the world with 17, German medical researchers have published 1 million papers, and they each have an average 25 citations per paper.
The country’s research into stem cell treatments for cancer is gathering attention. German researchers have found that treating women with breast cancer using a combination of high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplants improved outcomes by up to 16% when compared with conventional chemotherapy without the stem cell transplants.
Canada is a well-known comparison with the US healthcare system. It offers publicly funded healthcare through its Medicare / Assurance-Maladie system, paid for through taxes and free at the point of use.
With four medical Nobel Prizes under their belts, 650,000 papers published and a whopping average 32 citations per paper, they are heavyweights in their own right.
As the discoverers of stem cells, we have a lot to be thankful for. As discoverers of insulin, diabetics around the world celebrate them and as pioneers of the mobile blood transfusion, many soldiers wounded on the battlefield owe them their lives.
Today, 100 years after they discovered insulin, a joint Canada-UK team is researching how new drugs can work by testing them on 30,000 genetic samples. By doing this, they are pioneering a highly personalised approach to diabetes treatment, and driving precision medicine forward.
As the world starts to open up again, and you’re thinking about your or your family’s future healthcare, you could do worse than to take a trip to one of these countries and check the place out for yourself.