The Medical Technology Future as Defined by Startups

Not every start-up succeeds. But every single successful medical technology company was once a start-up. From a primary consideration, start-up companies have been founded based on: (1) what technologies they consider possible, and (2) the need for clinical solutions to problems that exist in health care. For this reason, we look at the range of technologies under development, the common themes that exist among them and what this implies about the future medical product industry.The two drivers of start-ups — current technology possibilities and current/emerging/future clinical need —can often drive each other, with technology possibilities creating demand, and with changing clinical need (e.g. the aging population) demanding technology solutions. Predicting the future can, therefore, often be accomplished by anticipating the technology response to the clinical need or, conversely, predicting the emerging demand resulting from new technologies.

The Range of Clinical and Technology Focus at Startups

Taking a sampling of newly formed medtech start-ups (see Database), one can see the trends and the opportunities emerging. In the MedMarket Diligence Medtech Startups Database, which categorizes companies by areas of clinical and/or technology focus, common threads appear in the technologies of start-ups, indicating the clinical demand and technology possibilities. While the categories below do not reflect all categories of clinical/technology focus in medtech (nor all categories in the Medtech Startups Database), they are illustrative of a broad range of technologies at start-ups.

BLOOD, ORGAN & TISSUE. This represents an enormously active area, principally because of steady advances in cell biology, tissue engineering and the ever-controversial stem cell therapy. These include advances in basic science that, in turn, precipitate commercial development, as well as advances by medical technology entrepreneurs in applying blood, organ and tissue technologies to clinical problems. Two areas of significant activity are in: (1) dermatology, wound management and plastic surgery, and (2) application to treatments of ischemic heart disease.

In the first case, the application of tissue/cell technologies to aesthetics and wound management come as the result of the relative ease of developing tissue that replaces skin, fills dermal defects or accomplishes less challenging functional goals than is the case with tissue-engineered internal organs (pancreas, kidney, liver). In the second case, ischemic heart disease is one which, despite (or simply because of) the enormous market success of CABG and interventional cardiology (angioplasty, stenting), there remains strong demand for effective clinical solutions. The recent late stage thrombosis problem associated with drug-eluting stents simply furthers the drive for new technology solutions.

Common threads:
– Dermatology/aesthetics/plastic surgery, wound management and plastic surgery
– Cardiac applications (e.g., treatment of ischemia)
– Organ replacement technologies (e.g., pancreas, kidney, liver)

CARDIOVASCULAR THERAPEUTICS. Heart disease represents a huge market potential that will remain until “cures” are possible, and while genome therapeutics may one day accomplish this, for now there remains tremendous demand for medical technology device solutions. The drivers behind development are to reduce restenosis (without late stage thrombosis), create solutions that are increasingly less invasive (e.g., percutaneous bypass or valve replacement) and further penetrate the surgery-only option with minimally invasive approaches (e.g., percutaneous treatment of chronic total obstruction).

Common threads:
– Stents, of course
– Chronic total occlusion
– Minimally invasive valve replacement/repair
– Treatment of congestive heart failure

INTERVENTIONAL RADIOLOGY AND VASCULAR SURGERY. Interventional radiology/vascular surgery procedures, being the less demanding (i.e., less acute) caseload served by many of the same technologies used in interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery, still represents a strong area of potential, if only for the ability to retool (or just re-market) many technologies originally developed for interventional cardiology and cardiac surgery applications. For this reason, the use of peripheral stenting for vascular as well as nonvascular (e.g., ductal therapies as in urology) represent strong growth areas for the future. Separately, (and with no analogous cardiac application), there is strong demand for products in the treatment for deep vein thrombosis.

Common threads:
– Deep vein thrombosis
– Chronic total occlusions
– Peripheral stenting

MINIMALLY INVASIVE THERAPY. Virtually all procedures that were accomplished previously by open surgery, and many that are already being performed by a less invasive approach, are targets of development to perform the same procedures even less invasively. With the increased sophistication of percutaneous technology, endoscope technology and the growing potential for non-device technologies to compete head-on with device technologies, there really is no stopping the “less invasive” juggernaut. It is driving growth in procedures and technologies in nearly every clinical sector.

Common threads:
– Valve repair
– Coronary artery bypass
– Ablation technologies
– Orthopedic/musculoskeletal surgery
– Spine surgery

ORTHOPEDIC/MUSCULOSKELETAL. The orthopedic and musculoskeletal treatment arenas have seen challenges in reimbursement (read “reduction in profit margins”) that have driven the pursuit of improvements in devices to sustain premium pricing (biocompatibility, less invasiveness of procedures) and/or lower the costs of innovation (to widen the margin). However, the market has also seen the innovative development of traditional orthopedic technologies (fracture fixation, joint replacement/repair) being applied to small bone and joints. These are not huge markets, but do represent upside for companies in orthopedics facing shrinking opportunity in traditional markets.

Common threads:
– Small bone work
– Small joint replacement/repair
– Biomaterial (grafts, ceramics, polymers, etc.)
– Tissue engineering, cell scaffolds

UROGENITAL. This category encompasses a wide range of clinical applications and technologies, many of which have strong growth potential. Treatments for urinary incontinence span bulking agents, surgical procedures, device solutions, drugs and others, all targeting a caseload that has been ill-served in the past, leaving much latent demand. Benign prostatic hypertrophy is the subject of many different technology solutions, from surgery, to various ablative technologies, to drugs, and even “watchful waiting.” Until one or more technologies prove themselves far superior to alternatives, there will be incentive for new technologies. The urogenital arena is also particularly well-suited, given the sophistication of urologists in performing advanced clinical procedures, for the application of a whole range of ablative technologies (cryotherapy, RF, microwave, thermal therapy, laser, etc.) to treatments for fibroid tumors, endometriosis, BPH and others.

Common threads:
– Incontinence
– Fibroid tumors
– Ablation therapies applied to urogenital applications (fibroid tumors, endometriosis, BPH)

New technologies and new solutions of any type to clinical demand are not the exclusive mandate of start-up companies. Indeed, companies like Medtronic, J&J, Boston Scientific and many others are highly proficient in developing new products that capitalize on new technology possibilities while competitively responding to clinical demand.

However, start-up companies hold a certain value in gauging future medtech markets for their tendency to focus on new technologies in which they see clinical opportunity as being so significant that they are not just introducing a new product, but they are founding a new company to do so. With such commitment being demonstrated, it is therefore well worth paying attention to their activities.

Startups Database Screen Shot of Search ResultsMedMarket Diligence’s Medtech Startups Database is a live resource of newly established medical product companies (adding 10-15 new companies per month and updating existing company data) with focus on medical devices, biotech, biomaterials and others competing in frequently overlapping clinical applications. (See details.)  The complete listing of clinical/technologies covered include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Biomaterials
  • Biotechnology
  • Blood, organ, tissue
  • Cardiovascular Diagnostics
  • Cardiovascular Therapeutics
  • Critical Care
  • Dental/Oral Surgery
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Diagnostics
  • Drug Delivery
  • Drug Discovery
  • Interventional Radiology / Vascular Surgery
  • Minimally Invasive Technology
  • Neurology/Neurosurgery
  • Oncology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopedics/Musculoskeletal
  • Patient Monitoring
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Surgery
  • Urogenital
  • Wound

Tags: medtech, startups


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