While this is separately a White Paper that I wrote and periodically re-write to reflect new stuff being developed (or progressing in that development), it is worthwhile to occasionally revisit the list of technologies that have real promise, especially if that promise is getting closer to reality, or only if the demand is simply getting greater.
- Ablation and other high energy technologies. What used to be handled by scalpel when my father did general surgery, is now increasingly being accomplished using energy-driven modalities that provide other tissue effects that a sharp metal blade alone could never do. These technologies are therefore growing in both the penetration of traditional surgical procedures and the expansion to clinical applications.
- Nanotech and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). It is actually a gross oversimplification to use a word like "nanotech" and imply that you are talking about one type of technology. The only thing common to nanotech is size; every manner of material, construction, function and clinical benefit is part of this area. The pace of development is striking.
- Drug-device hybrids. Just a few of the applications of combining drugs and devices in a single device include localized drug-delivery that avoids toxic, systemic dosages and vastly improved biocompatibility of existing devices. These two options alone represent multiple enormous markets. Now, naked metal (or other) implants seem almost barbaric.
- Bioresorbable materials. Polymer and other materials technologies are enabling the development of implants and other devices that conveniently go away when they are no longer needed. Already a significant market force in areas like bone growth in orthopedics, bioresorbable stents and other implants are proving their worth in cardiology and urology.
- Atherosclerotic plaque-reversing drugs. When Pfizer divested itself of Esperion Therapeutics, it did not bode the end of this striking new drug approach to atherosclerosis, it simply illustrated the persistent challenge of drug development. Here, it should be kept in mind that, the bigger the potential payout, based on huge clinical need (e.g., drug solution to the device intensive treatment of coronary artery disease), the more likely it is only a matter of time before the product reaches the market. The jury is out on the "when" part, not the "if".
- Rational therapeutics. This is the holy grail thinking behind the development of many, many biotech products. If one can develop a cure — a direct resolution of the underlying biological defect or deficiency in disease — and not just the symptoms, then one has changed the market in paradigm ways. The hurdle and the payoffs are huge.
- Tissue engineering technologies. We have begun to be able to develop tissue engineered organs of increasing complexity — skin, bladders and rudimentary pancreases — and the benefits of these are huge.
- RFID. There is little, really, that is sophisticated about radiofrequency identification devices, but their rapid integration into medical technologies of a wide range (tagging surgical instruments so they don’t get left behind, implants that enable external identification or even status, other types) will extend the utility and value of medical devices.
- Noninvasive glucose monitoring. Optimizing care for diabetes means, at a minimum, very frequent (5-10) checks per day of blood glucose. This many finger pricks per year by the total number of diabetics globally (a rapidly growing number at that) who clearly would benefit from noninvasive monitoring reveals the value of this opportunity. Capturing that opportunity means the combined success of both technology and cost.
- Infection control. This area is a top area, not for the sigificant technologies that have been developed, but the enormous demand for them. Between rapidly emerging problems like methicillin-resistant staph aureus (MRSA), the resurgence of tuberculosis, the enormous costs of nosocomial infections and other infection-related challenges, infection control is an enormous, global opportunity.
- Spine surgery. The nature of the human spine, constructed of bone that needs to be both flexible and strong, demands device-intensive solutions. The growing patient population of active, older adults is ratcheting the pressure on technologies to be less invasive, provide greater range of motion, last longer, cost less — all of which drives innovation in spine surgical technologies.
- Obesity treatment technologies. Technology solutions to the increasingly prevalant problem of obesity are imperfect, but still are frequently better solutions for the obese than an alternative that may ultimately also encompass heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other problems. Diverse drug and device alternatives have been developed and the trend in obesity incidence will simply drive their continued development.
Other forces are at work driving the above technologieis including, of course, cost containment, the integration of information technologies in both medical product and development process and the globalized economy.
The above topics are covered in various MedMarket Diligence reports. See our list of titles.