It occurred to me that in my position performing, directing and reviewing market research on a global scale that it would be worthwhile to highlight recent insights that have come to me regarding the global medical technology market. Some of these insights, of course, may only be meaningful to me (and those who have a perspective on medtech markets similar to mine), but I hope that some insights may be useful to some of my niche audiences in medtech. Keep in mind that some of the insights I have come from proprietary sources, whose identities I am not able to reveal (lest they elect to no longer do business with me!), but I will nonetheless reveal as much non-proprietary information as I can.
- The global economy is down from two years ago, but is measurably if not significantly up from one year ago. I gauge this based on the overall level of business we directly receive and the feedback my authors receive from researching medtech companies. This should be no surprise to anyone who reads other business news on a regular basis.
- U.S. markets, for a number of reasons, seem to be lagging markets in the global economy in this period of economic recovery. If I simply use the measure of the number of medtech company inquiries to us originating from U.S. versus OUS companies, I have seen a clear trend that started with a global decline in 2008 followed by a flat 2009 followed by a steady growth in inquiries from OUS companies in 2010 and relative smattering of U.S. company inquiries. Why this is so may be the subject of countless speculation, but one reason, I believe [insert personal insight here] is that OUS companies (whose pockets weren't so deep as those in the US) felt the hit of the global recession before the US companies and they sooner ran out of patience waiting for markets to rebound, electing instead to move forward on product development, market development and other initiatives.
- The trend of OUS emerging from the global recession before the US is one that runs counter to the other truth I see, which is that the U.S. is almost universally a market leader (with the exception of areas like cell therapy, in which academia and business OUS has been more than happy to push forward in research while the U.S. vacillates between right- and left-wing politics). Almost without fail, I continue to see the most advanced technologies emerging principally from US rather than OUS companies.
- There has been more activity emerging from China and (rogue island) Taiwan in medtech over the past two years than I have ever seen. This activity — purchase of market research, formation of companies or commercialization in general — has a concentration in academic organizations or institutes apparently seeking to commercialize research discoveries originating from "pure" research.
- Hope springs eternal in the U.S. Despite two full years of economic woes in the U.S., a surprisingly steady stream of new medtech companies continue to be founded, as entrepreneurs commit to the commercialization of technologies they see warranting the rigorous development, clinical testing, FDA and other hurdles en route to the market. But to temper the idea that in the US there is a greater abundance of adventurous entrepreneurs, I must note that a remarkable number of new companies in the US recently have been started by serial entrepreneurs, who have so often previously run the gauntlet demanded of startups that they are fully prepped to make new runs with new technologies.
- Minimally invasive is minimally invasive (is better). Lower long term cost is better. With few real "untapped" clinical targets being the subject of new medtech development, the vast majority of activity is clearly centered around improvements in care that lend to the argument of better clinical outcomes and/or reduced cost of patient care. The thrust of R&D is on yielding advantages that reduce invasiveness, speed the treatment process and/or time to healing or simply provide competitive clinical costs at or lower than alternatives.
- Notwithstanding the prevalence of developments noted above, in reducing cost/invasiveness, there are distinct areas of new technology development that center on providing outcomes where few, if any, effective therapies existed previously. A good point (perhaps the most salient example) is in cell therapies, deriving from autologous, embryonic or adult stem cell technologies. Despite ongoing ethical/policy/legal battles regarding embryonic stem cells, cell therapy has moved rapidly to the foreground as one of the most significant drivers of new technologies soon to spawn therapies for previously untreated diseases. While this field may certainly characterized as simply being en vogue, and is therefore only momentarily benefiting financially from recent attention, there are very real advances in the science and technology of cell therapies that are moving these to clinical and market fruition.
These are some of the insights I have picked up and can reveal from our market research. It would certainly be intriguing to me to hear what readers have themselves witness that either corroborates, or refutes, what I see.