The future of medicine in 2037

In the post below from 2016, we wrote of what we can expect for medicine 20 years into the future. We review and revise it anew here.

An important determinant of “where medicine will be” in 2035 is the set of dynamics and forces behind healthcare delivery systems, including primarily the payment method, especially regarding reimbursement. It is clear that some form of reform in healthcare will result in a consolidation of the infrastructure paying for and managing patient populations. The infrastructure is bloated and expensive, unnecessarily adding to costs that neither the federal government nor individuals can sustain. This is not to say that I predict movement to a single payer system — that is just one perceived solution to the problem. There are far too many costs in healthcare that offer no benefits in terms of quality; indeed, such costs are a true impediment to quality. Funds that go to infrastructure (insurance companies and other intermediaries) and the demands they put on healthcare delivery work directly against quality of care. So, in the U.S., whether the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) persists (most likely) or is replaced with a single payer system, state administered healthcare (exchanges) or some other as-yet-unidentified form, there will be change in how healthcare is delivered from a cost/management perspective.  -[Editor’s note: After multiple attempts by the GOP to “repeal and replace”, the strengths of Obamacare have outweighed its weaknesses in the minds of voters who have thus voiced their opinions to their representatives, many seeking reelection in 2018.]

From the clinical practice and technology side, there will be enormous changes to healthcare. Here are examples of what I see from tracking trends in clinical practice and medical technology development:

  • Cancer 5 year survival rates will, for many cancers, be well over 90%. Cancer will largely be transformed in most cases to chronic disease that can be effectively managed by surgery, immunology, chemotherapy and other interventions. Cancer and genomics, in particular, has been a lucrative study (see The Cancer Genome Atlas). Immunotherapy developments are also expected to be part of many oncology solutions. Cancer has been a tenacious foe, and remains one we will be fighting for a long time, but the fight will have changed from virtually incapacitating the patient to following protocols that keep cancer in check, if not cure/prevent it.
    [Editor’s note: Immunology has surged in a wide range of cancer-related research yielding new weapons to cure cancer or render it to routine clinical management.]
  • Diabetes Type 1 (juvenile onset) will be managed in most patients by an “artificial pancreas”, a closed loop glucometer and insulin pump that will self-regulate blood glucose levels. OR, stem cell or other cell therapies may well achieve success in restoring normal insulin production and glucose metabolism in Type 1 patients. The odds are better that a practical, affordable artificial pancreas will developed than stem or other cell therapy, but both technologies are moving aggressively and will gain dramatic successes within 20 years.

Developments in the field of the “artificial pancreas” have recently gathered considerable pace, such that, by 2035, type 1 blood glucose management may be no more onerous than a house thermostat due to the sophistication and ease-of-use made possible with the closed loop, biofeedback capabilities of the integrated glucometer, insulin pump and the algorithms that drive it, but that will not be the end of the development of better options for type 1 diabetics. Cell therapy for type 1 diabetes, which may be readily achieved by one or more of a wide variety of cellular approaches and product forms (including cell/device hybrids) may well have progressed by 2035 to become another viable alternative for type 1 diabetics. [Editor’s note: Our view of this stands, as artificial pancreases are maturing in development and reaching markets. Cell therapy still offers the most “cure-like” result, which is likely to happen within the next 20 years.]

  • Diabetes Type 2 (adult onset) will be a significant problem, governed as it is by different dynamics than Type 1. A large body of evidence will exist that shows dramatically reduced incidence of Type 2 associated with obesity management (gastric bypass, satiety drugs, etc.) that will mitigate the growing prevalence of Type 2, but research into pharmacologic or other therapies may at best achieve only modest advances. The problem will reside in the complexity of different Type 2 manifestation, the late onset of the condition in patients who are resistant to the necessary changes in lifestyle and the global epidemic that will challenge dissemination of new technologies and clinical practices to third world populations.

Despite increasing levels of attention being raised to the burden of type 2 worldwide, including all its sequellae (vascular, retinal, kidney and other diseases), the pace of growth globally in type 2 is still such that it will represent a problem and target for pharma, biotech, medical device, and other disciplines. [Editor’s note: the burden of Type 2 on people, families, communities, and governments globally should motivate policy, legislation, and other action, but global initiatives have a long way to travel.]

  • Cell therapy and tissue engineering will offer an enormous number of solutions for conditions currently treated inadequately, if at all. Below is an illustration of the range of applications currently available or in development, a list that will expand (along with successes in each) over the next 20 years.

    Cell therapy will have deeply penetrated virtually every medical specialty by 2035. Most advanced will be those that target less complex tissues: bone, muscle, skin, and select internal organ tissues (e.g., bioengineered bladder, others). However, development will have also followed the money. Currently, development and use of conventional technologies in areas like cardiology, vascular, and neurology entails high expenditure that creates enormous investment incentive that will drive steady development of cell therapy and tissue engineering over the next 20 years, with the goal of better, more long-term and/or less costly solutions.
  • Gene therapy will be an option for a majority of genetically-based diseases (especially inherited diseases) and will offer clinical options for non-inherited conditions. Advances in the analysis of inheritance and expression of genes will also enable advanced interventions to either ameliorate or actually preempt the onset of genetic disease.

    As the human genome is the engineering plans for the human body, it is a potential mother lode for the future of medicine, but it remains a complex set of plans to elucidate and exploit for the development of therapies. While genetically-based diseases may readily be addressed by gene therapies in 2035, the host of other diseases that do not have obvious genetic components will resist giving up easy gene therapy solutions. Then again, within 20 years a number of reasonable advances in understanding and intervention could open the gate to widespread “gene therapy” (in some sense) for a breadth of diseases and conditions. [Editor’s note: CRISPR and other gene-editing techniques have accelerated the pace at which practical and affordable gene-therapies will reach the market.]
  • Drug development will be dramatically more sophisticated, reducing the development time and cost while resulting in drugs that are far more clinically effective (and less prone to side effects). [Editor’s note: We are revising our optimism about drug development being more sophisticated and streamlined. To a measurable degree, “distributed processing systems” have proven far more exciting in principle than practice, since results — marketable drugs derived this way — have been scant. We remain optimistic as a result of the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning, which have have very credible promise to impact swaths of industry, especially in medicine.]
    This arises from drug candidates being evaluated via distributed processing systems (or quantum computer systems) that can predict efficacy and side effect without need of expensive and exhaustive animal or human testing.The development of effective drugs will have been accelerated by both modeling systems and increases in our understanding of disease and trauma, including pharmacogenomics to predict drug response. It may not as readily follow that the costs will be reduced, something that may only happen as a result of policy decisions.
  • Most surgical procedures will achieve the ability to be virtually non-invasive. Natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (NOTES) will enable highly sophisticated surgery without ever making an abdominal or other (external) incision. Technologies like “gamma knife” and similar will have the ability to destroy tumors or ablate pathological tissue via completely external, energy-based systems. [Editor’s note: In the late 1980s, laparoscopy revolutionized surgery for its less invasiveness. Now, NOTES procedures and external energy technologies (e.g., gamma knife) have now proven to be about as minimally invasive as medical devices can be. To be even less invasive will require development of drugs (including biotechs) that succeed as therapeutic alternatives to any kind of surgery.]

    By 2035, technologies such as these will measurably reduce inpatient stays, on a per capita basis, since a significant reason for overnight stays is the trauma requiring recovery, and eliminating trauma is a major goal and advantage of minimally invasive technologies (e.g., especially the NOTES technology platform). A wide range of other technologies (e.g., gamma knife, minimally invasive surgery/intervention, etc.) across multiple categories (device, biotech, pharma) will also have emerged and succeeded in the market by producing therapeutic benefit while minimizing or eliminating collateral damage.
  • Information technology will radically improve patient management. Very sophisticated electronic patient records will dramatically improve patient care via reduction of contraindications, predictive systems to proactively manage disease and disease risk, and greatly improve the decision-making of physicians tasked with diagnosing and treating patients.There are few technical hurdles to the advancement of information technology in medicine, but even in 2035, infotech is very likely to still be facing real hurdles in its use as a result of the reluctance in healthcare to give up legacy systems and the inertia against change, despite the benefits. [Editor’s note: Before AI and other systems will truly have an impact, IT and its policy for healthcare in the next 10 years will solve the problem of health data residing inertly behind walls that hinder efficient use of the rich, patient-specific knowledge that physicians and healthcare systems might use to improve the quality and cost of care.]
  • Personalized medicine. Perfect matches between a condition and its treatment are the goal of personalized medicine, since patient-to-patient variation can reduce the efficacy of off-the-shelf treatment. The thinking behind gender-specific joint replacement has led to custom-printed 3D implants. The use of personalized medicine will also be manifested by testing to reveal potential emerging diseases or conditions, whose symptoms may be ameliorated or prevented by intervention before onset.
  • Systems biology will underlie the biology of most future medical advances in the next 20 years. Systems biology is a discipline focused on an integrated understanding of cell biology, physiology, genetics, chemistry, and a wide range of other individual medical and scientific disciplines. It represents an implicit recognition of an organism as an embodiment of multiple, interdependent organ systems and its processes, such that both pathology and wellness are understood from the perspective of the sum total of both the problem and the impact of possible solutions.This orientation will be intrinsic to the development of medical technologies, and will increasingly be represented by clinical trials that throw a much wider and longer-term net around relevant data, staff expertise encompassing more medical/scientific disciplines, and unforeseen solutions that present themselves as a result of this approach.Other technologies being developed aggressively now will have an impact over the next twenty years, including medical/surgical robots (or even biobots), neurotechnologies to diagnose, monitor, and treat a wide range of conditions (e.g., spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc.).

The breadth and depth of advances in medicine over the next 20 years will be extraordinary, since many doors have been recently opened as a result of advances in genetics, cell biology, materials science, systems biology and others — with the collective advances further stimulating both learning and new product development. 


See Reports:

Report #290, “Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022.”

Report #S251, “Wound Management to 2024.”

Naturally sticky: Biologically-based medical glues dominate

Medical glues are either biologically-based, cyanoacrylate, or other synthetic. The bulk of global sales of medical glues are biologically-based, (includes fibrin, thrombogen, and others), cyanoacrylate-based glues, and other synthetic glues.

Cyanoacrylate-based glues, include those from Ethicon, Adhezion Biomedical, B. Braun, Meyer-Haake, and others. Cyanoacrylates provide strong adhesion, but biologically-based glues have found more applications, both topically and internally. “Other” glues are of a variety of synthetic types; these glues have yet to gain more than 4% share globally.

Below is illustrated the growth of biologically-based glues by region, showing that most growth in this segment will be from Asia/Pacific markets, which are consistently demonstrating higher growth than in western markets.

Global Markets for Biologically-Based Medical Glues, 2015-2022, USD MillionsSource: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S290. (Order online)

 

What’s next in sealants, glue, hemostats…and why?

From July 2016 published Report #S290.

Here are six key trends we see in the global market next in surgical sealants, glues, and hemostats:

  1. Aggressive development of products (including by universities, startups, established competitors), regulatory approvals, and new product introductions continues in the U.S., Europe, and Asia/Pacific (mostly Japan, Korea) to satisfy the growing volume of surgical procedures globally.
  2. Rapid adoption of sealants, glues, hemostats in China will drive much of the global market for these products, but other nations in the region are also big consumers, with more of the potential caseload already tapped than the rising economic China giant. Japan is a big developer and user of wound product consumer. Per capital demand is also higher in some countries like Japan.
  3. Flattening markets in the U.S. and Europe (where home-based manufacturers are looking more at emerging markets), with Europe in particular focused intently on lowering healthcare costs.
  4. The M&A, and deal-making that has taken place over the past few years (Bristol-Myers Squibb, The Medicines Company, Cohera Medical, Medafor, CR Bard, Tenaxis, Mallinckrodt, Xcede Technologies, etc.) will continue as market penetration turns to consolidation.
  5. Growing development on two fronts: (1) clinical specialty and/or application specific product formulation, and (2) all purpose products that provide faster sealing, hemostasis, or closure for general wound applications for internal and external use.
  6. Bioglues already hold the lead in global medical glue sales, and more are being developed, but there are also numerous biologically-inspired, though not -derived, glues in the starting blocks that will displace bioglue shares. Nanotech also has its tiny fingers in this pie, as well.

See Report #S290, “Worldwide Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats Markets, 2015-2022”.

Bioengineered skin and skin substitutes in wound management

Bioengineered skin was developed because of the need to cover extensive burn injuries in patients who no longer had enough skin for grafting. Not so long ago, a patient with third degree burns over 50% of his body surface usually died from his injuries. That is no longer the case. Today, even someone with 90% total body surface area burn has a good chance of surviving. With the array of bioengineered skin and skin substitutes available today, such products are also finding use for chronic wounds, in order to prevent infection, speed healing and provide improved cosmetic results.

Skin used in wound care may be autograft (from the patient’s own body, as is often the case with burn patients), allograft (cadaver skin), xenogeneic (from animals such as pigs or cows), or a combination of these. Bioengineered skin substitutes are synthetic, although they, too, may be combined with other products. It consists of an outer epidermal layer and (depending on the product) a dermal layer, which are embedded into an acellular support matrix. This product may be autogenic, or from other sources. Currently most commercial bioengineered skin is sheets of cells derived from neonatal allogenic foreskin. This source is chosen for several reasons: because the cells come from healthy newborns undergoing circumcision, and therefore the tissue would have been discarded anyway; foreskin tissue is high in epidermal keratinocyte stem cells, which grow vigorously; and because allergic reactions to this tissue is uncommon.

Bioengineered skin and skin substitutes are on the market and in development by LifeCell (Acelity), Organogenesis, Smith & Nephew, Organogenesis, Vericel Corporation (formerly Aastrom Biosciences), Mölnlycke Health Care, Integra LifeSciences, Smith & Nephew, Stratatech Corporation, A-Skin, University Children’s Hospital, Zurich; EuroSkinGraft.

The market may become more crowded as growth in the adoption of these products draws more competitors. Bioengineered skin and skin substitutes will drive more revenue than any other segment of the broader wound management market.

Growth in Advanced Wound Market Segments, 2014 to 2024

Competitors’ positions in bioengineered skin are variable based on their geographic presence. See shares in the U.S., the UK, and Germany for bioengineered skin & skin substitutes.

 

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S251, “Wound Management to 2024.”

 

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S251, “Wound Management to 2024.”

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S251, “Wound Management to 2024.”

 

Untapped potential for sealants, glues, hemostats in wound caseloads and procedures

Today’s surgeon has a broad range of products from which to choose for closing and sealing wounds. These include sutures, stapling devices, vascular clips, ligatures, and thermal devices, as well as a wide range of topical hemostats, surgical sealants and glues.

However, surgeons still primarily use sutures for wound closure and securement—sutures are cheap, familiar and work most of the time. Now, in addition to reaching for a stapling device, the surgeon must frequently decide at what point to augment or replace the commonly used items in favor of other products, which product is best for what procedure or condition, how much to use, and ease of use in order to achieve optimal patient outcomes. Because of budget pressures, the surgeon must also consider price when selecting a product. Of course in the USA, the product must also be FDA-approved, although the surgeon still has the choice of using a product off-label.

In the areas of sealants, hemostats and glues, there is room for both improvement and additional products.  There are a number of products already on the market, but the fact is that there is no one product that meets all needs in all situations and procedures. There are few products that stand out from the rest, apart, perhaps, from DermaBond® and BioGlue®. There are unmet needs, and companies having the necessary technology, or which may acquire and further develop the technology, can enter this market and launch novel items. These products have yet to significantly tap the potential for wound management and medical/surgical procedures.

Note: Log10 scale; Chronic wounds includes pressure, venous/arterial and diabetic ulcers.

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S290.

Sealants, Fibrin and Others

Numerous variants of fibrin sealant exist, including autologous products. “Other” sealants refers to thrombin, collagen & gelatin-based sealants.

Fibrin sealants are used in the US in a wide array of applications; they are used the most in orthopedic surgeries, where the penetration rate is thought to be 25-30%. Fibrin sealants can, however, be ineffective under wet surgical conditions. The penetration rate in other surgeries is estimated to be about 10-15%.

Fibrin-based sealants were originally made with bovine components. These components were judged to increase the risk of developing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), so second-generation commercial fibrin sealants (CSF) avoided bovine-derived materials. The antifibrinolytic tranexamic acid (TXA) was used instead of bovine aprotinin. Later, the TXA was removed, again due to safety issues. Today, Ethicon’s (JNJ) Evicel is an example of this product, which Ethicon says is the only all human, aprotinin free, fibrin sealant indicated for general hemostasis. Market growth in the Sealants sector is driven by the need for improved biocompatibility and stronger sealing ability—in other words, meeting the still-unsatisfied needs of physician end-users.

High Strength Medical Glues

Similar to that of sealants, the current market penetration of glues in the US is about 25% of eligible surgeries. There are several strong points in favor of the use of medical glues: their use can significantly reduce healthcare costs, for example by reducing time in the surgical suite, reducing the risk of a bleed, which may mean a return trip to the OR, and general ease of use. Patients seem to prefer the glues over receiving sutures for external wound closure, as glues can provide a suture-free method of closing wounds. In addition, if glues are selected over sutures, the physician can avoid the need (and cost) of administering local anesthesia to the wound site.

Hemostats

Hemostats are normally used in surgical procedures only when conventional methics to stop bleeding are ineffective or impractical. The hemostat market offers opportunities as customers seek products that better meet their needs. Above and beyond having hemostatic agents that are effective and reliable, additional improvements that they wish to see in hemostat products include: laparoscopy-friendly; work regardless of whether the patient is on anticoagulants or not; easy to prepare and store, with a long shelf life; antimicrobial; transparent so that the surgeon continues to have a clear field of view; and non-toxic; i.e. preferably not made from human or animal materials.


Drawn from, “Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022:  Established and Emerging Products, Technologies and Markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Rest of World.” Report #S290.

Add tick cement to the list of natural adhesives pursued for medical applications

In past posts, we have reported on multiple naturally-occurring substances or methods for strong adhesion that are being investigated for their potential to be exploited for medical or surgical adhesion. These include adhesives from remora, mussels, geckos, crab shells, barnacles, Australian burrowing frogs, spider webs, porcupine quills, sandcastle worms, etc.

Researchers from MedUni Vienna and Vienna University of Technology are now investigating 300 different ticks for the “cement” used by the parasites to attach to hosts. The goal is to study the composition of the natural tick “dowel” used by the mouthparts of ticks and determine how it might serve as a template for new tissue adhesives.

The Vienna research also notes other natural adhesives are similarly being investigated for medical and surgical use:

Other potential “adhesive donors” are sea cucumbers, which shoot sticky threads out of their sac; species of salamander, which secrete extremely fast-drying adhesive out of skin glands, if attacked; or insect larvae, which produce tentacles or crabs, which can remain firmly “stuck,” even under water.

The incentive for studying natural adhesives is that they have been driven by evolution to provide strong adhesion without toxicity in various wet or dry conditions that are challenging for existing synthetic or existing natural glues (e.g., fibrin glues, cyanoacrylates, etc.). Surgical glues currently in use have some limitation arising from lesser strength, ease of use, toxicity, and other shortcomings. New glues will gain wider adoption, capturing procedure volume used with sutures, clips and other closure methods, particularly in internal use, if they are stronger and/or provide tighter seals (without needing to be combined with sutures on the same incision/wound) and do not cause the toxicity that some high strength medical glues do (e.g., synthetics like cyanoacrylates; “super glues”). The biologically-derived glues (or the surfaces structures of gecko feet) avoid the toxicities of synthetics and have often proven to have very high tensile strength. (The fast-curing cement used by barnacles has been shown to have a remarkable tensile strength of 5,000 pounds per square inch.)

Edit: See also, Biomimetic Glue, based on shellfish natural adhesive.


MedMarket Diligence tracks the technologies, clinical practices, companies, and markets associated with medical and surgical sealants and glues, with the most recent coverage in, “Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022,” (report #S290).

Biologically-based medical glues to start sticking in A/P

The bulk of medical/surgical glues are biologically-based, and soon the bulk of medical glue sales will come from Asia/Pacific.

The two graphs below show the changes in regional shares in biologically-based glues. It can be seen that from 2015 to 2022, the US and Asia-Pacific will practically switch places in terms of revenue share per region. This significant change will come about because of the intensive and enormous healthcare modernization taking place in the PRC. In 2012, the Chinese government announced its 12th five-year plan which includes the construction of 20,000 new hospital and healthcare facilities.

Source: Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022:  Established and Emerging Products, Technologies and Markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia/Pacific and Rest of World (Report #S290).

Investment in medtech and biotech: Outlook

Medtech and biotech investment is driven by an expectation of returns, but rapid advances in technology simultaneously drive excitement for their application while increasing the uncertainty in what is needed to bring those applications in the market.

MedMarket Diligence has tracked technology developments and trends in advanced medical technologies, inclusive of medical devices and the range of other technologies — in biotech, pharma, others — that impact, drive, limit, or otherwise affect markets for the management of disease and trauma. This broader perspective on new developments and a deeper understanding of their limitations is important for a couple of reasons:

  1. Healthcare systems and payers are demanding competitive cost and outcomes for specific patient populations, irrespective of technology type — it’s the endpoint that matters. This forces medical devices into de facto competition with biotech, pharma, and others.
  2. Medical devices are becoming increasingly intelligent medical devices, combining “smart” components, human-device interfaces, integration of AI in product development and products.
  3. Medical devices are rarely just “medical devices” anymore, often integrating embedded drugs, bioresorable materials, cell therapy components, etc.
  4. Many new technologies have dramatically pushed the boundaries on what medicine can potentially accomplish, from the personalized medicine enabled by genomics, these advances have served to create bigger gaps between scientific advance and commercial reality, demanding deeper understanding of the science.

The rapid pace of technology development across all these sectors and the increasing complexity of the underlying science are factors complicating the development, regulatory approval, and market introduction of advanced technologies. The unexpected size and number of the hurdles to bring these complex technologies to the market have been responsible for investment failures, such as:

  • Theranos. Investors were too ready to believe the disruptive ideas of its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. When it became clear that data did not support the technology, the value of the company plummeted.
  • Juno Therapeutics. The Seattle-based gene therapy company lost substantial share value after three patients died on a clinical trial for the company’s cell therapy treatments that were just months away from receiving regulatory approval in the US.
  • A ZS Associates study in 2016 showed that 81% of medtech companies struggle to receive an adequate return on investment

As a result, investment in biotech took a correctional hit in 2016 to deflate overblown expectations. Medtech, for its part, has seen declining investment, especially at early stages, reflecting an aversion to uncertainty in commercialization.

Below are clinical and technology areas that we see demonstrating growth and investment opportunity, but still represent challenges for executives to navigate their remaining development and commercialization obstacles:

  • Cell therapies
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Type I diabetes
    • Arthritis
    • Burn victims
    • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Diabetes
    • Artificial pancreas
    • Non-invasive blood glucose measurement
  • Tissue engineering and regeneration
    • 3D printed organs
  • Brain-computer and other nervous system interfaces
    • Nerve-responsive prosthetics
    • Interfaces for patients with locked-in syndrome to communicate
    • Interfaces to enable (e.g., Stentrode) paralyzed patients to control devices
  • Robotics
    • Robotics in surgery (advancing, despite costs)
    • Robotic nurses
  • Optogenetics: light modulated nerve cells and neural circuits
  • Gene therapy
    • CRISPR
  • Localized drug delivery
  • Immuno-oncology
    • Further accelerated by genomics and computational approaches
    • Immune modulators, vaccines, adoptive cell therapies (e.g., CAR-T)
  • Drug development
    • Computational approaches to accelerate the evaluation of drug candidates
    • Organ-on-a-chip technologies to decrease the cost of drug testing

Impact on investment

  • Seed stage and Series A investment in med tech is down, reflecting an aversion to early stage uncertainty.
  • Acquisitions of early stage companies, by contrast, are up, reflecting acquiring companies to gain more control over the uncertainty
  • Need for critical insight and data to ensure patient outcomes at best costs
  • Costs of development, combined with uncertainty, demand that if the idea’s upside potential is only $10 million, then it’s time to find another idea
  • While better analysis of the hurdles to commercialization of advanced innovations will support investment, many medtech and biotech companies may opt instead for growth of established technologies into emerging markets, where the uncertainty is not science-based

 

Below is illustrated the fundings by category in 2015 and 2016, which showed a consistent drop from 2015 to 2016, driven by a widely acknowledged correction in biotech investment in 2016.

*For the sake of comparing other segments, the wound fundings above exclude the $1.8 billion IPO of Convatec in 2016.

Source: Compiled by MedMarket Diligence, LLC.

 

Forgotten Opportunities: Early Stage Biotech and Medtech Investment

Due to the uncertainty in the development, clinical testing, and regulatory approval of both biotech and medical technologies, which increasingly have to be viewed with the same competitive lens, investors have over the past few years shied away from seed stage or Series A stage company investment in favor of those nearer to market introduction. However, with the advent of a great number of new technologies and advances in the underlying science, there is enormous opportunity to identify companies and emerging sectors arising from these advances. The problem in identifying realistically promising companies is that it must be done so without falling prey to the bad investment practices in the past that ensued from a poor understanding of the technologies and their remaining commercial hurdles. Without careful consideration of remaining scientific development needed, the product’s target market, its competitors, and the sum total of the company’s capabilities to commercialize these technologies, investment in these areas will fall short of investment objectives or fail them outright.

While any of these considerations have the capacity to preempt a successful market introduction, a failure to understand the science behind the product and its remaining development hurdles to commercialization is likely to be the biggest cause of failure.

“We’ve already had one glaring example of a company, and its investors, learning the hard way that health and science advisors are important: Theranos.” (link)

Venture Capital has backed away from early stage investment

Earlier stage investment, with its higher risk, has higher potential reward, so there is a big need for more effective evaluation of potential early stage investments in order to (1) seize these opportunities that will otherwise potentially be lost with the shift to later stage fundings, (2) sort out those companies/technologies with overwhelming commercialization hurdles from those that will profitably tap an opportunity, and (3) gain the value of these opportunities before the innovation appreciates in value, driving up the price of the investment.

The Biotech Bubble

Biotech in the 1980s was enamored with companies pursuing “magic bullets” — technologies that had the potential to cure cancer or heart disease or other conditions with large, untapped or under-treated populations. With few exceptions, these all-in-one-basket efforts were only able achieve a measure of humility in the VCs who had poured volumes of money into them.

Here was evidenced a fundamental problem with biotech at a time when true scientific milestones were being reached, including successes in mapping the human genome: Landmark scientific milestones do not equate with commercial success.

As a result, money fled from biotech as few products could make it to market due to persistent development and FDA hurdles. By the late 1980s, many biotechs saw three quarters of their value disappear.

A Renewed Bubble?

The status of biomedical science and technology, with multiple synergistic developments, will lead to wild speculation and investment, potentially leading to yet another investment bubble. However, there will be advances that can point to real timelines for market introduction that will support investment.

Recent advances, developments and trends supporting emerging therapeutics

  1. Stem cells. A double-edged sword in that these do represent some the biggest therapeutics that will emerge, yet caution is advised since the mechanisms to control stem cells are not always sufficient to prevent their nasty tendency to become carcinogenic.
  2. Drug discovery models, such as using human “organoids” and other cell-based models to test or screen new drugs.
  3. Systems to accelerate the rapid evaluation of hundreds, perhaps, thousands of potential drugs before moving to animal models or preclinicals.
    1. Machine-learning algorithms
    2. Cell/tissue/organ models
    3. Meta-analysis, the practice of analyzing multiple, independently produced clinical data to draw conclusions from the broader dataset.
  4. Cross-discipline science
    1. cell biologists, immunologists, molecular biologists and others have a better understanding of pathology and therapeutics as a result of information sharing; plus BIG DATA (e.g., as part of the “Cancer Moonshot”). Thought leaders have called for collection and harnessing of patient data on a large scale and centralized for use in evaluating treatments for specific patients and cancer types.
    2. Artificial intelligence applied to diagnosis and prescribed therapeutics (e.g., IBM Watson).
    3. Examples of resulting therapies, at a minimum, include multimodal treatment – e.g., radiotherapy and immunotherapy – but more often may be represented in considerably more backend research and testing to identify and develop products with greater specificity, greater efficacy, and lowered risk of complications.
  5. Materials science developments, selected examples:
    1. Scaffolds in tissue engineering
    2. Microgels
    3. Graphene
    4. Polyhedral boranes
    5. Nanometric imprinting on fiber
    6. Knitted muscles to provide power link
    7. 3-D printed skin and more complex organs to come
    8. Orthopedic scaffolds made from electrospun nanofibers
  6. CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy)
  7. CRISPR/Cas-9. Gene editing
    1. Removal, insertion of individual genes responsible for disease
    2. Potential use for creating chimeras of human and other (e.g., pig) species in order to, for example, use pigs for growing human organs for transplant.
  8. Smart devices: smart biopsy needles, surgical probes to detect cancer margins, artificial pancreas. Devices using information

 

We sum this up with these prerequisites for investment:

Prerequisites for Early Stage Med/Bio Investment

  1. A fully understood and managed gap between scientific advance and commercial reality.
    1. Investment must be tied to specific steps (prototyping, preclinicals, clinicals, physician training, etc.).
  2. A management team qualified in commercializing medtech or biotech products.
    1. CEOs (and/or Chief Medical Officers, Chief Scientific Officers) with medical science backgrounds (MD, PhD) favored over CPAs or even JDs.
  3. Reimbursement strategy pursued as something more than an afterthought
  4. Technology development in sync with end-user acceptance and training to leverage the benefits:
    1. Easier to use
    2. Fewer complications
    3. Attractive physician revenue streams
  5. Broad competitive advantage pursued:
    1. Product benefits must stand up against all competition, irrespective of technology type (devices competing with drugs, biotech).
    2. Benefits of reducing the cost of care for an existing patient population are paramount.
    3. Competitive advantage must consider the trend in technology development to avoid being disrupted by other products soon to reach the market.
  6. Predefined exit strategy; selected examples:
    1. Positioning to add innovation to a mid-cap or large-cap medtech or biotech as acquirers.
    2. Development of platform technologies for licensing or sale.
    3. IPO

 

Future investments are likely to track the historical focus on specific diseases and conditions:

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC and Emerging Therapeutic Company Investment and Deal Trends; Biotechnology Innovation Organization.


MedMarket Diligence, mediligence.com, tracks medical and biotechnology development to provide meaningful insights for manufacturers, investors, and other stakeholders.

The best medtech investment opportunities

In reviewing patents, fundings, technology development trends, market development, and other hard data sources, we feel these are some of the strongest areas for investment in not only the medical device side of medtech, but also the broader biomedical technology arena:

  • Materials technologies
    • graphene
    • bioresorbables
    • biosensors
    • polymers
    • bioadhesives
  • Cell therapy and tissue engineering
    • cell-based treatments (diabetes, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury)
    • extracellular matrices in soft tissue repair and regeneration
  • Nanotechnology (subject of forthcoming report)
    • nano coatings
    • nano- and micromedical technologies for localized drug delivery
    • nanoparticles
  • 3D printing
    • prototype development
    • patient-specific implants
  • Minimally- and non-invasive technologies
    • transcatheter alternatives to surgery
    • NOTES (natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery)
  • Diabetes non-invasive glucose testing
  • Intraoperative surgical guidance
    • Cancer probes (e.g., fluorescent or optical coherence tomography, frozen section, cytologic imprint analysis, ultrasound, micro-computed tomography, near-infrared imaging, and spectroscopy)
  • neurostimulation and neuromodulation
  • point-of-care diagnostics
  • point-of-care imaging
  • AI-enhanced devices

In addition, there are many areas in healthcare in which there is much untapped demand with problems that, so far, seem to have eluded medtech solutions. These include infection control (Zika, MRSA, TB, nosocomial infections, etc.), chronic wound treatment (including decubitus/stasis/diabetic ulcers), type 2 diabetes and obesity.