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.”

MedMarket Future: Developments in Growth Technologies

Proliferation of graphene applications

The nature of graphene’s structure and its resulting traits are responsible for a tremendous burst of research focused on applications.

  • Find cancer cells. Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that interfacing brain cells on the surface of a graphene sheet allows the ability to differentiate a single hyperactive cancerous cell from a normal cell. This represents a noninvasive technique for the early detection of cancer.
  • Graphene sheets capture cells efficiently. In research similar to that U. Illinois, modification of the graphene sheet by mild heating enables annealing of specific targets/analytes on the sheet which then can be tested. This, too, offers noninvasive diagnostics.
  • Contact lens coated with graphene. While the value of the development is yet to be seen, researchers in Korea have learned that contact lenses coated with graphene are able to shield wearers’ eyes from electromagnetic radiation and dehydration.
  • Cheaply mass-producing graphene using soybeans. A real hurdle to graphene’s widespread use in a variety of applications is the cost to mass produce it, but Australia’s CSIRO has shown that an ambient air process to produce graphene from soybean oil, which is likely to accelerate graphenes’ development for commercial use.

Materials

Advanced materials development teams globally are spinning out new materials that have highly specialized features, with the ability to be manufactured under tight control.

  • 3D manufacturing leads to highly complex, bio-like materials. With applications across many industries using “any material that can be crushed into nanoparticles”, University of Washington research has demonstrated the ability to 3D engineer complex structures, including for use as biological scaffolds.
  • Hydrogels and woven fiber fabric. Hokkaido University researchers have produced woven polyampholyte (PA) gels reinforced with glass fiber. Materials made this way have the structural and dynamic features to make them amenable for use in artificial ligaments and tendons.
  • Sound-shaping metamaterial. Research teams at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol have developed acoustic metamaterials capable of creating shaped sound waves, a development that will have a potentially big impact on medical imaging.

Organ-on-a-chip

In vitro testing models that more accurately reflect biological systems for drug testing and development will facilitate clinical diagnostics and clinical research.

  • Stem cells derived neuronal networks grown on a chip. Scientists at the University of Bern have developed an in vitro stem cell-based bioassay grown on multi-electrode arrays capable of detecting the biological activity of Clostridium botulinum neurotoxins.
  • Used for mimicking heart’s biomechanical properties. At Vanderbilt University, scientists have developed an organ-on-a-chip configuration that mimics the heart’s biomechanical properties. This will enable drug testing to gauge impact on heart function.
  • Used for offering insights on premature aging, vascular disease. Brigham and Women’s Hospital has developed organ-on-a-chip model designed to study progeria (Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome), which primarily affects vascular cells, making this an affective method for the first time to simultaneously study vascular diseases and aging.

Coronary revascularization options evolve

The number of options that are in use or development for coronary revascularization or other treatment for ischemic heart disease is extraordinary. Given the mortality associated with coronary artery disease, it is unsurprising that it has been the focus of so much development.

Below are the options that have evolved for treatment of ischemic heart disease, inclusive of surgical, interventional, and other medical approaches.

Coronary Revascularization and Other
Ischemic Heart Treatment Options

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC

See also “Global Dynamics of Surgical and Interventional Cardiovascular Procedures, 2015-2022”, report #C500. Order online.

Technologies at Recent Medtech Startups

Below is a list of the technologies under development at medical technology startups identified in October 2016 and included in the Medtech Startups Database:

  • Neuro-stimulation via patch.
  • Epinephrine auto-injector
  • Portable ultrasound device to detect the occurrence of strokes.
  • Medication adherence device to facilitate self-injection.
  • Diagnosis of malaria and sickle cell.
  • Implant devices to fight biofilms and infection.
  • Technologies to address infection and other risk in nursing protocols.
  • Electronic bone depth gauge for use in orthopedics.
  • Peripheral chronic total occlusion device.
  • Deep learning and artificial intelligence in point of care ultrasound.
  • Quantitative transmission ultrasound.

A historical listing of technologies at medtech startups (through January 2016).

10 Facts About Medical Technologies that will Impress Your Friends

  1. In catheterization, a doctor can poke a hole in your leg and fix your heart.
  2. Radiosurgery can destroy a tumor and leave adjacent tissue untouched, touching the body only with energy.
  3. A doctor thousands of miles away can do surgery on you via telepresence and robotic instrumentation.
  4. Medical device implants like stents have been developed to simply dissolve over time.
  5. Doctors can see cancer via live imaging during operations to ensure that they excise it all.
  6. Type 1 diabetics may soon be able to so easily manage their condition, via combined insulin pump / glucometer that they may almost forget they have diabetes (or cell therapy may cure them!), while Type 2 diabetics will grow in number and cost to manage.
  7. Organs are already being printed, as are other tissue implants.
  8. Neuroprosthetics, exoskeletons and related technologies are enabling wheelchair-bound and other physically challenged people to walk upright, allowing amputees to control prosthetics with their mind,
  9. Almost two-thirds of the 7,000 medical device firms in the United States have fewer than 20 employees — Medtronic employs all the rest. (OK, that’s an exaggeration.)
  10. Science fiction continues to drive the imagination of medtech innovators. Decentralized diagnostics — very small, efficient devices in the hands of a doctor that will rapidly assist in diagnoses and expedite the process of intervention — are becoming pervasive, ideally embodied in the fictional “tricorder” in Star Trek.

Where will medicine be in 2035?

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 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. 

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. 
  • 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.

  • Diabetes Type 2 (adult onset) will be a significant problem governed 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.

  • 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, 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 –> Case in point, the recent emergence of the gene-editing technology, CRISPR, has set the stage for practical applications to correct genetically-based conditions.
  • 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). 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.

    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.

  • 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 the 2016 report #290, “Worldwide Markets for Medical and Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Hemostats, 2015-2022.”

Technologies in Development at Medtech Startups, October 2015

In our flurry of activity in October, we overlooked summarizing the new medical technologies identified at startups and added to the Medtech Startups Database:

  • Neodymium vaginal dilator for treatment of pelvic pain.
  • Large bore, power injection vascular access
  • Surgical instruments for use in bariatrics.
  • Surgical oncology.
  • Spine surgical technology including expandable intervertebral cage.
  • Technologies to treat hearing loss.
  • Device to determine blood vessel size.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid shunt.
  • Focused ultrasonic surgical devices for hemostasis, cauterization, and ablation.
  • Collagen polymers to create 3D tissue systems for drug discovery, engineered tissue/organ, wound management, and 3D bioprinting.
  • Regenerative medicine to treat brain injury or damage.
  • Neuro-monitoring and neuro-critical care.
  • Orthomusculoskeletal implants.
  • Devices and methods for hip replacement
  • Intraoperative image system.
  • Exocentric medical device
  • Electro-hydraulic generated shockwave for cosmetic, medical applications.

For a historical listing of technologies at medtech startups, see link.

Medtech Startups, 2010-2015

From 2010 to present (Oct 2015), as included in the Medtech Startups Database, MedMarket Diligence identified 442 new (under one year old) medical technology startups whose businesses encompass, alone or in combination, medical devices, diagnostics, biomaterials, and the subset of both biotech and pharma that is in direct competition with medical devices, including tissue engineering and cell therapy. Of these, 74% were founded in the U.S., 5% were founded in Israel, and the rest were founded in 18 other countries.

Companies in the database have been categorized by clinical and/or technology area of focus, with multiple categories possible (e.g., minimally invasive and orthomusculoskeletal and surgery). Below is the composition of the companies identified from Jan. 2010 to Oct. 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 4.50.10 PM

Source: Medtech Startups Database

Below is a graphic on the companies by country. The U.S. (not shown) led with 327 companies.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 4.17.30 PM

Source: Medtech Startups Database

In the U.S., the breakdown by state, other than California and its 466 companies (excluded only to show states with significantly lower numbers), is as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 5.13.08 PM

Source: Medtech Startups Database

 

The Five Biggest Medical Technology Forces

There are five fundamental forces driving change in virtually every medical technology market. (There are many other forces, of course, that impact these markets, such as regulation, reimbursement, etc., but here I speak of forces driven by technology and the innovators employing them.) They represent challenges and opportunities — depending merely upon how companies perceive and respond to them.

Devices are no longer devices (only).

An inert medical or plastic device is likely to present little competitive threat. The device that succeeds stretches the boundaries of what a device is. Devices can be:

  • Biocompatible
  • Bioresorbable
  • Bioactive
  • Shape-shifting (e.g., nitinol)
  • Hybridized with drugs, cells, other biologics
  • Integrated with RFIDs and sensors
  • Combinations of the above

Competition comes from all directions. And so does opportunity.

Competition in medical technology has long since been defined by the device, having been replaced by the definition of the specific problem solved. And that problem is the disease state and the costs of managing and/or eliminating it. (An angioplasty catheter’s competition is not just angioplasty catheters, but also drug-eluting and/or bioresorbable coronary stents, drug-coated balloons, atherectomy, minimally invasive coronary artery bypass graft, atherosclerotic plaque-reducing drugs, etc.) Successful innovators consider all possible alternatives to solving the disease state need and define themselves by the solution, not the product. The only limitation a manufacturer has is its willingness to pursue all avenues to solving the problem.

Zero invasiveness.

Any technology that is not focused on the ideal of zero collateral damage, zero complications, and zero adverse side-effects will be threatened by those that do. The advances in materials technologies, medical/surgical techniques and understanding of pathology, among other advances, are sufficient to challenge manufacturers to pursue the goal of zero invasiveness. Just as open surgery has evolved to incisionless surgery, medical technologies increasingly take on the potential to be more like drugs, or better — treating the disease on a one-time basis with no complications whatsoever.

Decentralized, point-of-care technology.

Capital equipment is expensive, big and lethargic. A handheld imaging — ultrasound, even MRI — performed at the patient’s bedside or doctor’s office, offers enormous potential to reduce cost and increase clinical utility. But decentralization is not limited to diagnosis, since treatment is the ultimate goal and its incentives are the same. Of course, the trend moving diagnostics and therapeutics from the centralized to the point-of-care is not a new idea, but the reality is that a whole range of therapeutic devices (e.g., numerous ablation modalities) have been developed that no longer require OR suites, general anesthesia and their associated costs, and imaging systems have been shrinking to the point that words like “handheld” and “MRI” can be used in the same sentence (see Butterfly Network).

Research and development tools eliminate excuses.

R&D is inevitably challenged to evaluate ideas thoroughly, considering difficult-to-anticipate obstacles and rapidly evaluating ideas to reveal the best prospects and bring them to manufacturing, then to market. But multiple technologies have been developed and put into use that can accelerate the iterative cycles of development and yield prime product candidates to bring to market — biotech, pharma, biopharm, device, drug/device and others.  Computer modeling of hemodynamic blood flow, computer simulation of drug candidates (hybridized with devices or not), 3D printing (prototypes, custom implants) and many other advances are rapidly accelerating development of products that more perfectly fit the need.

 

New technologies at Medtech Startups, November 2014

Below is a list of the technologies under development at companies recently identified and included in the Medtech Startups Database.

  • Handheld ultrasound, MRI imaging device.
  • Needle-free injection drug delivery.
  • Lenses designed to correct imbalance between eyes and brain that cause certain migraines.
  • Continuous blood glucose monitoring in diabetes.
  • Customized prosthetic aortic valve.
  • Cystoscope-implanted, stent-like device to treat urinary obstruction associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy.
  • Endovascular treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Respiratory therapy device based on “high frequency chest wall oscillation” for treatment of COPD, other respiratory disorders.
  • Treatment of arrhythmia.
  • Medical device commercialization company active in cardiovascular care, tissue ablation, medical infusions, hand surgery and laparoscopic surgery.
  • Surgical visualization systems.
  • Arthroscopic bone tunneler and other orthopedic surgical instrumentation.
  • Brain stimulation to treat multiple disorders.

See link for a month-by-month listing of the technologies at companies in the Medtech Startups Database.