Since you’re reading this, I am going to assume you have some interest in medical technology, and just to make it bluntly obvious, I’m going to hammer a definition of it so you know exactly what I mean and what I don’t mean. Why I do this will become clear, but simply put, it’s to keep me from going insane.
In the most liberal definition of “medical technology” (which can still be restrictive, as I’ll mention below), I mean “the adaptation of scientific knowledge to the practical application of medicine”. In your travels, I am certain you have come across uses of the term “medtech” that seem expansively broad, such as those that are simply the application of virtually any kind of technology to medicine.
If you call your doctor, does that make your phone a medtech device? What about surgical gloves, since they’re really just gloves? Ah, but what about surgical gloves coated with a material that prevents formation of post-surgical adhesions? Then, too, what about devices for wireless transmission of BP, pulse, pCO2 and other vital signs — are they just glorified telephones?
The point is that there is a wide range of perspectives that may variously be brought to bear when considering medtech and, since not everyone has the same perspective, it’s important to understand which perspective is in play.
Today, I saw a post about “medtech” companies at this year’s SXSW conference. Intrigued, I read on, only to find that most of these are technologies that have been applied to medical applications (and some not even that), but are for the most part not “medical technologies”:
- a medication compliance device that chimes when doses are missed
- a thermometer that connects to your iPhone or Android device
- a smart diaper that monitors select analytes to potentially reveal UTIs, type 1 diabetes, dehydration, etc.
- motion sensor-enabled underwear with micro-airbags to reduce injuries from falls in elderly
- shoes to reduce the risk of plantar fasciitis, complications from diabetic neuropathy, etc.
- wearable baby monitor to detect ambient temperature, posture and movement
- mobile device to connect patients with mental health professionals
- cloud-based service to connect individuals to the health/wellness resources of their employers
(Of course, the bottom line for many is whether the FDA or any other relevant governing body would consider a device a “medical device” or would otherwise conclude that its function, design or application is such that it must be regulated as a medical device, but even under that sort of all encompassing consideration, many of the above technologies would not likely be called “medical devices”. However, it’s not my definition that matters in those cases; it’s the FDA’s.)
I’m not placing a judgment that these devices are somehow inferior — not my point at all. I have no doubt that there are countless non-medical technologies that can be applied to medical applications to create huge demand and/or solve big problems. I just have to draw the line somewhere as I seek to describe, characterize and analyze an already large universe of innovations — I’ll leave the analysis of iPhone-enabled or otherwise information technology-centered devices to those who are better suited to the task. (If, in addition to the implants, surgical devices and range of other technologies requiring a physician to actually use, I had to also analyze any of those iPhone-enabled widgets, I would go mad.) My focus is instead on innovations that are intrinsically medical applications of knowledge that have been developed to improve outcomes, tap unmet patient demand, reduce healthcare costs or otherwise improve healthcare delivery.
Fundamentally, these are technologies that have been developed to reduce symptoms, hasten recovery from disease or trauma (surgically-induced or otherwise), facilitate the removal of malignant tissue, restore normal organ or system function, facilitate the ongoing management of chronic disease, provide differential diagnostic information to facilitate courses of treatment, and many, many similar. By now, you should have a sense of what technology I would consider “medical” and what technology may have a medical application but which is not itself “medical”.
So what? Well, to be very specific, these are the most recent additions of startup companies to our Medtech Startups Database:
|Medallion Therapeutics, Inc.||Targeted, localized drug delivery|
|PB&B S.A.||Use of biomaterials in aesthetics for non-surgical temporary & permanent breast and buttock enhancement, facial rejuvination solutions and adipose tissue engineering related therapies.|
|TS3 Medical, Inc.||Vascular drill to cross chronic total obstructions (CTOs) and facilitate balloon angioplasty and stenting.|
|SynerZ Medical, Inc.||Developing a device that mimics the actions of gastric bypass surgery for the treatment of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.|
|Biotrace Medical, Inc.||Temporary cardiac pacing as treatment for reversible symptomatic bradycardia.|
|Rbpark, LLC||Embolectomy devices|
|NeuroTek Medical, Inc.||Non-invasive, migraine therapy device worn on the back of the head at the onset of or during a migraine to relieve pain.|
|RegenEye, LLC||Ocular stent for treating age-based vision changes.|
|Reveal Optical, LLC||Ophthalmic device company focusing on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, hemianopia, and glaucoma.|
|Mimedis AG||Custom surgical implants including using 3D printing.|
|Socrates Health Solutions, Inc.||Noninvasive blood glucose monitor.|
|Gecko Biomedical||Biodegradable sealants and adhesives in surgery.|
Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC
Entrepreneurs have for years been relentlessly conceiving and implementing innovations for therapeutics and diagnostics that leverage the advances in materials sciences and the individual and combined gains in understanding the onset, development and intervention to palliate, cure or otherwise eliminate disease. Developments such as these have had a profound impact on patients’ lives and the costs (of all kinds) in the end result.
Combine these medtech developments with other non-medtech developments in additional innovative ways and an even bigger impact can be made.