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.

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.”

Wound Sealing and Closure Markets by Country: Germany and United Kingdom

(Note: See the August 2016 Report #S290.)


Population differences represent a major difference between countries in the relative demand for medical products, but there remain many other differences in drivers and limiters of sales.

The markets for wound closure encompassing sutures & staples, vascular closure devices, surgical hemostats, surgical tapes, and surgical sealants & glues show distinct sensitivities country-by-country as a result of differences in:

  • Practice patterns
  • Cultural differences in perception of “wounds”
  • Reimbursement
  • Regulatory
  • Perception of new technology
  • Economics

For example, the two graphics below illustrate the wound closure markets in Germany and the United Kingdom. To have fully compared the markets in these two countries aside from differences in population, we might have presented per capita values in the sales, but even without doing so it is clear that relative sizes and growth rates in the two countries are sufficiently different to warrant attention in local efforts to market these products.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 8.13.22 AM

Source: “Worldwide Surgical Sealants, Glues, and Wound Closure Markets, 2013-2018”, Report #S192; published by MedMarket Diligence, LLC. (Note: This report has been superceded by the August 2016 Report #S290.)

Medtech succeeds by responding to multiple demands

Medtech is resilient, adapting to the changing demands of patients, payers, regulators, and the economy, but only in the hands of the innovators who keep a finger in the wind on these demands.

  1. Comprehensive outcomes versus symptomatic intervention. Competition in medtech, heightened by cost pressures in particular, is characterized by the demand for comprehensive solutions to disease/trauma rather than technologies that simply ameliorate symptoms. Manufacturers are focusing on longer term solutions, competing against the full spectrum of therapeutic alternatives rather than incremental improvements in their widgets.
  2. Whatever the cost, make it lower. Cost is poorly understood in healthcare (hence the problem!), but it is recognized as important simply by the rate at which premiums increase, the percentage of GDP adding to healthcare spending, the cost of Medicare and other similar benchmarks. Cost is difficult to assess in medical technologies, because there are long term, unforeseen implications of nearly every medtech development. Nonetheless, the manufacturer who does not only bow down in homage to cost but also makes cost at least an implicit part of its value proposition will be quickly put out of business.
  3. The life spans of “gold standards” of treatment are getting shorter and shorter. Technology solutions are being developed, from different scientific disciplines, at such a pace as to quickly establish themselves, in a broad enough consensus, as new gold standards. Physicians are increasingly compelled to accept these new new standards or find their caseload shifting to those who do.
  4. Many manufacturers strive for being able to claim their products are “disruptive” — overturning existing paradigms. However, few medtech manufacturers really ever achieve anything more than marginal improvements. Note the relative amount of 510Ks versus PMAs in regulatory approvals (not that a PMA denotes a “disruptive” development).
  5. Materials technologies are defining what is a “device” as well as what they can accomplish. Competitive manufacturers are aggressively gaining a broad understanding of materials technologies to encompass traditional device, pharma, biopharma, biotech, cell biology and others, ensuring their success from a broadly competitive position.
  6. Interest in startup innovations by VCs and large-cap medtech companies has never been more intense, but funding still demands concrete milestones. Proof-of-concept gets entrepreneurs excited, but 510(K) or better is what gets the money flowing. This is not the credit-crunch of 2008, when the sour economy caused funding to largely dry up. Money is indeed flowing into medtech now, as evidenced by the IPO market and the volume of early stage funding, but potential investments — especially at very early stages — are no less intensively vetted. Startups must therefore carry the risk well into the development timeline, when the prospect of their products reaching the market has been demonstrated far more effectively.
  7. Medtech markets are influenced by many forces, but none more strongly than the drive of companies to succeed. Reimbursement. Regulatory hurdles. Healthcare reform. Cost reduction, even a 2.3% medical device excise tax, et cetera, et cetera. None of these hold sway over innovation and entrepreneurship. And the rate of innovation is accelerating, further insulating medtech against adverse policy decisions. Moreover, that innovation is reaching a sort of critical mass in which the convergence of different scientific disciplines — materials technology, cell biology, biotech, pharma and others — is leading to solutions that stand as formidable buttresses against market limiters.
  8. Information technology is having, and will have, profound effects on medical technology development. The manufacturers who “get” this will always gain an advantage. This happens in ways too numerous to mention in full, but worth noting are: drug and device modeling/testing systems, meta-analysis of clinical research, information technology embedded in implants (“smart” devices), and microprocessor-controlled biofeedback systems (e.g., glucose monitoring and insulin delivery). The information dimension of virtually every medtech innovation must be considered by manufacturers, given its potential to affect the cost/value of those innovations.

This is not a comprehensive list of drivers/limiters in medtech, but these stand behind the success or failure of many, many companies.

Patrick Driscoll is an industry analyst and publisher of content on advanced medtech markets through MedMarket Diligence.

Where will medicine be in 20 years?

(This question was originally posed to me on Quora.com. I initially answered this in mid 2014 and am revisiting and updating the answers now, in mid 2015.)

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, whether it is Obamacare, 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: 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.

    [View Aug. 2015: 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: It’s a double-edged sword with the human genome. As the human blueprint, It is the 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.] 
  • 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: The development of effective drugs will have been accelerated by both modeling systems and increases in our understanding of disease and trauma. 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: By 2035, technologies such as these will have measurably reduced 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 the NOTES technology platform. A wide range of technologies across multiple categories (device, biotech, pharma) will also have emerged and succeeded in the market by producing therapeutic benefit without 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: 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.]
  • 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.
    [View Aug. 2015: 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.]

There will be many more unforeseen medical advances achieved within 20 years, many arising from research that may not even be imagined yet. However, the above advances are based on actual research and/or the advances that have already arisen from that research.

Growth in Sales of Products in Cell Therapy and Tissue Engineering

Tissue engineering and cell therapy comprise a market for regenerative products that has been growing and will continue to grow at over 20% annually through 2018. This market spans many specialties, the biggest of which is therapies for degenerative and traumatic orthopedic and spine applications. Other disorders that will benefit from cell therapies include cardiac and vascular disease, a wide range of neurological disorders, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and dental decay and/or injury. Key factors expected to influence the market for regenerative medicine are continued political actions, government funding, clinical trials results, industry investments, and an increasing awareness among both physicians and the general public of the accessibility of cell therapies for medical applications.

The current high rate of growth in cell therapy and tissue engineering product sales is due to the confluence of multiple market drivers:

  • Advances in basic science revealing the nature of cell growth, differentiation and proliferation
  • Advances by industry to manipulate and determine cell growth toward specific therapeutic solutions
  • Low barrier to entry for competitors in the market
  • Broad range of applications of cell/tissue advances to many different specialties with modest adaptation needed
  • Strong venture funding

The dominant clinical area driving cell therapy and tissue engineering product sales is orthopedics and musculoskeletal, wherein bone grafts and bone graft substitutes are well-established. Below is the projected balance of cell therapy and tissue engineering product revenues by clinical area through 2018.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.26.25 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S520.

While orthopedics, musculoskeletal and spine applications will remain a huge share of this market, more growth is coming from cell/tissue products in most other areas, which have only recently (within the last five years) begun to establish themselves.

Screen Shot 2014-04-08 at 9.34.50 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #S520.

Reference reports in Ophthalmology, Coronary Stents and Tissue Engineering

MedMarket Diligence has added three previously published, comprehensive analyses of  medtech markets to its Reference Reports listings. The markets covered in the three reports are:

  • Ophthalmology Diagnostics, Devices and Drugs (see link)
  • Coronary Stents: Drug-Eluting, Bare, Bioresorbable and Others (see link)
  • Tissue Engineering, Cell Therapy and Transplantation (see link)

Termed “Reference Reports”, these detailed studies were initially completed typically within the past five years. They now serve as exceptional references to those markets, since fundamental data about each of these markets has remained largely unchanged. Such data includes:

  • Disease prevalence, incidence and trends (including credible forecasts to the present)
  • Clinical practices and trends in the management of the disease(s)
  • Industry structure including competitors (most still active today)
  • Detailed appendices on procedure data, company directories, etc.

Arguably, a least one quarter of every NEW medtech report contains background data encompassing the data listed above.  Therefore, the MedMarket Diligence reports have been priced in the single user editions at $950 each, which is roughly one quarter the price of a full report.

See links above for detailed report descriptions, tables of contents, lists of exhibits and ordering. If you have further questions, feel free to contact Patrick Driscoll at (949) 859-3401 or (toll free US) 1-866-820-1357.

See the comprehensive list of MedMarket Diligence reports at link.

 

Advice to forward-looking medtech manufacturers (and their competitors)

trainWill Rogers said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” The current challenge for medtech manufacturers is that, as a result of a wide range of forces, trends and developments, the train that threatens to run them over has gotten a whole lot faster. Below is a short list of perspectives that is needed by medtech manufacturers and their competitors in order to stay ahead of the train.

  • Focus on your competitors’ solutions, not their products. Stent manufacturers (and this is just an example) are not competing only against stent manufacturers; they are also competing against drug-eluting balloon angioplasty, atherectomy, percutaneous myocardial revascularization, atherosclerotic plaque-reducing drugs, myocardial stem cell therapy and other device, drug, biotech and other options.  The focus is on the disease and all the alternative ways to treat it (even preventing it). And it bears reminding that a duty of your market intelligence is to keep a watchful eye on the broadest possible definition of potential competitors — gene therapy, holistic medicine, eastern medicines.
  • Be careful where you draw the line on your product’s features. There are many choices to be made in designing and engineering a medical product. The more you build into the product (being resorbable, being intelligent, having biocompatibility coating, having embedded drug(s), etc.), the more benefits you can potentially claim, but the more arduous the engineering, testing and regulatory approval will be.  The traditional advantage medical devices have over drugs has been that devices are “inert”, accomplishing their therapeutic endpoint without the large scale side effects possible with systemically active drugs.  The more devices are imbued with drugs, made of resorbable material or have any kind of interactive capability with the tissue around them, the more likely will be occurrence of adverse effects.
  • Directly or indirectly, your product must be viewed as lowering healthcare cost. In real terms, a product that demonstrably lowers costs compared to alternatives has a decided advantage. However, your product has only to give the appearance of saving money, or at least clearly suggests that it will not raise healthcare costs. Directly, if you can point to units per patient and average selling price and you can point to explicit cost saving compared to currently used products, you’ve gained an advantage. Short of that, you can gain advantage if you can make a defensible cast that your product leads to indirect cost savings such as in less trauma, less collateral damage, faster healing times and similar.
  • “Zero invasiveness” is the target. Expect increasing numbers of percutaneous and “natural orifice” procedures at the expense of not only open surgical procedures but also laparoscopic procedures. Too many surgical and interventional formats, and support systems for them, have been developed that signal the end of the need for invasive procedures.  And whether the procedure is done laparoscopically, endoscopically, percutaneously, or even radiosurgically, the need to cut, resect/excise or otherwise physically alter anatomy or morphology to address pathology will be obviated by, and be less attractive than, effective non-surgical/non-interventional approaches.
  • “Personalized medicine” may be largely theoretical, or at least largely unrealized, BUT the potential to be able to predetermine when therapies will or will not work is too significant in its implications to ignore. (Looking at this another way, I recently spoke with a pharmaceutical colleague who noted that blood markers in patients with a particular condition could help them screen out 97% of the diagnosed patients for whom their therapy would be ineffective.  Their conclusion was not that the drug was 97% ineffective but that, for 3% of the diagnosed population, the drug would be highly effective and therefore highly profitable.)
  • The pace of change is accelerating. Developments in material sciences, the growth in applied understanding of basic life sciences, the emergence of “paradigm-shifting” industries like stem cell and tissue regeneration, the rewards being reaped by genome sequencing, the integration of advanced information technologies in drug discovery, simulated device prototype testing and other advances are dramatically shortening the gap between idea and market introduction, reducing product life cycles (accelerating obsolescence) and increasing the intensity of competition for all manufacturers.

The advice for any medtech manufacturer — or, for that matter, any manufacturer of a product competing against a “medtech” product — is that they must continually address the view of their competitive landscape to recognize and be prepared to respond to real and perceived competition, trends, forces and opportunities.

Growth in posterior pedicle screw fusion systems in spine surgery

Posterior pedicle screw fusion systems are used extensively in spine surgery; eight or more screws may be used in a single procedure.

The posterior pedicle screw fusion system will continue to be used in spine surgery for the foreseeable future. Industry managers believe that, even as new treatments come on to the market, spinal fusion will continue to be the gold standard treatment for degenerative disc disease unresponsive to conservative measures.

The global market for posterior pedicle screw fusion systems was nearly $3 billion 2012, and is forecast to reach a value of almost $6 billion by 2020. The average selling price (ASP) is expected to drop over this period, due largely to strong competition and the sheer number of companies manufacturing and selling these devices.

pedicle-screw

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC: Report #M520.

A variable number of pedicles screws are used in each procedure but this number on average will remain the same through 2020.  Consequently, with prices being squeezed, unit growth will outpace dollar volume sales growth.

The global leader for posterior pedicle screw fusion systems is Zimmer, followed by Medtronic, with the two companies controlling almost 75% of the market. There are many smaller companies in this market, and all of these are targeting the same customers, creating intense pricing pressure for devices that are generally ‘me-too’ and leading to consolidation as manufacturers hit their lowest limits on cost.