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.”

The future of medtech demands more and better imagination

I frequently see conclusions about the the future of medtech derived by analysts who are walking backward looking at their feet — living by the tenet of “past is prologue”. This type of “foresight” presumes an unchanging set of forces, leading (at best) to a conclusion that the future will hold more of the same.

Yet, the future of medtech is dictated far more significantly not by what has already happened, or as a result of past trends continuing as future trends, but by what has not happened yet. The major thrust of any significant growth (and isn’t growth what interests us?) comes primarily from events that do not as clearly follow from past events:

  • Surgical device sales forecasts are uprooted by introduction of laparoscopy
  • Tissue engineering preempts conventional treatments in wound, orthopedics, cardiology…
  • Success in type 1 diabetes treatment will be determined by device advances as well as cell therapy advances
  • Systems biology reveals risks and opportunities previously unseen

If you view your markets myopically, then you consider your competitors to be limited to those whose products most resemble your own. If you have a long view, you consider what might be possible based on available/emerging technology to tap into untapped demand or simply create latent demand that no company has yet been sufficiently visionary or innovative to seize. What patient populations, clinical practice patterns and their trends are the pulse that you monitor (or are you even monitoring these)?  There is a gap between what is available and a whole set of patients virtually untreated, physicians unsatisfied, and third party payers struggling.  Are you an angioplasty catheter manufacturer — or a coronary artery disease solution?  Do you make devices — or outcomes?

Source: Yann Girard https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/life-explained-through-technology-yann-girard

Look at staid “device” companies like Baxter International and see that they have “biosurgery” divisions.  Look at Medtronic and appreciate that they are as sensitive to developments in glucose monitoring and insulin pump technologies as they are to the litany of cell therapy approaches under pursuit. (These companies are fundamentally aware of technology “S-curves” — see graphic at right.)

Virtually every area of current clinical practice is subject to change when considering drug/device hybrids, biomaterials, nanotechnology/MEMs devices and coatings, biotechnology, pharmaceutical (and its growing sophistication in drug development), western medicine and eastern medicine, healthcare reform, cost containment, RFIDs, 3D printing, information technology  — it is imperative to see the upside and downside of these.

These are some of the forces that less characteristic of the past that are leading to startling new success in medtech developments:

  • Materials technologies are redefining the nature and functional limits of medical devices
  • Technologies more closely aligned with cure than symptomatic treatment gain rapid acceptance
  • The practice of considering outcomes measures of highly diverse technology solutions to disease has ascended to prominence in the mindsets of healthcare systems and payers
  • The use of information technologies and cross-medical discipline initiatives enables rapid determination of likely success and failures in whole new ways

Aside from the demands for operational efficiency and managing cash flows, the success or failure of medical technology companies has become a reflection of how well these companies position themselves now and in the future with an imaginative long view. Companies must consider the revenue streams in Year 1, Year 5 and Year 10.

 

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.

Taking off the blinders: Medtech or Med Device Investment?

Tracking venture capital investment, if not on the whole by some geography, demands that it be viewed in discrete groupings, such as by technology type. The purpose is, of course, to see the trend, but the underlying assumption is that. from time point A to time point B, the grouping itself has not changed, irrespective of the amount of investment.

Why do I bring this up? Well, let’s take a topic like “medical devices”. While there may be some minor debate as to what constitutes a medical device (does it include diagnostic devices?), the majority of people understand what medical devices are.

But what about medical technology–medtech? Is this the same as medical device? Absolutely not. When is medtech not a medical device? How about when it is a polymer-based or biological extracellular matrix for orthopedic applications designed to induce cell growth? How about the fully bioabsorbable cardiac stent? How about liposome-encapsulated drugs? How about drug-eluting stents (considering the cost and value are contributed by both the stent and the drug)? How about topical dressings? Collagen dressings? Cultured skin grafts?

From the standpoint of analyzing markets and market opportunities, it is foolhardy to consider a market to be defined by a very specific technology rather than competing applications. For example, angioplasty, stenting, robotic cardiac surgery, percutaneous CABG and even cholesterol-lowering drugs all compete in the same “market” (treatment of coronary ischemia), regardless of technology.

For the same reason, I do not put much stock (so to speak) in analyzing investment solely in “medical devices”. My interest is investment in medtech. Of course, I am indeed interested in investment in medical devices, but only as the most significant component of medtech.

So, when I see reviews (I’m going to pass on specific references, but google for yourself) of 2013 medical device investment, particularly those that point to a decline, I cannot but help point out that such reviews are myopic, considering less than the whole. What I track is the broader medtech, and for 2013 there was a distinct 13% increase in 2013 medtech investment over 2012 medtech investment.

medtech_2009-2013

 

See for yourself and note that, going back to 2009, we have the data on each investment in these monthly totals.

The Real Future of Medtech: An Opinion

I see graphics (and, please help me, “infographics”) on the the future of medtech. These are graphics produced most often by analysts who are walking backward looking at their feet; in other words, living by the tenet of “past is prologue”. The leading companies of five years from now can be simply predicted by a 5-year extrapolation of last year’s revenue growth.  Has “forecasting” really simply become a distillation of “more of the same”?

The future of medtech is dictated far more importantly by not what has already happened, or some expectation that past trends will simply continue on into future trends, but by what has not happened yet. The major thrust of any significant growth (and isn’t growth that in which we are most interested?) comes primarily from events that have not yet happened. Do you want to be Steve Jobs or Steve Ballmer?  Do you want to create demand or belatedly follow it?

If you have a short-sighted or narrow view, then you consider your competitors all who do what you do but who do it better, faster or cheaper. If you have a long view, you consider what might be possible based on available/emerging technology to tap into untapped demand or simply create latent demand that no company has yet been sufficiently visionary or innovative to seize.  What patient populations, clinical practice patterns and their trends are the pulse that you monitor (or are you even monitoring these)?  There is a gap between what is available and a whole set of patients virtually untreated, physicians unsatisfied, and third party payers struggling.  Are you an angioplasty catheter manufacturer — or a coronary artery disease solution?  Do you make devices — or outcomes?

Look at staid “device” companies like Baxter International and see that they have “biosurgery” divisions.  Look at Medtronic and appreciate that they are as sensitive to developments in glucose monitoring and insulin pump technologies as they are to the litany of cell therapy approaches under pursuit.

Virtually every area of current clinical practice is subject to change when considering drug/device hybrids, biomaterials, nanotechnology/MEMs devices and coatings, biotechnology, pharmaceutical (and its growing sophistication in drug development), western medicine and eastern medicine, healthcare reform, cost containment, RFIDs, 3D printing, information technology  — we hope you see the upside in this and not just the downside.

Of course companies, especially public ones, must consider the revenue streams in both Year 0 and Year 5, but if the focus is only on Year 0, then that number will also be the ROI in five years.

 

 

Incremental advances and game-changing innovation in medtech

Medical technology development is driven by a variety of factors. The most common drivers are to extend or improve the capabilities of existing technologies:

    • Addressing under-served clinical need
      • enabling treatment of “untreatable” patient types
      • enabling shift of procedures to outpatient or doctors’ offices
    • Reducing cost
      • less expensive device
      • faster healing time
    • Improving performance
      • reducing operating time
      • lowering the rate of complications

These drivers underscore much activity in medical technology development, since they typically focus on designing products that are improvements upon existing, FDA-approved or CE-Mark technologies. The hurdles to these developments are (relatively) few, requiring little more than being able to construct an argument that a newly developed medical product provides a feature that is “better” than available technologies. (This, of course, represents the putative reason for high healthcare costs, with only nominally “new” technologies commanding price premiums over established ones, but that is the focus of a different discussion.)

In reviewing the formation of new medtech companies that we have recorded in our data over the past three years, there are a number of very common drivers:

  • Intraoperative imaging, monitoring, disease detection

– gas spectroscopy of electrosurgery smoke (e.g., “iKnife”)
– real-time imaging (ultrasound, MRI)
– intraoperative microscopy

        • Polymers, biomaterials, biologics and cell or tissue regeneration to replace diseased or traumatic tissue

– biomaterials
– growth factors
– extracellular matrices
– synthetics (e.g., cartilage)

        • “Back-filling” in endoscopic surgery

– development of surgical instrumentation for use in laparoscopic surgery, single-incision (or single-port) laparoscopy, NOTES (arguably, NOTES is not a radically new approach but the embodiment of what “minimally invasive” endoscopy is when pushed to its logical limits) and other endoscopy .

– endoscopic and surgical instrumentation to allow/facilitate office-based procedures

        • “generic” medical devices
        • biodegradable implants
        • transcatheter technologies

Among the less common of these technologies are those that emerge from the application of a fundamentally different approach to healthcare (call it “paradigm shift” or “game-changing” or whatever your preferred buzz-term).  These technologies consider treatment from a very different perspective that fundamentally change the rules of the game. To some degree, radical change stems simply from the emergence of a new technology that enables radically different treatment, such as the use of stem cells to restore pancreatic function in diabetes. In other cases, medtech manufacturers have recognized the law of diminishing returns in pursuing incremental innovation of established technologies and have instead forged entirely new paths to treatment, as in the use of neuromodulation for pain management (and other clinical end-points) or transcatheter procedures to replace invasive cardiovascular surgery.

Examples of game-changing technologies:

  • Transcatheter alternatives to surgery
  • Treatment of hypertension via ablation of sympathetic nerve
  • Neuromodulation or neurostimulation for relief of chronic pain or treatment of hypertension and other conditions
  • Intraoperative pathology detection (ultrasound, iKnife mass spectrometry, optical coherence tomography)
  • Stem cell or induced pluripotent stem cells applied to treatment of diabetes, other diseases

In the end, the bulk of medtech developments arise from innovative improvements on existing technologies to create competitive advantage, but the mistake for any current market participant is to not remain vigilant in considering the developments of current or potential competitors pursuing radical alternatives to more effectively satisfy clinical (and economic) need.


MedMarket Diligence maintains a dynamic database of Medtech Startup Companies that details very new, highly innovative companies focused on current and emerging medtech markets.

 

Medtech from incremental to quantum leap advances

Advanced medical technologies become advanced by the application of innovation that results in more effective, less costly or otherwise arguably better outcomes (including reduced risk of complications or disease recurrence) for patients, including in some cases enabling treatment when none was previously possible. It is intrinsic to every entrepreneur that the idea he/she is pursuing accomplishes this.

Manufacturers of products on the market have an imperative to either improve upon those products or make them obsolete. This imperative is manifested in a spectrum of planned innovation from simple incremental innovations to the quantum leap of a radically new approach.

There is an enormous amount of technology development, often applicable to multiple different clinical applications, that will be realized in product markets in the future. For the moment, though, I would like to look beyond “incremental improvements” or “product line extensions” or other marginal advances that serve little more than superficially addressing shortcomings of existing products on the market. I would like to look at waves of innovation coming in the short to long term that are expected to impact medtech in ways that are increasingly “radical” or represent varying orders of magnitude of improvement in results.

Three categories spanning short, mid, and long reflect what I see in medtech development. Below, I outline the nature of each and the specific examples that are or will be emerging.

Short term. With change encompassing technologies that are just sufficiently different so that they cannot simply be called incremental innovations, some short term advances often combine two or more complementary and/or synergistic technologies in new ways to advance healthcare. Examples include:

  • Image-guided surgeries to augment the surgeon’s ability to navigate complex anatomy or discern the margins of healthy versus disease tissue.
  • Natural orifice endoscopic surgery (and shift in general from invasive to interventional and intraductal procedures) to either drastically reduce or eliminate the trauma of surgical access
  • Non-invasive therapeutics (like lithotripsy, gamma knife, others) to treat disease without trauma to collateral tissues.
  • Genome-driven treatment profiling (prescreening to determine ideal patients with high probable response).
  • Personalized (custom) implants. These already exist in orthopedics, but the potential for customized implants in gastroenterology, cardiology, and many other clinical areas is wholly untapped.
  • Regenerative technologies (bone, skin, other). These technologies represent introductory markets with lowered challenge compared to more complex functional anatomy (e.g., vital organs).
  • Smart devices (implantable sensors, RFID-tagged implants, etc.) to provide data to clinicians on implant location and status or, in the extreme respond diagnostically or therapeutically to changes in the implant’s immediate environment.

Mid-term. These are new therapeutic options that are fundamentally different than those in current use for a given treatment option. These are technologies that have demonstrated high probability of being feasible in large scale use, but have not yet accumulated enough clinical data to warrant full regulatory approval.

  • Nanotech surface technologies for biocompatibility, localized treatment delivery or other advantages at the interface between patient and product.
  • Materials that adapt to changes in implant environment, to maintain pH, to release drugs, to change shape.
  • Artificial heart. A vital organ replacement that currently has demonstrated the capacity to be a bridge to transplant but has also advanced sufficiently to open the possibility of permanent replacement in the not-too-distant future.
  • Cell/device hybrids. These are organ replacements (e.g., kidney, lung, liver) performing routine function or natural organs, but configured in a device to address unresolved issues of long term function, immune response and others.
  • Artificial organs (other than heart) — closed loop glucometer/insulin pump (artificial pancreas). These are not even partial biological representations of the natural organ, but completely synthetic “organs” that intelligently regulate and maintain a steady state (e.g., blood glucose levels) by combining the necessary functions through combined, closed-loop mechanical means (an insulin pump and glucometer with the necessary algorithms or program to independently respond to changes in order to otherwise maintain a steady state.

Long-term. Orders of magnitude, quantum shift, paradigm shift or otherwise fundamentally different means to serve clinical need.

  • 3D implant printing. In a recent example, in an emergency situation a 3D implant for repair of a infant’s trachea was approved by the FDA. These implants, as in the case of the trachea repair, will most often be customized for specific patients, matching their specific anatomy and may even include their (autologous) cells. They may also be made of other materials including extracellular matrices that will stimulate natural cell migration followed eventually by bioabsorption of the original material. Depending upon type of material and complexity of the anatomy, these technologies may emerge in the near or distant future.
  • Gene therapies. Given the root cause of many diseases has a genetic component or is entirely due to a genetic defect, gene therapies will be “permanent corrections” of those defects. An enormous number of hurdles remain to be crossed before gene therapies are largely realized. These deal with delivery and permanent induction of the corrected genes into patients.
  • Stem cell therapies. The potential applications are many and the impact enormous of stem cell therapies, but while stem cell technology (whether for adult or embryonic) has made enormous strides, many challenges remain in solving the cascade of differentiation while avoiding the potential for aberrant development of these cells, sometimes to proliferative (cancerous) states.
  • “Rational” therapeutics. Whether by stem cell therapies, gene therapies or other biochemical or biological approach, “rational” therapeutics represent the consummate target for medical technology. Such therapeutics are “rational” in the sense that they perfectly address disease states (i.e., effect cures) without complication or need for recurrent intervention.

There are certainly more holes than fabric in this tapestry of short-, mid- and long-term technology innovation, but this should serve to illustrate the correlation between the sophistication of the potential medtech solution and the level of technical challenge in order to achieve each.

 

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.

Opportunities, drivers and growth platforms in medtech

horizon_00364590The medical technology industry is characterized by its steady focus on finding and developing innovative solutions on the horizon that will meet the demands of clinicians and healthcare systems to more rapidly and effectively solve problems in the management of disease and trauma.

Given the state of the art in healthcare regarding the performance of current and potential medical technologies, there are a number of key opportunities in medtech that are driven by specific forces and are likely to be solved by one or more high value platform technologies.  These opportunities, drivers and high value platforms are listed below.

The biggest opportunities in medtech:

  • Non-toxic, high strength closure and sealing of internal wounds (GI, pulmonary, cardio, etc.)
  • Closed-loop “artificial pancreas” comprising integrated glucometer and insulin pump
  • Versatile chronic wound management to accelerate healing of multiple chronic wound types
  • Non-invasive blood glucose testing (infrared, interstitial fluid or other approach)
  • Non-invasive large molecule drug delivery (transdermal, inhaled, encapsulated, etc.)
  • Interventional surgery (catheter or natural orifice) instrumentation
  • Infection control for nosocomial vectors
  • Organ replacement and transplant (preservation, bridge-to-transplant, etc.)

Drivers

  • Untreated or underserved, growing patient population
  • Cost containment
  • Eliminating lost productivity
  • Less invasiveness for lower cost, faster healing
  • Point-of-care (home, physician office, bedside) diagnostics for comprehensive screening and detection
  • Increasing demands for devices to be specific, be clinically effective and have small or non-existent long-term footprint

High Value Platform Technologies

  • Materials technologies incorporating one or more features of biocompatibility, adaptation, cell migration, drug elution, resorption, excretion or other easy removal
  • Adult, embryonic and other pluripotent stem cells
  • Gene therapy emerging from recent innovations (e.g., type 1 diabetes)
  • Interventional surgical technologies
  • Multi-parameter (MRI, CT, ultrasound, etc.) intraoperative imaging
  • Laparoscopic and natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery
  • Nanotechnology drug delivery, surface modification
  • Integration/fusion of information technologies with implants

We have identified these opportunities, drivers and platforms from research in a wide range of medtech markets, considering the state of the art in clinical practice, products/technologies on or nearing entry to the market, clinician and healthcare system perspectives, and the  current/forecast sales data for products in surgery, cardiology, spine/orthopedics, cell/tissue therapy, obesity, wound management, others.

See MedMarket Diligence Reports.