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.”

Three Key Forces Behind Startups and Investment in Medical Technology

We see three key forces underlying investment trends in medical technology:

  • The spectrum of competition has been broadened and sometimes isn’t even obvious.

Widely different technologies (as in treatment of coronary artery disease, see white paper) can address a clinical condition, with the solution to the problem being the focus of new investment.

New materials for devices, drug-device hybrids, biotech-driven solutions, and other innovations can create competition between very different technologies. As a result, the paradigms and truths that held true in the past, when devices only went head-to-head with devices, are no longer relevant, creating the need to better assess the competitive landscape.

Manufacturers must there develop good market awareness, as in being cognizant of all the potential source of competition, such as from companies in adjacent markets who might pivot and seize market share.

  • Money flows to niches in medtech where the demand for clinical utility is high.

The biggest forces driving medtech are increasing patient populations or the cost of managing them. Niches that address the challenges of an older population with unsolved painful and or costly conditions (orthopedics, chronic wounds, diabetes, bariatrics) have prominent cost targets that stimulate investment.

Patient demographics, healthcare cost/utility demands and other forces make some medtech niches very attractive, even if only as a result of technology migration (e.g., to growth geo markets).

  • Underserved patient populations command almost as much attention as the untapped patient populations.

There is much potential return on investment to be made in blockbuster treatments, but these can be financial sinkholes compared to less grandiose technology solutions. A motive force exists in medtech, centered around healthcare costs, that is relentlessly forcing medical technology innovators to find opportunity within existing markets, by eliminating cost (e.g., shifting care to outpatient as via minimally invasive technologies). Significant medical technology investment has already recognized the value in targeting conditions for which new technology, new clinical practices and/or simply new ways of thinking can improve the quality of life, patient costs or both.

Medtech investment is most serious when it is (1) in high dollar value, or (2) tied to the formation of companies. It reflects confidence in that sector to the degree set by the investment.

In the past five years, MedMarket Diligence has tracked the identification of over 600 companies in medtech. Below is the distribution of their focus across a large number of clinical and technology areas (multiple possible, as in “minimally invasive” and “orthomusculoskeletal”).

These companies have also been tracked through their specific investments (detailed historically at link).

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Medtech Startups Database.

Cardiology, orthopedics, and surgery are mainstay drivers of new technology development in medtech, as has been the push for minimally invasive therapies, but nanotechnology, interventional (e.g., transcatheter) technologies, biomaterials, wound management and other niches have a steady stream of new company formations.


See recent reports from MedMarket Diligence in the following clinical areas.

Double-digit sales growth rates in spine surgery products

In many Western markets, spine surgery represents a mature market, with significant penetration of potential patients and caseload. Manufacturers have been able to produce innovations that have been able to command respectable premiums for a long time, and while they still represent some of the strongest growth rates in medical technology, overall revenue growth rates in spine surgery have been squeezed by procedure limitations and pressure on pricing.

Not so much the case in Asia/Pacific, Central/Latin America, and markets elsewhere in the world, where double digit spine surgery growth rates are the evident now, and will continue for the near future.

Below is illustrated the top growth (2014-2021) combinations of technologies and regional markets in spine surgery, in descending order.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 11.10.30 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #M540.

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.

The Five Biggest Medical Technology Forces

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

Devices are no longer devices (only).

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

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

Competition comes from all directions. And so does opportunity.

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

Zero invasiveness.

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

Decentralized, point-of-care technology.

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

Research and development tools eliminate excuses.

R&D is inevitably challenged to evaluate ideas thoroughly, considering difficult to anticipate obstacles and rapidly evaluating ideas to reveal the best prospects and bring them to manufacturing, let alone market. But multiple technologies have been developed and put into use that can accelerate the iterative cycles of development and yield prime product candidates to bring to market — biotech, pharma, biopharm, device, drug/device and others.  Computer modeling of hemodynamic blood flow, computer simulation of drug candidates (hybridized with devices or not), 3D printing (prototypes, custom implants) and many other advances rapidly accelerate and improve the efficiency of product development of products that more perfectly fit the need and eliminate excuses for unforeseen costs and patient complications. R&D is also far more well informed — integrating more complete understanding of systems biology and the consequent downstream benefits and costs of intervening in any particular way. What is left is the ability to more rapidly evaluate and test (more) ideas and bring them to market.

 

The Staying Power of Spine Surgery Markets

While medtech over the past five years has seen continued pressure on prices, increased oversight on physician-manufacturer relationships, reduced med/surg procedure volumes, continued regulatory challenges and the real or perceived negative impacts of the Affordable Care Act, the business of spine surgical technologies remains one of the most steadfast oases of innovation and price stability.

The continued growth of spine surgery owes itself to a number of key drivers:

  • The ageing population worldwide
  • Increasing incidence of obesity
  • A growing middle class in developing countries, with the ability to pay out of pocket for spine surgery
  • Improving worldwide economy
  • Technological device enhancements, leading to improved surgical results
  • Developments in minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) devices driving a strong increase in MISS, with its numerous advantages
  • In the US, improvements in reimbursement as clinical trials demonstrate the efficacy of treatments using the devices
  • US healthcare reform leading to medical insurance coverage for more people, allowing those suffering from intractable back pain to receive surgical treatment

(The last, of course, is debatable, since medical device manufacturers are not yet convinced that a 3.2% excise tax is supported by the anticipated boost in patient population. The jury is still out on this and, in any case, prospects for the 3.2% tax being repealed are slim, despite repeated efforts.)

Consequently, the worldwide aggregate spine surgery market has a 2012 to 2020 compound growth rate of 7.7%, with individual segments within it growing at a low of 2.3% to a high of 35.0%.

It is also worth noting that we have identified seven (7) new medtech startups (McGinley Orthopaedic Innovations, KB Medical, Trice Orthopedics, Tyber Medical, Direct Spinal Therapeutics, NLT Spine, Osseus Fusion Systems) in spine surgery that have been founded in the past three years alone.

Below is illustrated the spine surgery markets in the Americas and Europe for 2012-2020.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.33.52 AMScreen Shot 2014-05-28 at 10.34.10 AM

Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #M520, “Worldwide Spine Surgery: Products, Technologies, Markets and Opportunities 2010-2020”.

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.

Ideal medtech products

Drawing on specific examples of medical device, biotech, biohybrid, biomaterial and a wide range of other technologies I see at companies of all sizes, shapes and stages, I started an exercise to look at the “competitive advantage” sought by innovators pursuing new products in the big arena of medtech markets. Very clearly, there are companies I consider to fall in the “me, too” category, also known as 510(k), and there are companies whose products are much more PMA in that they are novel and unique, requiring more extensive data to demonstrate a heretofore undemonstrated capability. I was encouraged as I looked across the types of technologies and their target applications, since a great majority have been developed and are targeted at setting themselves apart in a market in which there is intense scrutiny on cost, which shows the resilience of innovators to rise to the challenge. At the same time, I continue to see a disappointing number of products that reflect an all too common view that being at least as good as anything on the market is adequate to succeed (hint: it isn’t).

This got me thinking about how innovators, consciously or not, are compelled to consider what their real competitive advantage is in medtech as they pursue product and market development in 2014.  This resulted in me distilling the common themes underlying new product development as pursued by the established and emerging companies I am tracking.

A key consideration is that market aware innovators recognize that their products are going to enter, in most cases, an existing market, which compels them to seek to develop their product from a relative standpoint, meaning its value is going to be judged relative to what is available, if there is any.

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 7.35.18 AMBelow are many of the common themes I see underlying the activities of medtech development. Again, note that, while there may be some absolutes (as in “cure”), most of the products’ performances are considered relative to existing products on the market. Combining multiple advantages is increasingly common, too, such as making a procedure less invasive and less costly, or simplifying the surgical procedure and reducing complications.

  • Allows treatment of patients who otherwise die with the available treatment limited to delaying death or ameliorating the suffering.
  • Cures the disease
  • Restores normal biologic function
  • Entirely eliminates the need for surgery
  • Eliminates need for reoperation to treat residual disease or address procedure failure rate
  • Increases the survival rate as bridge-to, or elimination of need for, organ transplant
  • Dramatically increases the specificity and intensity of treatment, especially for cancer, minimizing the impact to healthy tissue
  • Restores anatomic structural and functional integrity
  • Eliminates complications, side effects
  • Simplifies the procedure to reduce OR time
  • Shortens recovery time
  • Eliminates immunogenicity through highly efficient autologous cell technology
  • Reduces the invasiveness of the procedure by requiring fewer or smaller incisions via laparoscopy, transcatheter procedure, natural orifice endoscopy or completely externally (e.g., gamma knife)
  • Allows the treatment to be moved from acute care to an outpatient or office-based setting
  • Reduces cost by using a simpler device that can be manufactured less expensively, is less likely to break and require replacement or consolidates multiple treatment steps
  • Lowers the learning curve for physicians to adopt
  • Eliminates the need for later device removal; the product is absorbed or dissolved

This is a cursory view. As I review literally hundreds of medtech companies over the past decade, I can see a large number of common themes, but the ones above represent the bulk of them.

While it may seem trite, it is actually coincidental that the forces underlying most of the advantages are represented by a focus on one or more of these four C’s:

  • Cost
  • Complexity
  • Complications
  • Cure

If your efforts are in medtech and don’t touch on one or more of these themes, you have to ask yourself what your chances are of succeeding, even if you product is approved, even if your product gains reimbursement, even if a healthcare delivery system opts to contract to buy your product.


The sources on which these conclusions are drawn are advantages that are stated or implied by companies in the descriptions of their focus and the technologies they have under development or on the market, or the descriptions of patents, patent applications and other sources. This includes companies at all stages but, of course, earlier stage companies tend to have a focus on advantage that is more pronounced, at least in their intentions. Very early companies are therefore a particular interest of mine and I have been compiling data on startups for years and maintaining an active Medtech Startups Database (described at link).

 

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.