Monday, October 19, 2015

The Future of Our Market

By Jeff Champagne
Director of Business Development
MPR Product Development Group

Astronomers say that in 4 billion years, our Milky Way galaxy will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy to produce a super galaxy. The post merger integration will take about 2 billion years.  Medtronic and Covidien should be fully integrated by then.

There are similar yet smaller collisions that are happening today in real time, right under our noses.  Massive consumer and medical technology companies are colliding every week.

So what does that mean for the future of the life science industry?

Mega deals seem to be in the news on a weekly basis.  Some of the largest medical device companies around are converging with little overlap between them. Much of the value that is being created today in the life sciences industry is a result of the convergence of technologies.  Telecommunications colliding with Rapid Diagnostics will produce real time monitoring and mediated remote treatment of patients. The miniaturization of devices, not previously possible, is happening with an increasing frequency.

Batteries that last for almost a decade are being placed inside the body to create safer and less cumbersome answers to our most challenging health problems. One example that illustrates where we are headed is the Micra, a leadless pacemaker from Medtronic, the size of a Mike and Ike® with a 9 year battery life. 

The rapid changes  and solutions that we see all around us are the result of the connecting of technologies from multiple, seemingly disparate industries.
In recent studies of the collisions that seem to spark serendipitous innovation, it’s clear there are a number of factors contributing to them. One of the largest factors is the diverse talent pool that our industry draws from. Individuals are being hired from adjacent industries because of a technical know -how but with zero previous exposure to life sciences. Talent is moving across industries with ease, full of transferable job skills and a fresh outside perspective. This collision of outside talent and new industries creates many meaningful products.

Maybe “collision” is too dramatic. As suggested in this blog post about “what happens when galaxies collide?” it is perhaps more of a merger. There is so much whitespace in our industry that it does not necessarily mean that direct competition is created as these giants of industry become closer together. Not too long ago, Medtronic and Samsung announced a joint partnership to develop future solutions for diabetes patients to better manage their disease. The product of this collaboration will create a new ecosystem for patients to learn about their condition and improve their health outcomes.

Other tech players that have jumped from Tech to MedTech have had some growing pains and you will continue to see those missteps. Qualcomm, well known in the Medical Technology world for its 2Net solution, is seeing trouble with adoption, as hardware solutions in a connected environment become increasingly obsolete. Bluetooth Low Energy has become widely adopted as an alternate way to connect devices up to the cloud, collecting patient data for eventual predictive modeling.

Because of the smaller, cheaper, faster, models that collide with the established regulatory bodies there is still a bottleneck that forms downstream in the innovation process, especially in biotech and medical device space. If we are to truly develop breakthrough products that utilize cutting edge technology, this bottleneck will have to be solved.

The FDA, USPTO and other regulatory bodies around the world are re-evaluating priorities, to help fast track key developments that can help vast patient populations. The race to develop an artificial pancreas is just one example of this special class of development that merits a fast track.

Hopefully these special cases will help the FDA to develop a new norm that leads to faster approvals and clearances. Recently, the FDA announced that a number of devices would be downclassified, from class III to class II, creating a faster pathway to clearance as there are a number of predicate devices now that satisfy their need for safety and efficacy.  This trend to break down barriers for innovation should continue.

In this picture of colliding worlds, we have a unique view of recently developed, breakthrough products in medtech, consumer, and industrial applications.  This helps us to find synergies and make connections.  For example, helping medical device companies are currently leveraging cloud computing and big data analytics to get better metrics on health outcomes.  Connecting low cost automotive sensors with wearables for on-the-go health monitoring Is another interesting pairing.  We'll see more of these gravitational attractions going forward.

Over the next few years, you will continue to see more mergers, more collaborations, more breakthrough products and a lowering of barriers for speed. It is an exciting time to be in the medtech space. Hold on tight. This is gonna be fun.

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