The convergence of #MedTech – monitoring, diagnostics, remediation

Earlier this year, I participated in MedTech’s Got Talent, a competition for medical technology and biotech startups, organised by STC. Now, HCF in partnership with Slingshot have announced a similar accelerator program, called Catalyst. Launched at a recent meetup event hosted by Startup Victoria*, Catalyst is the latest industry initiative to lend support to the growing #MedTech sector. It’s fair to say that the sector is not without its challenges (regulatory compliance and IP protection being foremost), but there is substantial investor interest given the potential for growth and widespread application of the resulting technologies. I also see that there is increasing convergence in respect to some of the digital products being brought to the market – through the use of wearables, mobile apps and analytics to deliver monitoring, diagnostic and remedial solutions.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 8.10.47 PMAt the Catalyst launch, three #MedTech founders discussed their startup experiences and offered some insights to budding applicants. Jarrel Seah (Eyenemia), Phil Goebel (Quanticare) and Leonore Ryan (Cardihab – Cardiac Rehab Solutions) covered the product development process, being part of an accelerator program, and the specific challenges of medical technology.

There was  broad agreement that Australia (and Victoria in particular) has a strong and successful history of #MedTech development and innovation. There was also a sense that the future funding of telehealth services will be key to the sector’s development, especially the shift from “fee for service/solution” to “fee for value” models.

Aside from the regulatory and IP challenges, two of the biggest hurdles for #MedTech are the customer complexity, and procurement models, which can be summarised as follows:

Who Pays? Is it the clinician, patient or carer? Who, in effect, is the customer?

How Do They Pay? Each State has its own procurement and hospital funding models, plus there is the interplay of private health insurance and providers.

During the product development process, the founders stressed the need to manage expectations for an MVP, the use of customer discovery interviews, and the importance of making clinicians part of the solution. There is also a problem with data gaps (e.g., hospital re-admissions), and the requirement to establish patient trust: while the software, data and apps can support more meaningful consultation, there still has to be some human component to foster behaviour change. There was also a comment about marketing for tomorrow’s market, not the current state.

Having each been through some form of accelerator program, there was common agreement on the benefits:

  • Access to networks of mentors and strategic advisers
  • Help with navigating the regulatory landscape
  • Options for one-off funding to help convert trials to customers
  • Ability to focus on the project, along with peer stimulation, and a sense of urgency

Each of the three startups mentioned here deploy some combination of smart phone technology, sensors and analytics – just as Dr.Brand does, which featured at the recent Future Assembly. The notion was reinforced most recently at Swinburne University’s Design Factory Gala NIght which showcased, among others, innovative #MedTech student projects that utilise a mix of digital display/visualisation, wearable devices, mobile apps and analytics to address three key cognitive-related issues: patient falls in hospitals, dementia, and Asperger syndrome.

Previously, I have described health as one of the three pillars of the digital economy. Furthermore, the future of #MedTech (as distinct to biotech) is going to be built on the combined deployment and integration of smart sensors, personal devices, artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor, diagnose and remediate behaviour – not necessarily to cure the patient, but to overcome physiological challenges and age-related conditions.

 

*Apologies – normally I acknowledge the Startup Victoria event sponsors – but since the team have been doing such a great job in securing new supporters, there are so many to mention!

Next week: There’s an awful lot of coffee in Japan (but not much espresso….)

#MedTech’s Got Talent 2015

Earlier this month, the Department of Industry announced the first successful grant applicants under the Accelerating Commercialisation element of the Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme. Not surprisingly, there were a significant number of biotech projects in the list. The news came shortly after the second round of MedTech’s Got Talent (MTGT), a startup competition organised by STC and sponsored by the Victorian Government among others. The Grand Final was held at a gala event in Melbourne’s Crown Complex, and it suggests that despite some tentative beginnings, the local biotech sector is in great shape.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 5.05.17 pmBased on my participation at the recent FinTech hackathon weekend, I was invited to join a team to compete at MTGT – which was both a privilege, and a huge challenge that took me out of my comfort zone, as the medical technology sector is not one I have any direct experience of (although of course I consider it to be one of the key sectors in the digital economy).

Our team, led by the exuberant Dominic Pham was presenting a new heart rate monitoring solution that combines wearables, mobile apps and cloud-based analytics. Sadly, despite a great effort by the whole team, we did not make it to the Top 5 – but it was a great experience nonetheless.

The competing teams could be classified into 3 broad categories:

  • Diagnostic & Predictive Tools
  • Rehabilitation & Spatial Monitoring
  • Drug delivery systems (Remote & Non-Invasive solutions)

Projects ranged from the highly ambitious (an artificial placenta) to the incredibly humble (an STI diagnostic kit aimed at developing countries). Some were using cutting edge technology (such as a new form of hearing device), others were applying new mobile and cloud-based technology to existing problems (such as digital pathology).

The 5 finalists (who now go on to an intense accelerator and investor presentation program) were:

It’s fair to say that a lot of the projects are still at the pre-clinical trial stage, and as far as I am aware, none have yet been granted TGA status, and most are yet to secure final patent grants – which reflects part of the challenge in bringing new products to market.

However, the impetus behind, and interest in, the biotech sector in general and MTGT in particular (the event brought together government, academia, clinicians, industry and investors) should mean we will be hearing a lot more about these startups in the months to come.

Finally, if anyone is interested, our own project was CardiacGuard, and is likely to launch later this year, as the underlying technology has already been developed, and some early-stage trials have been conducted in Hong Kong.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My thanks to Dominic and the rest of the CardiacGuard team (Tim Liu, Celine LaTouche and Rayen Magpantay) for giving me the opportunity to experience MTGT, and to all the organisers, mentors, sponsors and supporters who made the event happen.

Next week: Getting Stuck