Experts Pick What's Hot in Medical Device Technology

Posted by Brian Buntz on January 12, 2012

MD+DI asked members of its editorial advisory board, which is comprised of experienced medtech professionals and consultants to the industry, to share their thoughts on which current medical device technology breakthroughs are most important. The panel had widely diverging opinions on which new technology is important. All of the technology described below, however, are promising. (The panel also was asked to name dream devices that, if available, would revolutionize care.)

Bioprinting. This technology is enabling 3-D printing of replacement organs, says Andrew Dallas, president and CTO of Full Spectrum Software.

Health IT. “In the long run, what I believe will really change things is wireless transmission of information. It's making inroads now, but I expect the impact to accelerate. Eventually, everyone with a condition will be monitored in real time by his or her physician,” says Stephen Wilcox, PhD, principal at Design Science (Philadelphia).

Kidney preservation technology. “In my ‘unbiased’ opinion, it would be the kidney perfusate and normothermic preservation system that I am currently working on with a client (scheduling pre-IDE as we speak),” says Daniel E. McLain, PhD, president of Walker Downey & Associates (Lane Verona, WI). “The system has the potential to resuscitate kidneys from cardiac death patients, potentially increasing the donor pool by several hundred thousand per year. It can also help to rejuvenate (revitalize) damaged or ischemic kidneys from brain-dead patients (the next-most common donor behind the living). As you may know, the current hypothermic preservation system causes significant organ damage, thus transplant rejection.”

Nanotech. “The continued development and use of nanotechnologies to enhance and target drug delivery therapies and diagnostic capabilities,” says Robert Reich, the president of LexaMed, Ltd. (Toledo, OH).

Diagnostic breakthroughs. “Improved diagnostics that allow for better screening, earlier identification of disease disposition, or presence,” says Richard Lincoff, client partner/medical devices industry lead at Cognizant (Greater St. Louis area). Lincoff also thinks that implantable and wearable sensors that monitor levels and conditions broadcasting needs as well as critical situations is another important development.

Frank Pokrop, director of regulatory affairs at CareFusion agrees on the importance of diagnostics, citing cancer detection through breath analysis.

Preservation of vision in wet AMD and diabetes-related diseases through chip-based pixilation with RFI-based, two-way communications with a device is another hot area, Pokrop says.

Artificial pancreas is also an important subject of research, Pokrop says.

Modern blood guclose testing devices still require diabetics to pierce the skin.

Non-invasive blood glucose monitors. “Over the past 20 years, I have watched with interest the development of non-invasive blood glucose monitors,” says Steve Mozelewski, senior manager, sleep diagnostics engineering at Philips Home Healthcare Solutions at Monroeville, PA. “As you may know, Type I and Type II diabetics currently must prick their finger (or some other spot) to determine blood insulin levels. Many who are newly diagnosed are reluctant to use a monitor because of the need to poke yourself."

“Certainly, not controlling diabetes appropriately can lead to many other health issues, including death.”

When Mozelewski previously worked at hospital with a committee that looked at the process and tried to make it better for patients. "But in the end, [patients] still had to prick themselves," he says. "Certainly, not controlling diabetes appropriately can lead to many other health issues, including death. Many new technologies are being looked at and I am convinced one of them will really be a godsend in the future – light through the skin, analysis of breath, ultrasound, thermal emissions from tympanic membrane," he adds. "Per WHO, 6.4% of the adult population in the world in 2010 (285 million people) were affected and this is expected to grow to 7.8% (438 million people) in 2030. Many diabetics have put their money into supporting development of non-invasive technologies to little avail over the years, but I believe it will come one day soon.”

Developing less invasive device technologies is an important trend, says Wayne Rogers, an independent consultant in the healthcare industry based in Phoenix.

 The Ion Proton Sequencer chip.

The $1000 genome. "[My pick] is not a medical device regulated by the FDA at all, but it is going to have a massive impact on drug discovery," says Bill Evans, principal and founder of Bridge Design (San Francisco). "The Ion Torrent technology (introduce by Life Technologies in 2011) is capable of reducing the sequencing of an entire human genome to just $1000—a heady claim but I know many research scientists who are very excited about it and using it already."

The technology knocked the stock price of another leading genome sequencing technology company for six when it came out, Evans points out.

"It will take time for the effects of this technology to wash through into products and assays, but it represents such a significant increase in speed (about 1000 fold increase) that it cannot help but open up all kinds of possibilities for discovery, research and personalized drugs."

Stem cell delivery. "It will change the universe," says Eliot Lazar, MD, principal of ElCon Medical (Buffalo, NY).

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