Three years ago, Boston Scientific and Mayo Clinic decided to collaborate such that they could fast track product development of promising devices.
That relationship was made public last week when the Massachusetts device maker announced that it is cementing that collaboration by continued investment in the partnership. The announcement underscores two specific healthcare trends: Whereas the last few years have seen a move toward payer-provider integration, this example illustrates the importance of provider-vendor alignment.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly this is a nod to open innovation in medtech.
"Open approaches to innovation, such as our collaboration with Mayo Clinic, can more quickly put better tools and devices in the hands of physicians to improve the health and well-being of patients," said Michael F. Mahoney, president and CEO, Boston Scientific in the news release.
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One of the problems of open innovation platforms is how companies tackle the issue of intellectual property. A Boston Scientific spokesman did not reveal details but acknowledged those issues have been adequately addressed.
"The beauty of the framework put in place at the outset is that these terms are already established between the two parties, leaving clinicians and engineers free to collaborate without having to worry about financial or legal barriers," said Thomas Keppeler, in an email.
The financial terms of the partnership, including how much money Boston Scientific has invested or will do so were undisclosed with Keppeler noting only that it is a multimillion-dollar investment and the amount pumped into the collaboration has doubled due to the 2-year pause in the medical device tax. This is something that Mahoney alluded to in the press release.
"Our continued investment in this collaboration is an example of our commitment to further investing in jobs and innovation as a result of the recent suspension of the Medical Device Tax."
While one aim of the program is to develop and commercialize novel products quickly, another is to test cleared products in new clinical enviroments.
Take for instance a clinical study involving Boston Scientific's Precision Spectra Spinal Cord Stimulator System, which is cleared by FDA to aid in the management of chronic intractable pain of the trunk and/or limbs. This includes both unilateral or bilateral pain associated with failed back surgery syndrome and low back pain and leg pain that is not controlled by other means. In the study with Mayo, however, the neuromodulation product is being used forget heart failure patients in order to block the neural signals that lead to shortness of breath and muscle fatigue during exercise.
Another clinical trial is aiming to come up with a new design for guide catheters physician use to pass a guidewire across a narrowed aortic valve during transcather aortic valve replacement procedures that have been gaining ground against open heart surgeries. The problem physicians face is the strong current of blood flow in the valve that impedes the proper feeding of the wire. That struggle increases procedure time as well as exposes patients to X-rays. Current procedures also may damage the valve and arteries and increase the potential for stroke. A new catheter design being tested by Mayo may eliminate all that.
So, how will success in the collaboration - which includes prodcuts to be developed in interventional cardiology, heart rhythm management, endoscopy, neuromodulation, urology and pelvic health - be measured?
"Success is defined via the ease by which information flows, as well as, ultimately, the clinical viability of new projects developed through the collaboration," Keppeler said.
And assuming things go as planned, the collaboration while lining the pockets of the two organizations, can benefit patients too.
"Working together can allow us to swiftly bring our discovery and innovation to the direct benefit of patients," said John Noseworthy, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic in a statement.