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New Applications Expand Market for Biodegradable Polymers



New Applications Expand Market for Biodegradable Polymers

The environmentally friendly materials offer many advantages

In recent years, biodegradable polymers have offered scientists a possible solution to the waste-disposal problems associated with traditional petroleum-based plastics. But while biopolymer research has continued at an accelerated pace, the plastics industry and even some environmentalists have been slow to accept these materials, and, consequently, the growth of the biopolymer market has been relatively slow. Now, however, innovative new biomedical applications, including artificial skin, heart valves, and other organs grown on biopolymer scaffolding, are creating major opportunities for new product development and the commercial exploitation of these materials. Biopolymers—plastics derived from natural materials—offer a number of advantages over synthetic, oil-based plastics. They are biodegradable, and therefore environmentally friendly, as well as biocompatible, which makes them a suitable alternative to compounds such as silicone in medical applications. In addition to the development of biopolymer-based processes for growing artificial organs, scientists have successfully used biopolymers to create "drugs" that never enter the bloodstream, antibacterial coatings for medical devices, a microsponge technology that releases medical ingredients slowly over time, a collagen plug that revolutionizes postoperative care, and therapies based on hyaluranon, a specially tailored visco-elastic biopolymer. While only a handful of firms have taken the lead in bringing biopolymer-based products to market, the field for commercial exploitation of these applications is wide open, according to the new edition of a study focusing on the biopolymer field. Biopolymers: Sophisticated Materials with Growing Market Potential, published by Technical Insights (Englewood, NJ), gives corporate strategists and R&D executives a solid understanding of biopolymers, and helps them pinpoint potentially profitable applications and take the right steps to exploit opportunities in licensing, partnering, and codeveloping. For more information on the study, contact Technical Insights at 201/568-4744.


Technological Breakthroughs Spur Growth in Patient Monitoring Markets

Market is forecast to generate $11.34 billion in 2004

The increasing use of computer-based systems and open-architecture designs, combined with the exploration of minimally and noninvasive procedures, has led to steady growth in patient monitoring markets. World Patient Monitoring Equipment Markets, a study by Frost & Sullivan (Mountain View, CA), an international marketing consulting company that monitors the medical industry, takes a close look at these rapidly growing markets, which generated sales of $5.31 billion in 1997. The advent of managed care and the increase of similar cost-cutting programs around the globe have altered not only manufacturers' clients, but the criteria for a successful sale as well. Vendors must now secure contracts with hospital purchasing groups that are under pressure to cut costs while maintaining or improving the quality of hospital care. This shift goes beyond directing marketing and sales efforts to the proper channels. It forces manufacturers to prove that their new products are as cost-effective as they are convenient. "No longer is new equipment bought just because it has better technology," said Mahpara Burney, medical analyst at Frost & Sullivan. "Manufacturers have to justify the price by demonstrating that the new features added to their products actually benefit the patient and present cost savings for the facility." Managed care is also shifting patient care from traditional hospital settings to alternate-care sites such as homes, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes. While patients may not require intensive therapy and monitoring in these facilities, they do require some basic level of monitoring. Growth in these alternate-care facilities will shape which new products are introduced. Blood glucose monitors continue to be the largest patient monitoring market item, producing $2.1 billion in sales in 1997. In this competitive market, manufacturers are constantly improving their monitors by introducing smaller blood-sample requirements and adding such user-friendly features as voice prompts and extended memories. Since only about 15% of the world's more than 110 million diabetics monitor their blood glucose levels daily, manufacturers are hopeful that new features will help expand the market. The multiparameter monitoring equipment market forms the second-largest segment of revenues in the world patient monitoring equipment market, accounting for $1.4 billion in 1997. Telemetry and networking capabilities are two new features driving growth, but, more importantly, manufacturers are taking advantage of new sales opportunities in step-down facilities, the transport market, and outpatient care sites. For more information, contact Frost & Sullivan at 650/237-4384.


PEXCO Receives ISO 9002 Certification

Company produces tubing and catheters

PEXCO has received domestic and European ISO 9002 certification. The company produces a variety of precision tubing and catheters for the medical device market using a wide range of thermoplastic materials. Its Northborough, MA, facility employs 75 and features a fully equipped design and development center, a computerized production facility, and mobile Class 10,000 cleanrooms. For more information, contact PEXCO at 508/393-2553.


Perfecseal Establishes Prototype Center

Center will fabricate 3-D packaging prototypes

"All too often, packaging is an afterthought when introducing a new product," says Rich Craig, technical service manager of Perfecseal's new prototype center. "Then suddenly the pressure is on to develop a package as quickly as possible. This can lead to real problems down the line." Loacted in Philadelphia, the prototype center is to be used as a resource to customers for designing optimum new product packaging. The service can help customers make decisions about material selection, package configuration and size, aesthetics, and design. Perfecseal will fabricate a single, 3-D prototype package for use in focus groups, marketing presentations, or new product demonstrations. Customers can bring in their medical devices and let Perfecseal engineers help build packages around them. According to Craig, this kind of process allows customers to get a new product to market quickly and cost-effectively. He says, "The wrong package can be a disaster in many ways, such as in loss of sterile barriers. This is especially true when someone tries to make do with off-the-shelf packaging." A second prototype center, Radicel, is under development at the company's plant in Londonderry, Ireland, to serve overseas customers. For more information, contact Perfecseal at 800/999-7626.


Stretch Film Manufacturing Council Formed

Will create voluntary standards for the industry

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA; Washington, DC) today announced the formation of the Stretch Film Manufacturing Council. The council, which is a subset of FPA, is composed of companies representing over 50% of the stretch film industry. The council's initial mission will be to create voluntary standards for the industry and develop statistical benchmarks for its members.

"This is the first time that this industry has come together to create a working council that benefits the stretch film manufacturing industry," says Glenn E. Braswell, president of FPA. "We at FPA are proud to be part of this groundbreaking endeavor."

The stretch film industry in the United States comprises 27 companies, employs approximately 1000 people, and generates sales of nearly $1 billion annually. FPA is the world's largest trade association representing manufacturers and suppliers of flexible packaging. The $17-billion industry employs 87,000 people in the United States and serves a broad array of markets, from food to pharmaceuticals to medical supplies.

For more information, contact FPA at 202/842-3880.

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