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DexCom Surpassed Analyst Expectations in the Second Quarter

Pixabay DexCom Surpassed Analyst Expectations in the Second Quarter

Diabetes patients are clamoring to get their hands on DexCom's newest gadget, the G6 continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system.

FDA approved the device in March and the company decided to get the product into customer's hands as soon as possible, even though it had originally planned to launch the device in the second half of the year, CEO Kevin Sayer explained Wednesday during DexCom's second-quarter earnings call.

The company ended up launching the new device with about three weeks left in the second quarter. The device is the CGM to score approval as an interoperable CGM, meaning that it can work with other automated insulin dosing systems.

While the G6 launch might seem rushed, investors would hardly be able to find fault with that decision after seeing DexCom's second-quarter results. The company posted record revenue performance with sales up 42% compared to the same period last year. DexCom's revenue growth outpaced the increase in operating expenses by more than two times for the first half of the year. 

But the decision to launch the G6 device ahead of schedule has put a strain on the organization on a number of fronts, Sayer admitted during the call, according to Seeking Alpha transcripts. Strong demand has driven delays in processing and fulfilling orders, he said, but DexCom expects to "get ahead of this" strain by the end of the third quarter.

"To our patient and physician customers, please rest assured the team is working around the clock to get [the] product to you," Sayer said.

Sayer described the feedback on G6 since the launch as "unambiguously positive so far." He also reiterated to investors that the device represents the most important and complex launch in DexCom's history.

"The biggest complaint that I've received so far is 'when am I going to get my G6 system?' We get it. DexCom's CGM technology can have a major impact on diabetes management," Sayer said.

Interest in DexCom's CGM systems has prompted the company to increase its growth outlook for the year. DexCom now anticipates total revenue of about $925 million for 2018, or growth of 29% rather than its previous guidance of 15% to 20%, CFO Quentin Blackford said during the call.

"Obviously, Q2 was much stronger than what we had anticipated," he said. "We like the set up going into the quarter, but the $243 million of revenue was far beyond our expectations. And I think we're at the very early stages of significant awareness being captured around the value of CGM, and just how quickly that penetration goes into the marketplace is yet to be seen but we're incredibly bullish around it."

When asked by one analyst during the call to describe the characteristics of the company's new G6 customers compared to earlier customers, Sayer said that the G6 new customers are "everybody."

The device is reaching a broader base of people, he explained. "It is reaching more users who have not experienced CGM before because as they walk into their caregivers [offices] and learn about its features with no calibrations and the easy insertion ... it is more attractive to a broader market of patients than what we've offered in the past."

Perhaps what makes DexCom's second-quarter results even more remarkable is the fact that the company achieved these results in an increasingly competitive market environment. Earlier this week Abbott Laboratories, one of DexCom's biggest competitors in the diabetes device space, received FDA approval for its Freestyle Libre 14-day Flash Glucose Monitoring System. Last year FDA approved the company's 10-day Freestyle Libre CGM.

New Material Promises Breakthrough IR Sensing for Autonomous Cars

An artist rendering of light interacting with a barium titanium sulfide crystal. The new material has the highest value of birefringence of any solid material known to man and could significantly increase visiblity with LiDAR sensors in autonomous cars. (Image source: Talia Spencer / USC)

To overcome the issues inherent with using video or other forms of visible light detection (such as poor performance in fog, snow, and other conditions) for sensing, vehicle manufacturers are using LiDAR—a pulsed light-based sensor that detects remote objects. LiDAR uses light in the visible to near-infrared range. But visibility could be improved considerably if the so-called mid-wave and long-wave infrared light were also used. There is a window in the electromagnetic spectrum between 3-5 µm and 8-11 µm where atmospheric scattering is greatly reduced and transmission is quite clear.

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of sensing and light processing materials in this energy range from which sensors can be made. Now, however, a research team at the University of Southern California (USC)—led by Jayakanth Ravichandran, professor of materials science at USC—has identified a new material, barium titanium sulfide (BaTiS3). Thanks to its slightly different structure, it could improve the situation considerably.

Barium titanium sulfide is a relative of perovskite, a calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO3) mineral that was discovered to have excellent photovoltaic properties. Perovskite has attracted attention recently for its potential to produce cheap and efficient organic solar cells. However, there are drawbacks including the fact that perovskites contain toxic lead and are relatively unstable. Taking that as a point of departure, Ravichandran and his team began investigating related materials, looking at optical properties in search of an improved photovoltaic material that could also double as a good thermoelectric material.

What they found with barium titanium sulfide was the highest value of birefringence of any solid material known to man. Birefringence is a form of anisotropy, in which the speed that light travels through a material differs based on the direction it is going. Birefringence is useful for manipulating light in filters and sensors and other optical equipment, such as polarizing prisms. Barium titanium sulfide had been synthesized before, but not as a large enough single crystal to reveal this property.

“The most exciting part is that this large birefringence value happens over a very broad energy range,” Ravichandran told Design News. This includes the range where infrared light transmits through the atmosphere.

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The basic elements from which these barium titanium sulfide crystalline materials are made are quite abundant, so the cost of detectors should be attractive. However, additional work is required to fully understand the material’s optical properties and to figure out all the types of optical elements, such as non-linear optics, for which it can be used. Beyond IR detectors for vehicles, this material could have applications in tracking human and wildlife populations, monitoring air pollution from space, and with firefighters to identify heat zones in a fire.

There is also the question of what other properties this intriguing material might possess, all of which will keep Ravichandran and his team quite busy for some time. According to Ravichandran, “Ideally, what you want is a material where you can shine infrared light on it and it absorbs that light while it produces a signal that tells you that it absorbed the light.”

He continued, “Using this material and the detector material that’s used today, we can make a much better detector right now. But if I can also replace that detector material with something superior, similar to what we have found, then you are going to have a solution that is extremely good at not only processing the infrared light, but also detecting it.”

RP Siegel, PE, has a master's degree in mechanical engineering and worked for 20 years in R&D at Xerox Corp. An inventor with 50 patents, and now a full-time writer, RP finds his primary interest at the intersection of technology and society. His work has appeared in multiple consumer and industry outlets, and he also co-authored the eco-thriller Vapor Trails.

Could Faxitron Really Be the Perfect Tuck-in for Hologic?

Pixabay Could Faxitron Really Be the Perfect Tuck-in for Hologic?

In a move to broaden and further strengthen its breast health portfolio, Hologic said it has acquired digital specialist Faxitron Bioptics for $85 million.

Tucson, AZ-based Faxitron markets a broad portfolio of products across major categories including digital specimen radiography, breast lesion localization, and sentinel lymph node biopsy. The company most recently launched the VisionCT. The technology is a 3-D breast specimen-designated CT system to offer 360-degree images of excised lesions.

“Faxitron's market-leading products, which span from digital specimen radiography to breast lesion localization to sentinel lymph node biopsy solutions, are sold via a strong distribution channel that focuses on breast surgeons and pathologists, Stephen MacMillian, chairman, president, and CEO of Hologic said according to a Seeking Alpha Transcript. “So Faxitron will complement our strengths in the mammography suite and enable us to play a larger role in breast conserving surgery, an adjacent growth market.”

Faxitron generated about $27 million of revenue in its last fiscal year. The acquisition is expected to be roughly neutral to Hologic's non-GAAP earnings per share for the remainder of fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2019 and is expected to be accretive thereafter.

The acquisition comes right at the time Hologic posted 3Q18 earnings. Revenues for Hologic grossed $824 million in the quarter, up 2.2% year over year. Earnings surpassed analysts’ consensus of $800.1 million and Hologic’s guidance of $795 million to $810 million.

Hologic’s aesthetics unit, Cynosure, is starting to show improvement after a disappointing performance in 2Q18.

“So, while we are still very much in prove it mode with Cynosure, we are learning how to win the right way in aesthetics, and forecast that Cynosure will become a consistent growth engine starting next quarter, as the prior-year comps normalize,” MacMillian said, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. 

Hologic acquired Cynosure for about $1.65 billion in a deal that caught a lot of analysts off guard . The acquisition was proposed shortly after Allergan made a $2.47 billion offer to pick up Cynosure’s rival, Zeltiq Aesthetics.

Weekly resin report: Mostly lower polyethylene prices boost turnover

Weekly resin report: Mostly lower polyethylene prices boost turnover

After a very slow start, July actually turned into the busiest month of the year, moving right past January, writes the PlasticsExchange (Chicago) in its Market Update.

Cool Design
Image courtesy Cool Design/
freedigitalphotos.net.

Spot polyethylene (PE) prices were mostly lower, which pumped up processor demand and contributed to high turnover. The export market was lively, with solid interest from Mexico and Europe; Asian traders remained cautious regarding low-density (LD) and linear-low-density (LLD) PE because of the tariff situation, but they were open to buying tariff-exempt high-density (HD) PE, according to the PlasticsExchange.

Polypropylene (PP) demand was good, though off from the swift pace seen in recent weeks. Off-grade supply has become more plentiful, and the discount grew compared to more scarce prime material.

Spot PE trading remained very busy and prices were mixed, but mostly lower. Transactions were plentiful and well spread across the commodity grades of LLDPE, LDPE, and HDPE. A combination of massive upstream supplies and tariff-related uncertainty weighed on the Houston market, causing LDPE and LLDPE for film to weaken by as much as $0.02/lb; injection grades lost as much as $0.03/lb, as supplies improved and premiums eased. HDPE for injection, which is unaffected by the potential tariffs, firmed up a cent. Despite the continued effort to implement the outstanding $0.03/lb increase, the PlasticsExchange expects the contract PE market to roll flat in July with the potential to lose ground in August. 

PP trading continued to pull back from the fervent pace seen earlier in the month. Transactions were mostly driven by demand as opposed to suppliers seeking to move uncommitted resin. Prime PP material has become more scarce because of reduced production rates. Off-grade supplies, on the other hand, have been actively flowing, with good availability of both domestic railcars and packaged material in Houston, which are a very good value compared with relatively high-priced prime.

As anticipated, PGP settled flat for the month of July. PGP prices have inched up late in the month and currently point to a higher contract value in August. As such, prime PP prices rose $0.02/lb on average.

Read the full Market Update on the PlasticsExchange website.

Ascend Performance Materials gains European footprint with BTP acquisition

Ascend Performance Materials gains European footprint with BTP acquisition

M&A handshakeAscend Performance Materials (Houston, TX), which describes itself as the largest fully integrated producer of nylon 6,6 resin, announced today the purchase of Britannia Techno Polymer (BTP), an engineering plastics compounder based in Tilburg, Netherlands.

This is a big step for us, President and CEO Phil McDivitt told PlasticsToday during a phone interview. “It’s our first production facility outside of North America. As our European business has grown, it became necessary to have a manufacturing footprint in Europe,” said McDivitt.

Ascend Performance Materials operates six production facilities in the United States and maintains an office in Shanghai.

Founded in 2006, BTP specializes in nylon 6, 66 and 66/6 copolymer, ABS, PC, and PP compounds. Prior to the acquisition, Ascend had a long, fruitful relationship with Ascend, said McDivitt. “Even before Ascend, when it was Solutia, we had a great relationship with BTP founder and CEO Andy Leigh. The company has been our primary source for manufacturing in Europe since 2006,” said McDivitt.

Solutia Inc. was spun off Monsanto’s Chemicals Division, which included the production of nylon 6,6 in its portfolio, in 1997. Private investment firm SK Capital Partners purchased Solutia’s Integrated Nylon business in 2009 and established Ascend Performance Materials.

BTP’s employees will transition immediately to Ascend, and Leigh will join Ascend’s global management team as Director of Compounding Technology.

During the call, Scott Rook, Senior Vice President, Nylon, provided an update on the force majeure on nylon 6,6 polymers the company declared following a fire at its Pensacola, FL, plant. Production came back on line July 27, said Rook. Deliveries slowed down, he added, but Ascend is quickly ramping back up.

Shark-Skin Coating Provides Protection Against Bacteria

Sharks are oft-misunderstood creatures that usually provoke a feeling of fear in people. However, researchers are using the creatures—their skin in particular—for inspiration to develop a new type of coating that can be used to fight bacteria.

Powerful bacteria infections that are resistant to antibiotics—often called “super bugs”—are becoming a plague in hospitals. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that these bugs—infecting hospital patients who are already immune compromised—cause 2 million infections and 23,000 deaths in the United States every year.

Hospitals and other patient facilities are seeking stronger anti-bacterial agents and coatings to help prevent surfaces from being sources of these bugs. For example, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) have developed a material that can be used as a coating for “producing durable multifunctional surfaces that decrease microbial attachment and inactivate attached microorganisms,” researchers wrote in an abstract for a paper published in ACS Materials and Applied Interfaces.

Shark-skin

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a new anti-bacterial coating by using inspiration and material from shark skin. (Image source: Shutterstock.com)

The researchers observed how shark skin “has unique characteristics that prevents fouling of barnacles, algae, and other types of bio-foulants on skin,” Feyza Dundar Arisoy, a graduate research assistant in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering at UMass, explained to Design News.

“When shark-skin features are reduced down to bacteria size, the same pattern prevents bacteria fouling on the surface,” she told us. “However, the limitation intrinsic to all microtopographic patterned surfaces—that bacteria will accumulate on the surface in a sufficient amount of time—makes this method insufficient alone.”

Printing Shark Skin

To solve that limitation, the team used solvent-assisted, soft nanoimprint lithography on a polyethylene terephthalate (PET) substrate to fabricate the coating. They combined antifouling shark-skin patterns with antibacterial titanium dioxide and nanoparticles from which shark-skin microstructures were imprinted as their materials, Arisoy said.

“We designed polymer and ceramic composite materials with photocatalytic titanium dioxide nanoparticles and imprinted them in shark-skin patterns,” she explained. “Titanium dioxide nanoparticles kill a variety of microorganisms without bleaching out.”

The coating can be used on high-touch surfaces in hospitals, such as bed rails and door knobs, to help prevent the spread of infections, Arisoy said. Moreover, the printed materials can be tuned for different applications and environments—from soft polymers to extremely hard and wear-resistant ceramics.

In tests, the materials developed by the team reduced the attachment of E. coli by 70 percent compared to smooth films used for the same purpose, Arisoy said. In even more optimal results, shark skin surfaces with titanium dioxide nanoparticles exposed to ultra-violet light for one hour killed more than 95 percent of E. coli and 80 percent of Staphylococcus aureus—two common bacterial infections found in hospitals, she said.

“To the best of our knowledge, this work represents the first reported use of antibacterial nanoparticles in shark-skin patterns,” Arisoy said. “The combination of passive and active strategies on a single surface is the most promising material design strategy to control bacterial fouling.”

The team currently is continuing its work to develop a roll-to-roll manufacturing process for photocatalytic shark-skin surfaces for widespread use in practical applications, she added.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for 20 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York City. In her free time, she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga, and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

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NXP Rolls Out Low-Power Media Processors

NXP Semiconductors N.V. is launching a family of processors aimed at embedded audio and video applications ranging from smart speakers to home security to streaming media players. Known as i.MX 8M, the family integrates ARM Cortex-A53 processor cores with Cortex-M4 microcontroller cores, providing a combination of high performance and low power. “We can do very high-performance video with the A-cores and we can do low-power tasks with the microcontroller,” Martyn Humphries, vice president of consumer and industrial application processors for NXP, told Design News. “And we can do it all in the same chip.”

With the new family, NXP is targeting embedded applications that use voice commands, such as smart TVs, sound bars, thermostats, door locks, smart sprinklers, home security, and a wide variety of home automation systems. Humphries said one of the goals for the technology is to use voice to simplify human-machine interaction. “For instance, you can give a voice command to stream a specific TV episode and then ask a contextual question about the actor, which initiates a search and displays the results on the screen—all while your show is still streaming,” he said.

The semiconductor giant is also targeting the industrial and IoT worlds. As such, the technology could be used to control CNC machines on the factory floor or HVAC systems in commercial buildings.

NXP's i.MX 8M applications processors are being targeted at voice-controlled smart connected devices. (Image source: NXP Semiconductors N.V.)

The key to the new family is its ability to distribute tasks—using the high-performance cores to do video and graphics, for example, while offloading less compute-intensive tasks to the microcontroller. “If we compare it to some of the older 40-nm technologies, it’s using half the power, maybe less,” Humphries told us. “So we reduce the power and reduce the thermal management needs, which makes the overall product cheaper and increases its life.”

The processors incorporate up to four 1.5-GHz ARM Cortex-A53 cores and Cortex-M4 MCU cores, along with 4K UltraHD video resolution and 20 audio channels. The new family is consistent with the larger mission of NXP’s i.MX8 brand, which is known as a “crossover” product because it combines high-performance processor cores with MCU cores. “We found there was a demand out there for this,” Humphries said. “Some people want to have application-processor functions, but at the power and price of a microcontroller.”

The new family, which will reach production later this year, is currently being employed in a variety of applications by NXP partner companies. Humphries noted that NXP has about a dozen companies that are integrating the chip onto a PCB and applying it to industrial computing applications.

“This family is for any application where you need to do media processing at low power,” Humphries noted. “It’s the next generation of embedded processing for any application.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 34 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

 

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