Cardinal Health (Dublin, Ohio) and Texas Instruments (TI; Dallas) have been identified as partners for developing intelligent medical devices using a new ultra-low-power signaling technology owned by Nanoscience (George Town, Cayman Islands), a niche investment group in emerging technologies for healthcare.
In early December, Nanoscience said it had signed a licensing and product development agreement with a "leading global medical device business" that company executives declined to name, to bring to market products using its proprietary advanced mixed signal (AMx) technology (Medical Device Daily, Dec. 12, 2007).
Confirming for MDD that Cardinal is the unnamed partner, Nanoscience CEO Guy Spelman said the company signed a licensing and distribution agreement with TI earlier this month.
For a range of applications crucial to supporting the transformation of healthcare toward remote patient monitoring, the AMx signaling platform uses neither the industry standards for Bluetooth nor conventional radio frequency identification technologies (RFID) that are more power-intensive.
Key to Nanoscience's technology is the onboard processing of the Sensium chip developed by its wholly owned subsidiary, Toumaz Technology (Milton Park, UK), that continuously sends and receives data packets using batteries as small as a slip of paper and no larger than a hearing aid battery (MDD, Nov. 2, 2007).
This bi-directional signaling is a second winning feature for Sensium that has attracted the multinational partners as it "generates validated data that is very robust and reliable," Richard McPartland, product manager for Toumaz, told MDD.
AMx technology is now embedded in products undergoing market testing and FDA approval processes, according to Spelman.
The first products to use the first-generation Sensium chip, branded as the MyAmego line by Sentinel Healthcare, owned 50% by Nanoscience, addresses the care of dementia patients and will be launched at the end of April at the Naidex conference in Birmingham, the showcase for homecare, disability and rehabilitation products in the UK.
The UK government made the care of people with dementia a social and political priority with recent approval of the Mental Capacity Act.
Sentinel Health said it has successfully tested MyAmego in a care-home setting and reports 12 UK care provider organizations are negotiating contracts to purchase the products.
Nanoscience, traded on the London Stock exchange and capitalized at £17 million ($34 million), reported a staggering loss for 2007 of £7.3 million ($14.7 million) attributed to investments in its two subsidiaries developing medical devices using the AMx platform, as well as a third company that developed products currently being trialed in Beijing for use during the upcoming Summer Olympics.
The operational loss increased 55% from the loss reported by Nanoscience in 2006 of £4.1 million ($8.2 million).
Nanoscience reported incoming revenues for 2007 of just GBP 174,000 ($348,000).
"We are very comfortable," Spelman told MDD. "To speak bluntly, we are in a fantastic position, having spent a lot of money but having spent it well to get to where we need to be with this technology."
The focus for 2008, he said, "it clearly to begin generating revenue across a range of applications for healthcare."
For the past six months engineers from Toumaz have been working in California with product developers from Cardinal Health.
In the report to investors reviewed by MDD, Spelman underlines Cardinal Health's strong position in 90% of American hospitals, with technologies for electronic infection surveillance, automated dispensing systems, IV pumps, respiratory care products and patient identification systems that will be greatly enhanced with the licensed technology for bi-directional and low-power signaling that sends Health Language Seven-compliant (HL7) data to smart phones, laptop computers or wall-mounted detectors.
Toumaz developed advanced clinical data reporting for HL7 from the Sensium chip in a two-year partnership with Oracle (Redwood Shores, California) using a "lite database" program. (MDD, Nov. 2, 2007).
"Cardinal has the resources to develop and market end-to-end solutions utilising our AMx technology that will enable Toumaz to achieve commercial success with minimum investment on our part," Spelman said in his report to investors.
The deal with Cardinal Health is focused on clinical product development where Toumaz expects to benefit "from Cardinal Health's extensive engineering and systems knowledge."
Meanwhile the new agreement with TI is described as being a pure sales and manufacturing deal.
TI is "looking to push new retail products into healthcare," Spelman told MDD.
Currently known as a provider of chips, transistors and silicon-based components for medical devices, Spelman said TI is "making a move aggressively into the healthcare sector," using the unique features of the AMx platform.
While the technology from Nanoscience creates a competitive edge for TI as it seeks to parlay its success in retail consumer electronics to break into a developing retail market for personal health devices, for its part Spelman told investors Nanoscience expects to exploit "TI's design, process, and manufacturing capabilities, as well as an opportunity to use TI's sales channel and have access to its established customer base."
"This development is particularly exciting as it will fast track the commercial opportunities available to Toumaz, again with minimal investment from Nanoscience," he said in his report.
"Indeed the investment Texas Instruments themselves are making demonstrates their commitment to both our technology and the commercial opportunity going forward," he wrote.
"The market for healthcare is maturing fast, and our technologies are in phase with the digital revolution," Spelman said, calling the AMx technology "disruptive, delivering to the healthcare market for the first time unobtrusiveness, simplicity and low cost in a set of body-worn intelligent wireless sensors with the potential to revolutionize healthcare for millions of people."
The market drivers pushing the industry toward this transformation are powerful, he said, from cost pressures on hospitals with a demand to automate the continuous acquisition of bedside readings that frees up expensive staff time to recent FDA guidelines requiring continuous monitoring of patients during all phases of clinical drug trials.
"Pharmaceutical and drug testing companies are actively looking for a solution to this challenge," said Spelman.
For the mass market for healthcare worldwide, he said, "with double-digit cost increases predicted, the current model of treatment is unsustainable for both public and private healthcare institutions."
The lower costs and greater portability for personal medical devices using the AMx technology, compared to current industry standards for RFID and Bluetooth, "ushers in a new era by providing a viable cost model for long-term, preventative care that is also compatible with patient lifestyles," Spelman said.
He said Nanoscience was considering a public offering for Toumaz on the Nasdaq, but that "it is currently the board's opinion that greater value can be gained from this option in Europe."