Medical Device Daily Contributing Writer
And MDDs

Germany has moved closer to next-generation smart cards for e-healthcare with the report that Deutsche Angestellten-Krankenkasse (DAK; Hamburg, Germany), the country’s second-largest health insurance company, has launched development of a card application and management system (CAMS).

DAK becomes the first German health insurer to specify its version for the new health identity cards that are now in pilot tests with 20,000 cardholders.

The German subsidiary of Authentidate Holding (Berkeley Heights, New Jersey) won the CAMS program awarded by DAK and ISKV (Essen, Germany), which is the core IT system provider for 90% of Germany’s health insurance companies.

“I don’t want to exaggerate the importance of this before we deliver, but it is an extremely important win,” said Jan C.E. Wendenburg, CEO of Authentidate International (D sseldorf, Germany).

DAK will distribute 6 million e-health cards to its subscribers. Eventually 80 million Germans will carry the cards.

The German program for e-health has been called the world’s biggest IT project by German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt, who won parliamentary approval last week for the overhaul of the 1140 billion ($183.5 billion) healthcare regime and an April 1 launch date.

The new German health system is centered on a credit-card sized health card that has been called a “flat PC.” Equipped with a microprocessor and flash memory, the cards will hold e-prescriptions, urgent care information and encrypted access to electronic health records.

After the French Carte Vitale, a memory-only card, was cracked by hackers in less than an hour last year, security for patient information and secure connections between different parts of the widely distributed health system has become an overriding concern for the eventual distribution of cards to citizens.

Wendenburg said Authentidate won approval for its security concepts from Gematik, the non-profit agency charged with implementing and managing Germany’s electronic health system. The CAMS responds to both security issues and data processing requirements for insurer DAK to manage members’ health insurance cards.

Authentidate will provide security concepts, including the implementation of public key infrastructure for X.509 certificates, a validation server, a online certificate status protocol and “certain underlying technology to support everything,” said Wendenburg.. He declined to give a value for the contract award.

“With approval of healthcare renewal measures by Parliament for an implementation by April 1, there is now a pressure on other insurers to act on this project,” he said.

EU boosts funding for health R&D by 40%

Health-centered R&D will receive record funding of 16 billion ($7.8 billion) from the European Union as part of the landmark Seventh Framework Program (FP7) that began this month and runs for seven years. Health research received 12.4 billion ($3.1 billion) for the previous framework, FP6, which ended in December.

Total funding for research relating to health was second only to the allocation of 19 billion ($11.7 billion) for information and communications technologies programs. The final deadline for program proposals is June.

Responding to the alarming drop in European R&D, the EU increased funding for FP7 by 40% over FP6, or 150 billion ($65 billion), to finance programs covering a wide spectrum of industries and interests, including transportation, energy, environment, agriculture, nanosciences and socio-economic sciences. Two categories added for FP7 are space and security.

In a call for proposals, St phane Hogan of the EU Health Commission’s Division for European Research, said a special emphasis for FP7 will be on the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a collaborative effort between the EU and the pharmaceutical industry to identify where research efforts can help remove obstacles to pharmaceutical innovation in Europe and how public-private partnerships can implement changes.

Notice of allowance for Digilab

Digilab (Canton, Massachusetts) said a Notice of Allowance has been issued for Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers discovered and identified with its Peptidomics technologies, developed by Digilab BioVisioN (Hannover, Germany).

A total of 312 cerebrospinal fluid samples from patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, primary dementia disorder or cognitively unimpaired subjects were collected and analyzed. The company said a series of peptides was identified that differentiated between Alzheimer’s patients and both the dementia subjects and the subjects with normal cognitive profiles.

Digilab said these “highly reliable biomarkers” provide a basis for early differentiation between patients with Alzheimer’s-related dementia and those without cognitive impairment.

Digilab acquired BioVisioN in February 2006 (MDD, Feb. 28, 2006) and is commercializing its Peptidomics products and services.