ATLANTA – The digital health market is growing. Taking in about $76.7 billion in 2015, the burgeoning space is sustained through partnerships. However, some smaller med-tech companies often have difficulties partnering with larger companies to foster innovation in the digital health market. Panelists at the Southeastern Medical Device Association (SEMDA) shared some insight on how start ups can get the attention of larger firms and forge a path in digital health.
Panelist Omer Inan, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that traditionally the model in academia has been to rely on grants to move innovation along – but that model is changing.
"Moving forward, I think there's an interest on the academic side and industry to do some sort of sponsored research or collaboration," Inan told the audience.
Inan pointed to a partnership between Georgia Tech and Texas Instruments Inc. as an example. Under the collaboration, Georgia Tech is using technology from the Dallas-based company for a wearable device to sense muscle fatigue.
Karan Sorensen, president of Sorensen Strategies, a Charleston, S.C.-based consulting firm, told the audience that partnership opportunities with larger companies have benefits such as capital and a strong sales force if the technology garners approval. She noted that most of the time, larger companies aren't looking to reinvent the wheel, but to find a company that could help fill in the gaps.
"Have your act together if you're going to approach a larger company [seeking a partnership]," Sorensen said. "Don't come with an idea, and don't just come with a product, you have to have a solution."
There has been some success in the space. Late last year, San Francisco-based Augmedix Inc. secured $23 million in funding. (See Medical Device Daily, Dec. 9, 2016.) The company has developed a remote scribe service based on Google Glass that is intended to re-humanize the doctor-patient relationship by eliminating the time physicians spend on mandated electronic health care documentation.
Earlier this year, Melbourne, Australia-based, Global Kinetics Corp. received the CE mark for its Parkinson's Kinetigraph system, an approved device that sits firmly in the digital health space. (See Medical Device Daily, Jan. 18, 2017.)
IBM WATSON EXPANDS THROUGH COLLABORATION
On Wednesday during the SEMDA lunch keynote speech, Don Turner, global head and senior vice president of business strategy and commercialization for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Watson Health said collaborations were appealing because no company could do it "on its own." He noted that collaborations were as essential to the digital health care space as a carburetor working with an engine to keep a vehicle running.
Earlier this year, IBM Watson revealed a collaboration with the FDA to define a way to exchange health data across a variety of technology platforms with an initial focus on oncology data. (See Medical Device Daily, Jan. 12, 2017.) The project is intended to empower patients with the ability to have easy and routine access to all of their own health care information, including making it portable and shareable.
Last year, the company partnered with the American Diabetes Association to combine the cognitive computing power of Watson with the organization's vast expertise, including their repository of clinical and research data, in order to build a first-of-its-kind diabetes adviser for providers, patients and caregivers.
IBM found a partner in Dublin-based Medtronic plc in a bid to develop the Sugar.IQ, a first-of-its-kind cognitive app that helps detect important patterns and trends for people with diabetes.
DIGITAL PARTNERSHIP PATHWAY
Outside of IBM Watson – Petah Tikva, Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel teamed up to develop a wearable device intended to continuously monitor and analyze Huntington's disease symptoms. (See Medical Device Daily, Sept. 19, 2016.) Teva agreed to use the Intel's platform as part of the phase II Open-Pride study for the treatment Huntington's disease. Patients will use a smartphone and wear a smartwatch, which will have sensing technology to measure general functioning and movement. The data will be streamed to a cloud-based platform. Algorithms then will be used to translate the data into objective scores of motor symptom severity. The study is expected to start later this year in the U.S. and Canada.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Verily Life Sciences LLC – formerly Google Life Sciences – has been highly active in digital health parnerships. Last year, Verily and Brentford, U.K.-based Glaxosmithkline plc formed Galvani Bioelectronics, which is slated to evaluate bioelectronics medicine to combat chronic conditions, starting with diabetes. Shortly after, Verily and Paris-based Sanofi SA launched diabetes-focused Onduo. That venture blossomed about a year after Verily and Sanofi reported a diabetes partnership. The agreement followed Google's agreement with San Diego-based Dexcom Inc. covering continuous glucose monitoring products. (See Medical Device Daily, Sept. 13, 2016.)