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Archive for the ‘diagnosis’ Category

Inhaled tuberculosis vaccine – a gateway to affordable and non-invasive drug delivery

Posted by evolvingwheel on March 13, 2008

Several months back I mentioned about saliva as a source of biomarkers for different diseases. The theme of my post was to delineate the non-invasive and easy-to-administer features of a method that could be used in developing areas of the world where harsh environmental conditions, lack of trained resources, and ignorance pose potent threats to proper diagnosis. This posting comes under the same theme of affordable diagnosis and drug administration where the sturdy nature of the delivery methodology makes it easier to transport, store, distribute, and apply medication among masses of population who often survive on less than $1 a day. tb.jpg

Researchers from Harvard University and an Int’l nonprofit Medicine in Need (MEND) have come up with an aerosol version of a common TB vaccine that can be applied as an aerosol mist. The differentiator is the aerosol delivery using nanoparticle technology that may change the current immunization delivery platform altogether. In the hot countries of Africa and Asia, some of the most difficult challenges are storage and sterility of injection needles. This method, which is currently being tested on animals with highly positive outcomes, if successfully implemented among the human population, can add a whole new horizon of social innovation in immunization for the most needy. A more detailed information about the method and their pioneering inventors can be found [here].

Even in the western hemisphere, this new method, if proven successful, can put the industry of drug delivery upside down. Such a scientific innovation could instantiate a process overhaul among several other collateral supporting industries that provide us with needles, storage, delivery medium, etc. Several years back my friend was using the Asthma inhaler called AdvAir. I was really impressed by the easy-to-use style of the delivery medium – air! If a similar technology could be brought over for the Flu vaccine, I wonder what will be the impact on the society where immunization will be a matter of few seconds and the candidate doesn’t even need to be in a clinic or a healthcare facility. Another major dimensional change will be if the immunization becomes a OTC activity.

Picture: Courtesy Harvard Science/David Edwards, the Gordon McKay Professor of the Practice of Biomedical Engineering in Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Posted in diagnosis, drugs, Environment, health, Innovation | Leave a Comment »

Wireless endoscopy versus Pillcam – how competing medical innovations demand different business models?

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 27, 2008

Here, I would like to talk about two medical diagnosis innovations (worth mentioning) and how the two competing methods would demand different considerations for successful commercialization of one over the other.

First comes the Pillcam. This device had been developed more than 7 years back and had received FDA approval. Currently, Pillcam is a market status quo and delivers a distinctively amazing method of imaging our GI tract in a non-invasive manner. When I first read it a year back, I was enthralled by the opportunity of getting one’s endoscopy done without going to the doctor and staying in the clinic for several hours, sedated, and undergoing a complex procedure of camera insertion. The PillCam SB video capsule measures 11 mm x 26 mm and weighs less than 4 grams. It contains an imaging device and light-source on one-side and transmits images at a rate of 2 images per second generating more than 50,000 pictures over an 8-hour period. It works simple too. You just fast overnight, reach the doctor’s office in the morning, swallow the capsule and put a recording belt on the waist, come back after the workday and deposit the recording device with all the images. The pill goes out naturally with a bowel movement later. For more detail, read[here].

Now, recently, Eric Seibel, a University of Washington research associate professor of mechanical engineering along with other researchers, has developed a scanning endoscope that consists of just a single optical fiber for illumination and six fibers for collecting light, all encased in a pill. The traditional endoscopes have a long wire 9 mm wide with a camera and requires sedation for the width of the wire. The new design from UW has a camera in a small capsule (smaller than the size of a vitamin tablet) tethered by a 1.4 mm wire (not a cable but more like a very thin string) that is very easy to swallow and doesn’t produce any discomfort that requires sedation. Now, that is definitely a market winner over conventional endoscopy. uw_camera_capsule.jpg

But how about competing with Pillcam? Well, this capsule is half the size of Pillcam and can be made smaller. Besides, the UW device takes 15 color pictures per second. The resolution is better than 100 microns, or more than 500 lines per inch. One advantage it has over the Pillcam is that being tethered, it is not just a fly-by view of the GI tract. The physician can move the small pill back and forth by using the thin tether – that allows more critical imaging of any specific location. Read more [here].

So what are the competing options? –

  • While one is a fly-by capsule with no tether, the other has a negligibly thin wire but allows more control over diagnosis. The consideration will be what degree of even minute irritation that tether might have on a huge sample of patients and how enhanced is the diagnosis?
  • One requires the capsule to be in the system for more than 8 hours (still reasonable since it doesn’t feel anything) with a device belt around the stomach all day. The other requires a small visit and one clinician to get the imaging done swiftly. In fact, UW inventor demands that it is as simple as getting it done in shopping mall. So there is opportunity of kiosk based diagnosis.
  • UW has a better image resolution than Pillcam. However, if Pillcam can innovate fast and implement a camera with 30-40 images per second, then it can stay as the market leader and create a higher barrier of entry.
  • One interesting aspect is to realize how large customer base Pillcam has. Awareness and marketing are the key features. On one hand, UW device can be delivered using the conventional clinic/diagnose center infrastructure along with kiosk based delivery model in the near future. On the other hand, Pillcam has the benefit of total remote testing. However, you still have to enter the clinic, swallow the pill, and put the belt on. So you still have to make the visit and wait in a line, etc. However, if Pillcam can come up with a micro-recorder (cheap to package it with the pill in a packet over the counter) then they win the game. The micro recorder could be flash memory based (cheaply available). The key element will be how images will be recorded by a small area of recorder location (if slapped on the skin like a Nicoderm patch).

This is a very interesting time as innovations are measured in terms of available infrastructure, market penetration, awareness, affordability and ease of use, and market barrier imposed by totally unique service offering over it’s competition.

Picture: Image taken by UW camera. Credit – University of Washington.

Posted in biotech, diagnosis, drugs, medical device | 6 Comments »

Virtual non-invasive biopsy can detect certain cancers

Posted by evolvingwheel on January 19, 2008

One medical physics researcher from the Queensland University of Technology has developed a new method that can diagnose certain surface cancers in a non-invasive and accurate manner. Jye Smith from the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences has developed a tool using bioimpedance spectroscopy to diagnose cervical and skin cancers. The innovative part of this invention is the nature of the usage of this technology and how it was adopted for a more critical but beneficial application. Bioimpedance spectroscopy is used in gyms to measure one’s body fat by passing electrical signals through the tissues/muscles. According to Mr. Smith, “It offers the possibility of a simple device that can be run over the surface of the skin or internal organ that can quickly, cheaply and accurately record changes in cellular structure that point to cancerous changes.” bioimpedance_diagnose.jpg

Smith and his team have run experiments with the new device and have detected with greater accuracy not only the boundaries of lesions but also the extent of growth and progression of cancer cells. The impedance detects changes in cell structures and provides this knowledge to clinicians to detect the type and location of legions. The non-invasive nature of the diagnosis makes this concept more path-breaking. No, we have to wait and see how Smith takes this development outside the lab and commercializes it for real use. However, before that, he needs to cross several hurdles as far as the efficacy of the practice could be determined. Read the new [here].

My one other area of interest is the international development of medical diagnostics and their penetration in non-origin countries. How does a commercial medical product (device) enters a new geographical market with different economic, political, and social tenets? Is it possible only through joint ventures? More interesting is the challenge of moving an invention to realization through complicated regulating agencies of different parts of the world. If the time-delay to realization is high, how would cross border invention benefit communities globally?

Picture: Courtesy QUT

Posted in diagnosis, Innovation | 1 Comment »

Saliva with biomarkers – non invasive technique for detecting diseases

Posted by evolvingwheel on December 7, 2007

I have been stumbling upon this concept on and off and finally decided to post it. I have come across two articles. One is a post on Popular Science website and the other a research paper from nearly 3 years back. The Pop Sc. article talks about the potential of detecting diseases from human saliva.

Earlier, saliva was ignored due to a very low number of analytes present in it. But with the new human saliva proteomic project and new biomarkers being discovered, spit is realistically being considered as a non-invasive point-of-care diagnostic platform. I am all for it. Just think how easy it would be – just spit and detect the marker. No need to even show up at the clinic. Mail the specimen if time allows. Stress capability of saliva to withstand temperature and pressure is better than blood. Read the Pop Sci article [here]. doctor_000.jpg

Now the paper from 2005. It is a research article co-athored by scientists from several institutions in CA. The paper talks about MEMS diagnostic chip using saliva. Gives an overview of mico-electro mechanical system / nano-electro mechanical system (MEMS/NEMS) sensors to oral fluids for diagnostic purposes. Please read the article [here]. As a proponent of cheap diagnostics that can be used for social innovation in underserved communities, I am highly interested in learning more about the potential of MEMS chips. I will cover more soon. 

Another good link: http://www.tastechip.com/saliva/saliva_diagnostics_research.html

Posted in biotech, blood, diagnosis, Innovation | Leave a Comment »

A new test to diagnose heart failures better

Posted by evolvingwheel on November 29, 2007

With a special interest for remote healthcare and innovative diagnostics, this news couldn’t go past me. A group of researchers at the University of Leeds have come up with a new technique that helps to identify the difference between a heart attack potential and a chest pain due to other causes. Currently, when a patient lands up in the Er with chest pain, the physician administers a troponin test which can detect and evaluate heart injury and separate it from other chest pains. The test looks for troponin protein in the blood, which is generated when heart cells have died. However this test is not comprehensive and can give both false negatives and false positives. The predictor looks for the protein and only isolates between a scenario of real heart damage and a case of chest pain with no death of heart cells yet. It misses the spectrum in between.

A new test has been developed by the team that looks for a heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) which is released into the circulation following heart injury (myocardial ischemia). According to Alistair Hall, Professor of Clinical Cardiology at Leeds “The H-FABP test is a major advance on what we had before. It appears to be able to detect milder and earlier degrees of heart injury than do current tests which detect heart cell death.

The uniqueness of the test lies in its ability to identify patients whose chest pains are an indication that they are susceptible to heart attack in the following weeks or months. The aspect of prevention makes this test a winner. It not only saves lives, but also saves money and unnecessary services. I will look forward to the eventual commercialization of such a test with an affordable price proposition. And then if such a test can be made portable and easy to administer at the point of care, i.e., homes.

Read the article [here].

Posted in blood, diagnosis, health, Medicine | Leave a Comment »