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.
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 »
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.
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 »
Posted by evolvingwheel on October 11, 2007
I really enjoyed reading this article on MSNBC. An open and realistic discussion of the cost of cure for cancer and other terminating illnesses in the US. I am not going to repeat what’s in the post. You can find it [here]. The article talks about one patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer and tries to focus on several pertinent but critical human issues related to the subject. The very well presented story questions the monetary value of life. It’s about the cost of biotech drug therapy – the state-of-the-art medication that targets specific proteins and is capable of expanding the life expectancy of the affected.
The primary message is the cost of undergoing such elite drugs, and how it affects the patient, his/her family, savings, and lifestyle in general. Most of these drugs are outrageously costly – ranging from $55K to $100K per year of treatment. For an average middle-class individual with a decent salary, the recurring cost of such magnitude gets debilitating. Many loose their lifelong savings, house, and other dear belongings. The human side of the story is very emotional. On the other hand, the drug companies pursue years of research and billions of dollars to bring these revolutionary drugs to the market. Once commercialized, the companies try to salvage their investments several fold. A pressure from the stock market and shareholders moulds the path of profit-making. Some outcries the tremendous cost of ~$100K to maintain a drug regimen and supports the idea of government control over such drug prices – which is right away a damper to innovation and free market impetus. So how do you balance that?
I believe that in the coming years these questions need to be addressed sincerely. Not just from political and social perspectives but also from business platforms. How can these drug companies manage to continue their innovation, leverage their invaluable intellectual capital, benefit from the one-way (seller’s market) cost proposition, address the ethical and social questions, and meanwhile appease the investors to continue growth. Several challenging issues that need to be dealt by business community, political community, scientific community, and the general population.
Picture: Genentech Building
Posted in biotech, drugs, investment, Medicine | Tagged: cancer treatment | Leave a Comment »