Medical device manufacturers are investing heavily in R&D, and are shifting their innovation strategies from incremental innovation toward achieving breakthrough innovation.This level of investment and distinct drive for breakthrough innovationis in contrast to the other manufacturers.
Breakthroughs can take a number of different forms – whether as new products, new surgical techniques or cost-effective products for emerging markets. What many of the latest innovations have in common is that they transform the way medical devices reach the consumer.
A new heart valve by Edwards Lifesciences is a great example of the kind of breakthrough innovations that are transforming cardiovascular therapy. With transcatheter aortic valve replacement healthcare teams can insert a new valve within a diseased aortic valve without open heart surgery. This less invasive alternative can be performed through multiple approaches: transfemoral (through the leg), transapical (through the chest between the ribs) and transaortic (through the upper chest). The breakthrough is especially beneficial for patients at high-risk or too ill for open heart procedures.1
3D printing is also fuelling a new wave of medical device breakthroughs – providing unprecedented design and manufacturing flexibility. Already, scientists have successfully replaced a child’s vertebrae with a 3D-printed bone, and a man suffering severe head trauma was fitted with a 3D-printed titanium skull.2 This technology holds special promise as a low-cost alternative for bringing products to developing markets.
Other breakthroughs involve new techniques such as, the combination of robotics and 3D visual systems for use in surgical procedures, new materials, like the development of a new coatings for hip implants that can prevent premature failures, and even new teaching methods such as, the use of Google glasses by a surgeon at Duke University to stream live feeds for training medical students in India.3
The world’s largest medical device company, Medtronic, is working to reshape the way the world manages chronic disease and conditions through innovation and global collaboration. Medtronic operates from more than 250 manufacturing facilities, sales offices, research centers, education centers, and administration facilities that serve customers and patients in 120 countries.
To help patients manage their health across the entire continuum of care – from prevention and diagnosis to treatment and ongoing management – they are integrating devices with information technology and biologics that broaden their functionality. For example, Medtronic’s new heart rhythm devices automatically and wirelessly transmit information through a home monitor to a secure website accessible from the physician’s office – making it easier for physicians to manage a patients’ conditions long-term.4
One component of Medtronic’s strategy is to partner with smaller, entrepreneurial companies in developing markets. This allows Medtronic to reduce its R&D spend, leverage the local company’s knowledge of the market and access a partner’s existing sales and distribution network. In China, for example, Medtronic opened an R&D center in partnership with Shandong Weigao Group Co. Ltd. to develop orthopedic technologies and devices for the local market.
Innovation hubs are growing more popular as a way to promote research and innovation in a variety of fields, including life sciences. They take the model of business and resource support offered by traditional business incubators a step further by injecting an element of community. Hubs tend to be self- organizing and communally directed, enabling innovation and entrepreneurship by encouraging engagement and exchange of ideas among members. Donor and sponsor support is often directed toward projects and programs that align with the community’s own evolving priorities.5
Here are snapshots of three of the world’s largest hubs devoted to innovation in healthcare technology.
The MaRS Discovery District, opened in 2005, this 1.5-million-square-foot complex is located in the center of Canada’s largest research cluster in Toronto. MaRS (which stands for medical and related sciences) works with an extensive network of private and public sector partners to help entrepreneurs launch and grow innovative start-up ventures focused on three areas it says will drive the future: health, work and learning, and energy. As an independent registered charity, MaRS convenes partners from the corporate, small business, government, academic and research sectors to foster collaboration and the convergence of ideas.6
A*STAR – the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore is a public service agency that oversees 18 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research entities, located in or near several R&D epicenters. The agency provides intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry and supports extramural research in universities, hospitals and research centers, and with other local and international partners.
One A*STAR hub, a complex of skywalk-connected buildings called Biopolis, is a live/ work facility dedicated to biomedical research. It offers goods and services ranging from retail, food and beverage to banking, along with facilities for scientific conferences, symposiums, seminars and lectures.7
The San Diego iHub aims to build on the greater San Diego region’s existing innovation infrastructure and collaborative culture of by creating ‘convergence clusters’ devoted to three areas: mobile health, biofuels, and solar energy. These clusters are designed to promote new partnerships, shorten the commercialization process, and attract funding for technology.
As the world’s largest wireless business cluster and an emerging hub for pharmaceutical research and medical device start-ups, the region has become a vital center for collaboration, acceleration and convergence for the wireless and life sciences industries and the advancement of digitally enabled medicine.8
Within Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Global Innovation Centers, the tagline ‘creating new healthcare solutions never gets old’ rings true for this 129 year old global medical device, pharmaceutical and consumer goods company.
J&J has taken a new approach to partnering aimed at advancing early-stage innovation. Within regionally based centers in Boston, California, London and Shanghai, teams of J&J science and business experts collaborate with innovators to convert scientific advances into healthcare solutions.
By working with scientists and entrepreneurs at universities, academic institutes and start-up biotech companies, and by employing collaborative and flexible deal structures, J&J aims to identify and invest in a wide variety of pre- clinical proof of concept innovations.
J&J’s Traditional Business Development division continues to lead its business development activities in later stages, including late-stage licensing, commercial collaborations (regional and local), acquisitions and alliance management.9