June 20, 2024

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How can Canada support medical technology innovation: Q&A with Saumik Biswas | Insights

The current landscape also places a significant emphasis on patient-centric care. Medical technologies are increasingly being designed to enhance patient experiences, foster improved outcomes and promote greater patient engagement where applicable. Wearable devices, health applications, and personalized treatment plans are becoming increasingly prevalent. We are also seeing traditional healthcare providers and medical device manufacturers forge strategic alliances with tech giants such as Google, Apple, and Amazon, leveraging their data analytics and user-friendly interfaces.

The shift towards value-based care models has further underscored the importance of healthcare outcomes and cost-effectiveness. Medical technologies are now expected not only to improve patient outcomes but also to demonstrate clear benefits in terms of reducing healthcare costs and streamlining clinical efficiency.

This transformative environment has attracted a substantial influx of investment in healthcare startups and medical technology companies, particularly in areas such as AI, medical imaging, and robotics. The active participation of venture capital, private equity, and government funding has played a pivotal role in nurturing innovation across these sectors.

There is a lot of dialogue around AI in healthcare, what are your thoughts on the benefits and risks it presents?

There is no doubt that AI in healthcare can offer numerous benefits, including improved diagnosis, personalized treatment, and enhanced efficiency. It has the potential to significantly enhance disease detection, prognosis, and treatment outcomes. AI-driven automation can streamline administrative and labour-intensive tasks, reducing costs and improving efficiency.

However, the adoption of AI in healthcare also comes with challenges. Ensuring data privacy and security is critical due to the sensitivity of medical information. Addressing bias in AI algorithms and navigating complex regulatory frameworks pose additional hurdles. Ethical concerns may arise when AI recommendations conflict with judgements from healthcare providers. Building patient trust and ensuring transparency in AI algorithms are essential for responsible integration. Balancing these benefits and challenges is crucial for the successful and responsible use of AI in healthcare.

Aside from AI, what are some emerging ideas or developments you are seeing across the medtech industry in general that you are most excited about?

The medtech industry is brimming with exciting innovations that hold tremendous promise. These range from cutting-edge imaging technologies to the incredible potential of drug delivery via nanotechnology. What particularly excites me is the convergence of AI with the wealth of data generated by these foundational technologies. This integration has the power to provide clinicians with advanced clinical insights crucial for making informed diagnostic and treatment decisions.

What are the biggest opportunities and challenges facing the medtech industry?

The medtech industry is poised for significant opportunities, primarily in personalized medicine, remote patient monitoring, data-driven healthcare, and the integration of technologies across medical domains to furnish clinicians with vital clinical insights. These advancements have the potential to revolutionize patient care and outcomes.

Yet, challenges loom large, encompassing regulatory complexities that can slow down innovation, heightened data privacy concerns amid the growing digital landscape, and the imperative need for seamless interoperability among diverse technologies and systems.

What are some underserved areas in healthcare that you think would benefit from technology? How so?

Underserved healthcare areas, such as rural regions and mental health, stand to gain significantly from technology’s integration. It enables telemedicine, remote monitoring, streamlined laboratory services and digital mental health support, ultimately bolstering healthcare accessibility and improving patient outcomes. Providing funding for innovation to hospitals in rural areas is pivotal. It not only facilitates the adoption of new technologies in these regions, but is instrumental in ensuring that patients in these areas benefit from cutting-edge innovations, especially critical for diseases where timely treatment is key.

What are your thoughts on how the Canadian government is supporting innovation in this sector, either through investment or regulatory/legislative developments? Where could they improve?

The government is making commendable efforts to support innovation in the healthcare and medtech sectors. They have provided funding programs and grants to foster research and development, which is crucial for innovation in medical technologies. However, there is room for improvement. Increasing funding for R&D can accelerate the development and commercialization of medical innovations. Streamlined processes for clinical trials and regulatory approvals can reduce time-to-market. Robust data infrastructure, clear digital health regulations, and strengthened patient data privacy measures are essential to promote innovation while ensuring safety and effectiveness. Encouraging private sector investment through potential tax incentives and fostering public-private collaboration can stimulate growth in the sector. Additionally, expanding telehealth infrastructure and promoting global integration for Canadian medtech companies can further enhance the country’s position as a hub for healthcare innovation.

What advice can you give to those wanting to launch a medical device or healthcare company and commercialize their offerings?

To successfully launch a medical device or healthcare company and bring your innovations to the market, it’s essential to start by pinpointing clear pain points faced by clinicians and healthcare providers. These must be unmet needs that your product can effectively address. Conduct meticulous research on your target customers and end-users, thoroughly analyze the competitive landscape, and delve into the intricacies of regulatory and reimbursement requirements while keeping the end-user’s perspective in mind.

Next, identify your strengths and weaknesses and seek team members whose skills complement yours. Assemble a proficient team, including advisors and mentors with industry expertise, and rapidly develop an initial prototype to gather swift feedback from end-users. While progressing with your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), prioritize safeguarding your innovation with intellectual property rights and explore funding opportunities from various government sources to offset initial costs (programs such as Intellectual Property Ontario and ElevateIP).

If applicable, initiate pilot studies or clinical trials for validation and regulatory approval, guided by seasoned regulatory consultants specializing in your technology field. Collaborate closely with industry experts, mentors, and advisors to formulate a well-defined market entry strategy. Maintain a relentless focus on delivering value to healthcare stakeholders and champion a patient-centric approach.

Cultivate robust relationships with key stakeholders, stay adaptable in response to evolving market dynamics and regulatory changes. As you develop your MVP and secure initial market traction through potential clinical collaborations, proactively seek both non-dilutive and dilutive grants to mitigate the substantial R&D expenses associated with product development.

Simultaneously, engage with investors once you’ve established initial market traction, developed a prototype, and assembled the right team—seek investors with a specific interest in your field (do not underestimate this process, as it can take time to build out these relationships). Additionally, ensure your business strategy has a forward-looking perspective that enables you to plan strategically and achieve your milestones effectively. This holistic approach will serve as your compass in navigating the intricacies of launching a healthcare venture and will significantly contribute to your success.

What is your 10-year forecast for the industry?

There are eight trends I think we are going to see:

  1. Digitalization will continue to be a driving force, with telemedicine, digital health platforms, and wearable devices becoming commonplace.
  2. AI will play an increasingly vital role, revolutionizing diagnostics and personalized treatment.
  3. Genomics and data analytics will advance personalized medicine, while remote patient monitoring will improve chronic disease management.
  4. Robotics will see expanded applications in surgery, pathology, and elderly care, enhancing precision.
  5. Telehealth will further extend access to healthcare, particularly in underserved areas.
  6. Data security and regulatory adaptations will be critical, and global collaboration will accelerate innovation.
  7. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to increased investment in healthcare infrastructure and pandemic preparedness.
  8. Despite promising opportunities, challenges related to ethics, healthcare disparities, and equitable technology distribution will also need attention.