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Hospital for Sick Children Leading Child Health Research

The Medical Technology Blog

Sick Kids takes centre stage in robotics, imaging and simulation technology development

At first glance, a first time visitor to the Hospital for Sick Children, or “SickKids” as it’s more commonly known, could be forgiven for thinking that they were in a plush shopping centre rather than a major specialist paediatric hospital. Indeed, it has all the trappings of coffee bars, food outlets and such forth.  The downtown Toronto-based hospital is a sprawling campus of old and new buildings, colourful furniture and equipment, and boasts one of only three medical centres in the city equipped with a helipad.

Centre for Image Guided Innovation & Therapeutic Innovation

Somehow, the combination seems to works because the hospital has grown rapidly to become Canada’s largest centre for child health research. Supporting this strategy has been the Centre for Image Guided Innovation & Therapeutic Innovation (CIGITI), which was set up at SickKids in 2009 and, as part of a public/private partnership is developing three technologies with paediatric and foetal applications:, namely minimally-invasive endoscopic manipulators, a natural orifice anastomotic device and MR-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound.

In the case of the KidsArm technology development, the public contribution comes in the form of research and clinical expertise (SickKids) and government-based funding, whilst the private sector contribution encompasses contributing robotics (MDA Corporation), imaging (Philips Healthcare) and simulation (L-3 Communications MAPPS) technology.

The ambition for KidsArm can hardly be described as modest. The goal is for the technology to effectively to secure a position as a world leader in robotic surgery and imaging. Billed as the first robotic surgical arm for paediatric imaging, the device allows surgeons to navigate to a specific treatment area without impacting upon structures such as blood vessels. It could also be used to perform procedures such as the suturing of vessels and tissues at a rate of at least ten times faster than a surgeon.

The surgical platform is intended for use across all key surgical specialties, including cardiac, foetal, urosurgery/general surgery and neurosurgical areas. The device also has the benefit of producing virtual reality-based models that can be used in planning and teaching.

As with all high-profile technological breakthroughs, CIGITI has not got a clear field in terms of competitors, which include the likes of Intuitive Surgical, which has emerged in recent times as a leader in robotic technology through its DaVinci system. Still, confidence in the KidsArm’s attributes is strong and in a presentation to analysts, CIGITI isn’t afraid of holding back on a direct head on comparison with Intuitive Surgical.

First up, CIGITI says the KidsArm is markedly smaller and lighter than that from Intuitive, and that its device will be much cheaper and adaptable than its rival. As the KidsArm device is specifically targeted for paediatric use, it can also be used for any procedures that require minimal inversion. In contrast, Intuitive’s technology stands accused of being too large for paediatric use and limited to urological applications. Other technology standouts for KidsArm include built-in telesurgery and imaging guidance initially focused on MRI.

Unlike Intuitive, development of CIGITI’s technology is still at the relatively embryonic stage, although a clinical working model is expected to emerge within two years. Backed by C$10 million in funding awarded by the Canadian government in 2010, Phase I of the programme, which started in 2009, has been focused on the development of technological innovations such as in the areas of advanced complex surgical delivery, mulit-modality fusion and real-time image guidance and creation of surgical simulation models.

Whilst this process is still continuing throughout 2012, Phase II of the programme, which started in 2011 and will last two years, involves a critical analysis of the KidsArm technology. This includes a review of minimally-invasive surgery (MIS) vs robotic surgery, a look at fusion and real-time image-guidance and improving the accuracy of the surgical system and simulation modules. Analysis will also be carried out at high-frequency imaging for foetal intervention procedures. All this work, if it continues to impress, is likely to lead to commercial and clinical opportunities for the technology from 2014 onwards.

So why is a hospital taking such an active role in product development and when it’s primary role is providing healthcare provision? Aside from the revenue earning potential of creating IP assets that can be licensed or used for start-up companies, the collaboration stands to general high-end manufacturing jobs, healthcare and research opportunities and substantially improve education available from school students and rising all the way up to medical staff, both in Canada and the province of Ontario.

For SickKids, such efforts help to improve patient care and the quality of healthcare provided by the institution by introducing novel image-guided tools into the paediatric setting. So far, in just two years, SickKids/CIGITI has created a number of positions across all levels of academia, filed for three patents covering surgical tools (including one for KidsArm), secured C$25.8 million in research funding, signed a licensing agreement with Medical Modeling relating to patient-specific cranial facial models and templates and forged tentative links with venture capitalists.

Article source: Medical Industry Week – supplied by Lawrence Miller, editor.

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GE/UPMC bids to change the face of pathology

The Medical Technology Blog

Welcome back to our Canada Healthcare series from the Medical Technology Blog,

GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare has profiled efforts it is making to change the way in which pathology imaging is conducted across the globe. The opportunities, should its technology gain acceptance, looks set to deliver the final blow to an analogue-based procedure for looking at images that has largely remained unchanged over the past 120 years.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Omnyx is a 50:50 digital pathology joint venture set up in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and GE. The business has chosen Canada as the location for its first Global Pathology Imaging Centre of Excellence (PICOE), located in the MaRS Excite campus in Toronto. The JV is investing C$7.75 million in the health technology programme, which is also backed by a C$2.25 million contribution from the Healthcare Technology Exchange (HTX). It is hoped that further collaborative R&D partnerships in the area will boost the over research figure by an additional C$7.2 million over the next three years.

In some ways, Canada represents ideal territory to test the benefits of digital pathology, mainly due to the sheer scale of the country and low population dispersion. The digitisation of pathology opens up the potential for remote medical centres to send contentious images fast and directly to regional centres and right into the lap of experienced pathologists.

The process would not only increase the number of images processed by pathologists, but it also comes as the healthcare environment suffers from a shortage of pathologists that has limited the capacity to get the most out of the resources available. GE believes that Canada has the level of awareness and political will to do something to fix the problem. The large regionalised healthcare system also lends itself to the Omnyx model, along with the clinical knowhow, and the number of trained clinicians able to support the rapid introduction of such an advanced technology.

Buoyed by an “ideal collaborative framework”, PICOE has government support, institutional backing community, including some of the biggest universities in Canada, as well as potential clinical partners such as the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and hospitals. PICOE is not just about developing a new technology, but investigating how to take the system and deploy it across a nationwide, regionalised healthcare environment. The company says it benefits from the collaboration as it can apply this technology and methodology to other global healthcare markets.

Whilst PICOE is currently a research-use only tool that GE hopes will convince pathologists to ditch the old, cumbersome method and embrace a new form of working that will meet the challenges of modern pathology. As with all technologies that require a change in working techniques, it’s not a straightforward task that will be adopted overnight. However, the combination of innovative research and the influence of such a large business in GE Healthcare, could give PICOE a toe-hold in an industry that needs to be dragged kicking into the modern age.

The patent-pending Omnyx Integrated Digital Pathology (IDP) system includes whole slide scanners, pathologist and histology workstations and an integrated software platform that aims to deliver the scale and reliability for demanding pathology departments. The combination of a workflow server and digital archive combine to offer benefits such as: real-time image access from anywhere; the ability to automatically retrieve case information for individuals; image storage and retrieval; and, most notably, low entry cost and scalability.

The University Health Network is the first site to participate in the PICOE programme and will conduct both beta and clinical testing for primary diagnostics. It will also help to formulate guidelines and best practices for model pathology.

As of November 2011, UHN had scanned and reviewed over 2,000 slides as part of its testing activities.  This testing process started with five pathologists but within seven weeks had been expanded to 22 pathologists from nine specialty areas. A total of six Omnyx VL4 scanners, forming part of the DIP package, have so been shipped to beta customers worldwide.

At its core, the PICOE approach represents a “holistic” approach to pathology imaging, including scanners, servers, healthcare information systems and workstations, to provide a means of getting information out to the virtual community. GE will act as the exclusive distributor for Omnyx, and provides the implementation, training and support for the Omnyx Integrated Digital Pathology system.

Article provided by Lawrence Miller, editor of Medical Industry Week.

Next in the series….

…..Sick Kids takes centre stage in robotics, imaging and simulation technology development

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Canada’s Healthcare Support System – Part 2

The Medical Technology Blog

Medical Industry WeekPrivate and public sectors working to boost Canada’s healthcare system

This model differs from the usual avenues for non-profit organisations looking to develop treatments. Traditionally, these parties have been required to beg for cash from companies on a donation basis with various degrees of success. A prime example of the OCE model in practice is the Ontario Diabetes Association, which is conducting research that will be supported by OCE funding with an industry partner.

At the core of the OCE philosophy is the requirement that any research that it backs has to be a product that the industry partner can use to create jobs. The process helps these non-profit organisations to get research done but also spurs on economic development. SIP’s initial proposals are focused on collaborations in the health improvement sector (first area to attract proposals in 2011), followed by sustainability environment and poverty reduction initiatives.

Healthcare Technology Exchange

Representing a major lynchpin in efforts to continue the turnaround of the Canadian Med-Tech industry is the Healthcare Technology Exchange (HTX), a Federal and Ontario government-funded organisation that aims to support the research and development of advanced healthcare technologies.

Originally set up by the Ontario government, the HTX bids to help companies bridge, what John Soloninka, HTX’ President & CEO, describes as, the “valley of death”. The rather dramatic phrase refers to the pre-commercialisation gap where companies need some financial assistance before showing up on the radar of banks, institutions, public investors or venture capitalists. This important contribution has largely come in the form of government “angel tax-relief”, a process that allows small companies to apply the necessary capital to support R&D, trials, reimbursement and other activities.

HTX manages its C$21.4 million budget, provided by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development Innovation to help SMEs and start-ups to get funding to reach the domestic and global market and to attract multi-nationals to set up R&D in Ontario through incentives. The agency co-invests with other investors in R&D in small medium enterprises (SMEs), but also provides persuasive incentive funding for large organisations.

Over the last 12 months, HTX investments include GE Healthcare digital pathology; as well an October 2010 investment in Xagenic, a company that came out of Ontario universities and is developing rapid POC molecular diagnostics focused on infectious diseases and cancer. Other low key investments include e-health, tissue simulation, radiology applications and embedded micro processors that have led to partnerships with multi-nationals, FDA clearance and licensing. In effect, HTX believes that a small amount of assistance in the right area makes all the difference.

HTX Research Grants

HTX awards research grants of C$350,000 and C$750,000 to come such as Baylis Medical, Tornado Medical Systems, RNA Diagnostics, XLR Imaging and Patient, Colibri Technologies (catheter-based 3D imaging), Profound Medico. Collectively, they provide an infrastructure – effectively engines of commercialisation – and create assets that benefit the province of Ontario as a whole.

One of the HTX’s leading investments is PICOE, an initiative that is bidding to transform digital pathology, a market that is comparable in development of that for digital radiography ten years ago. HTX invested C$2.25 million in support of GE’s development plan, of which more is featured later in this article.

Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization

Also being backed by HTX is the Centre for Imaging Technology Commercialization (CImTeC), an organisation that helps small companies to compete in markets and overcome regulatory issues to make a fully viable product. One such example is a joint initiative between Sunnybrook Hospital and the University of Western Ontario that is focused on medical imaging opportunities. This has resulted in a C$28 million incubator-style five-year project for small local and international companies to get the expertise and help needed to commercialise technologies at a faster rate.

The Ontario Brain Institute

The Ontario Brain Institute (OBI), which is focused on neurosurgery/brain health opportunities, is also seen as a potential catalyst for growth for Ontario and Canada as a whole. Although highly competitive, neuroscience is still regarded to be in its infancy despite its potential to become as big as cardiovascular care in the next five to ten years.

Supported by local philanthropist investment. OBI is acting as single umbrella for the provinces’ neuroscience area, encouraging synergy across all institutes, and focusing on marketing innovative devices worldwide. Providing a template for other sectors, a total of 22 companies, spanning diagnostics, imaging, prosthetics and devices, and brain fitness, have benefited from C$20 million in investment that has resulted in the commercialisation of 22 technologies. Operating at the heart of ONE is the MaRS organisation and its most recent incarnation – MaRS Excellence in Clinical Innovation and Technology Evaluation (Excite), an innovation incubator that was publicly revealed for the first time in Toronto in late December 2011. The alliance brings together a health system ((Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee); Federal Government departments; Academia (Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario and over ten academic health institutions across Ontario); Industry (MEDEC and HTX) and the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

The goal of MaRS Excite is to respond to increasing demand for effective and reliable healthcare technology assessment. Whilst the emphasis has been on finding out that a device is safe and effective, there is also the need to establish its cost effectiveness by comparing the technology against substitutes and competing technologies. Uniquely, MaRS Excite aims to move this process, usually done after the product is approved and on the market, back to the development stage.

The initiative will seek to harmonise health technology evaluation into a single, pre-market evidence-based evaluation process for technologies with disruptive potential and specific relevance to health system priorities. Medical technologies considered for EXCITE pilot studies include devices and equipment used to maintain, restore and promote health. They encompass interventions at any stage of health care, including primary prevention, early detection of disease and risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

Currently, the evaluation of medical technology is conducted and funded by the provincial government and occurs after regulatory approval and market introduction. However, the post-market approach can be inefficient, fragmenting pre-market risk-based evaluation from post-market evidence-based evaluation.

The deadline for the initial phase of the MaRS Excite plan passed in December and 2012 promises to be a big year for the programme, which will have to match the ambitions of the MaRs organisation to more effectively capture the commercial potential of Toronto’s science and technology research activities.

Since opening in 2005, MaRS has steadily grown to reach full capacity, paving the way for the plans to commence the second stage of its development, which involves a significant expansion of its facilities – a process that is expected to be completed in 2013.

Excite is just one aspect of the MaRS alliance and is symbolic of the collaborative framework within Ontario. A framework of partners that include:

  • MaRS Innovation, a member-based partnership designed to transform the Toronto-based academic research enterprise into an established cluster;
  • Business Acceleration Programme (BAP), a range of entrepreneur support programmes and services coordinated by MaRS and delivered through the Ontario Network of Excellence;
  •  Social Innovation Generation, which actively develops programmes to support the launch and growth of a social nature;
  • The Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) and the C$7 million fund for life science companies that provide sustainable economic benefit to Ontario;
  • The Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE); and
  • The Centre for Impact Investing, a national hub focused on increasing the awareness and effectiveness of social finance to catalyse new capital, talent and initiatives dedicated to tackling social and environmental problems in Canada.

This network of organisations all provide the ingredients that has the ultimate aim of ensuring that Ontario and Canada compete effectively in the healthcare industry on both a macro and micro economic level.

Over the next series of articles, Medical Industry Week focuses on how some of these businesses and organisations are using these programmes in practice throughout Canada and with a view to competing globally.

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New Medical Market Country Profiles

The Medical Technology Blog

Hi and welcome back to The Medical Technology Blog.

A short announcement today just to say that we now have a new addition to the blog, which are the Medical Market Focus pages.

The Medical Market Focus tab provides a short introduction to the global medical market reports provided by Espicom Business Inteligence, and if you hover your cursor over the tab, a drop-down menu shows you the current medical device market country profiles featured this month.

This months feature profiles;

Please let me know if you have a specific country you would like to see featured.

Thanks, Paul

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Endologix Makes Beeline for Fellow AAA-Focused Company

The Medical Technology Blog

Image representing Nellix as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Welcome back to the Medical Technology Blog. Apologies for the lack of posts, but i’ve been off work with the dreaded ‘manflu’. As i didn’t fancy sneeezing my germs round the office I took the week out, today’s post involves company news, please read on…

Irvine, CA-based Endologix, focused on the development and marketing of its patented Powerlink technology for the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs), has made a move to acquire fellow AAA-focused company, Nellix. The deal values Nellix for US$15 million in stock at closing, plus additional milestone-based stock payments of up to US$39 million. The acquisition, expected to be complete in the fourth quarter of 2010, also comes with a US$15 million equity investment in Endologix from Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, the majority shareholder of Nellix.

Privately-held Nellix has developed a device that is designed to address and expand the indication for the less-invasive treatment of AAAs and thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs). Enabling the treatment of all aneurysms with a low-profile delivery system and endograft, the Nellix device is said to have the potential to double the market size for endovascular aneurysms repair (EVAR), which exceeded US$800 million in 2008. It is forecasted that the AAA market could exceed US$1.7 billion by 2012.

AAA is a weakening of the aorta wall, resulting in a balloon-like enlargement. Once AAA develops, it continues to enlarge and, if left untreated, can become increasingly susceptible to rupture. The overall patient mortality rate for ruptured AAA is approximately 75 per cent, making it a leading cause of death in the US.

Nellix’ technology platform seals and fills an aortic aneurysm sac, preventing device migration and potentially improving clinical outcomes. This enables the product to treat a wide range of AAA anatomies, including those that are outside of the indications for existing EVAR devices, including patients with aortic neck lengths of 5mm or less, widths as wide as 34mms, and patients with iliac aneurysm diameters >23mm.

Endologix is clearly a fan of Nellix as the company’s President and CEO referred to Nellix as the ‘most revolutionary EVAR technology in the world’, which is expected to help position Endologix as a leader in aortic aneurysm treatment. In the near future, the company plans to devote resources to build a direct salesforce in Europe, which will provide a channel to launch the Nellix system in the region from 2012 and provide a significant growth opportunity for Endologix’ existing and future products. In addition, the fresh capital from Essex Woodlands will be used to support the transition and development of Nellix’ technology in anticipation of a full commercial European release in 2012. The capital will also be used to build a direct salesforce in Europe and initiate the IDE clinical trial programme in the US.

This article was provided by Sophie Sanderson, editor of Espicom’s fortnightly updated newsletter, Cardiovascular Device Business if you liked this article please click on the link to start your subscription, and you might also like to take a look at Medical Industy Week.

Thanks for reading, kind regards, Paul

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Switzerland Plays Major Role in Medical Technology Industry

The Medical Technology Blog

Coat of Arms of Switzerland.
Image via Wikipedia

Five days in Switzerland – How the Swiss continue to play hardball in the global market

Welcome back to the Medical Technology Blog. We have an interesting post today, from a business perspective as well as a Medical Technology one, please read on…

In late September, Medical Industry Week was invited by representatives from Switzerland’s Federal and regional agencies to gather an insight into how the country has consistently grown in competitiveness on the global stage, and more importantly, how it aims to build on this progress in the future.

Switzerland is a country with 26 culturally diverse Cantons and half-Cantons, four official languages, and an internal rivalry that, from an outsider’s perspective, begs the question – to an outsider at least – why are you part of the same country? But the closer you look into how the country ticks and the way its Cantons co-exist, and tolerate each others’ eccentricities and cultures, the more you can see why the country has become enormously successful.

Whilst in other developed countries, manufacturing is usually the first thing that gets out-sourced to cheaper locations in Asia, the situation is somewhat different in Switzerland. In fact, manufacturing remains a key element of the Swiss product, backed up by strong apprenticeship programmes that keep producing the talent. Even Zimmer, a giant in orthopaedics, makes its own manufacturing tools for its implants, at its main facility in Winterthur.

Understandably, the Swiss closely guard their reputation for quality and as a competitive selling point. They also enjoys the benefits of a liberal Federal state structure that has comparative low tax rates, flexible labour laws and a comprehensive education programme that generates the skills to keep it all going. Collectively, this support helps companies to resist the temptation to shift production abroad.

The package seems to be working because a common theme across most of the manufacturing sites – both small and large – is for a pressing need to expand production capacity to keep up with growth. When one considers the recent economic downturn, and the fears of further economic woes to come, these businesses ooze comparative confidence. Maybe that’s why Switzerland leads the way on the global front, with a 2009/10 Global Competitiveness Report placing the country ahead of the likes of USA and Singapore.

Switzerland may be doing well globally, but it’s also a country made up of little countries that result in a competitive element from within that, although intense, somehow manages to avoid boiling over into internal strife. It’s as if they understand that although they don’t necessarily need each other they also recognise the power of being together, and it’s fascinating to see how the various cantons that Medical Industry Week visited choose to highlight their part in Switzerland’s success.

In the comparatively small canton of Zug for example, it’s all about attracting foreign companies and skills using the carrot of low taxes. Its central location – close to Germany and Italy, and proximity to the centre of Zurich also helps. Collectively, it has helped the Canton to support the development of business clusters, including centres for commodity trading, medical device & diagnostics, IT, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, financial services to mention a few. In the medical field, the company has Swiss companies such as Medela and Schiller, but  also boasts international giants such as Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson’s Cilag unit, Coloplast, Smith & Nephew, Varian Medical Systems and Hitachi.

With Zug’s tax rates lower than other Cantons, how have the others responded? Thurgau, a “mid-sized” Canton, relies heavily on its links with Germany, a well qualified, flexible, workforce and university system, and a “can do” attitude to business requirements that is exemplified in the statistic that 85 per cent of planning applications are approved within just two months. It’s a trait that runs right through Switzerland.

Maybe because of its strong non-Swiss population, which represents 30 per cent of its population, Basel-Stadt’s approach to investment has resulted in a multicultural society that has become a major sector for life sciences, including “Medtech”, pharmaceutical and biotech companies. It’s also become strong in nanotechnology and microtechnology. Many of these reasons are cited by its fellow cantons. A strong skills base is the common theme, low taxes, and its great location – it serves as major junction for road, rail, water and air within Switzerland and abroad – are big selling points.

Interestingly, as one heads south down towards the French-speaking part of the country, the selling point seems to be skills development and research activity. Berne, for example, is the home of the Competence Center for Medical Technology, which provides a link between technology and universities, colleges and industry. In Lausanne, situated in the Canton of Vaud, there’s the fast expanding Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), which is ranked as one of the top universities in the area of engineering, technology and computer sciences. It’s plethora of shiny, new buildings is indicative of how successful the institution has been in working in partnership with the private sector.

The EFPL has helped to establish around 150 start-up companies since 1995, with around SFr 250 million in venture capital funding. Some 15 per cent of these companies are categorised as Medtech companies. It also acts as a location for at least 100 start-up companies, and as a host for R&D/business development for large companies. Nestle, for example, is investing at least SFr 500 million in an R&D centre for research into nutrition products, a new business area for the company.

Described as “the fastest growing life science cluster in the world”, BioALPS, an initiative set up by seven of the French-speaking Cantons, based near Lake Geneva, was the home of the first stent way back in 1986. It’s goal is to attract business to the area that will use the location as its base. It seems to work because the grouping ranks in the top three centres in Europe for research in the biotechnology and medical technology fields. The benefits of this strategy are clear. With 80 to 90 per cent of Swiss Medtech products exported, around 750 companies in operation and over 20,000 people employed, Switzerland can play a major role in the global community.

An excellent article from Lawrence Miller there, Lawrence is Espicom’s Medical newsletters team leader and editor-in-chief of our top medical subscription magazine Medical Industry Week.

Hope you all have a fab weekend, please come back soon, Paul.

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Philippines: New President Targets Total Healthcare Coverage by 2013

The Medical Technology Blog

Welcome again the The Medical Technology Blog brought to you by Espicom Business Intelligence. A short post today as there’s been a development in the Philippines.

In June 2010, newly elected president President Benigno Aquino said he wants every citizen have access to healthcare by 2013. The Aquino administration plan to achieve this goal by expanding the coverage of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) to all citizens, particularly the poor.

In July 2010, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said an additional P9 billion (US$195.3 million) would be needed to widen health insurance coverage to all Filipinos by 2013. Ona said there were also suggestions to make membership compulsory for all citizens. PhilHealth has an existing annual budget of P29 billion (US$629.4 million). The new DoH chief also said he would look into allegations of corruption within the PhilHealth administration.

By the end of 2009, PhilHealth had a total 20.2 million members (excluding members’ family members/dependents covered under the scheme). At the end of 2008 for example, PhilHealth had 16.5 million members, which resulted in around 68.7 million out of 90.4 million people covered, equal to 76% of the population.

Come back soon, thanks.


Web Marketing Manager of Espicom Business Intelligence

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Rhode Island Team Unveils Delivery System Using Nanoparticles!

The Medical Technology Blog

University of Rhode Island Seal
Image via Wikipedia

A new system for the controlled delivery of pharmaceutical drugs has been developed by a team of University of Rhode Island (URI) chemical engineers using nanoparticles embedded in a liposome that can be triggered by non-invasive electromagnetic fields. The discovery by URI professors Geoffrey Bothun and Arijit Bose and graduate student Yanjing Chen was published in the June issue of ACS Nano.

According to Bothun, liposomes are tiny nanoscale spherical structures made of lipids that can trap different drug molecules inside them for use in delivering those drugs to targeted locations in the body. The superparamagnetic iron oxide nanoparticles the researchers embed in the shell of the liposome release the drug by making the shell leaky when heat-activated in an alternating current electromagnetic field operating at radio frequencies.

The researchers controlled the rate and extent of the release of a model drug molecule by varying the nanoparticle loading and the magnetic field strength. They received a quick release of the drug with magnetic field heating in a matter of 30 to 40 minutes; without heating there is minimal spontaneous leakage of the drug from the liposome.

According to Bothun, the liposomes self-assemble because portions of the lipids are hydrophilic – they have a strong affinity for water – and others are hydrophobic – they avoid water. When the lipids and nanoparticles were mixed in a solvent, added water and evaporated off the solvent, the materials automatically assembled themselves into liposomes. The hydrophobic nanoparticles and lipids joined together to form the shell of the liposome, while the water drug molecules were captured inside the spherical shell.

The concept of loading nanoparticles within the hydrophobic shell to focus the activation is described by Bothun as “brand new.” It works because the leakiness of the shell is ultimately what controls the release of the drugs. The next step in the research is to design and optimise liposome/nanoparticle assemblies that can target cancer cells or other disease-causing cells. In vitro cancer cell studies are already underway in collaboration with URI pharmacy professor Matthew Stoner. Although research on nanomedicine shows great promise, there are still many challenges to overcome, and the targeting of appropriate cells may be the greatest challenge.

If you would like more information on the drug delivery industry please follow our link at – Espicom Business Intelligence where you can purchase our full business news service or sign-up to our free newsletter, thanks for dropping by.

Have a great weekend, Paul.

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Canada’s Healthcare Support System – Medical Industy Week Special Report

The Medical Technology Blog

Welcome back to the Medical Technology Blog. After a bit of a hiatus, we have a special report compiled by Lawrence Miller (editor of Medical Industry Week) after a recent trip to Ontario, highlighting Canada’s healthcare system. The report features the agencies that are supporting business, and the companies that are benefiting from it. The first is a long piece so I have split it into two articles, please read on…

How private and public sectors are working together to boost Canada’s healthcare system

The Canadian med-tech sector has evolved rapidly to become a priority for Ontario as part of an overall goal to build innovation capacity in the province and establish the region as an “outstanding place” to develop advanced medical technology. It’s an ambitious goal but, over the four busy days, Medical Industry Week was shown how these initiatives are being put in place and position the country and province for significant growth potential. So why the need for change? To do answer that one has to look at Canada’s position as a relatively small local market that lies right on the doorstep of the world’s largest market for medical devices – the US.  Historically, the pattern of implementing healthcare procurement decisions in Canada, where, as Dr Tom Corr, President and CEO of the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) acknowledged, were overtly focused on  small deals with the result of haemorrhaging investment in Med-Tech innovation – that is converting R&D into products and technology – over the past five to ten years.

Given the recent global economic meltdown, the Ontario Province’s Med-Tech cluster is comparatively healthy.  It’s one of the reasons why Ontario as a province is so keen on the Med-Tech. The sector has high value and boasts recession proof nature, and stats from 1997 to 2006 have shown that the medical devices market performed favourably compared with the likes of pharmaceuticals and other higher-profile industries such as IT. Med-Tech companies also have “very good returns” because of the shorter innovation cycles (third less than pharmaceuticals), lower investment requirements, high margin products, high M&A activity as companies are sold in bite size chunks.

There are 1,100 companies in the Canadian Med-Tech field, of which 700 are manufacturers. Clusters of expertise have evolved around universities and teaching hospitals such as Waterloo, London,  Ottawa, as well as Thunder Bay and Windsor. Southern Ontario is the third largest medical R&D cluster in North America when taking into account the universities, health science centres etc, whilst volumes of trials and treatments range third largest in North America.

Ontario has 13 million inhabitants, C$46 billion public healthcare system and C$20 billion private system. Historically, however, the healthcare system itself hasn’t had a dedicated R&D arm.  So whilst lots of R&D has been made in the products, but not directly by the payer for the payer. Current moves are aimed at changing this process/environment, with a particularly eye on healthcare IT, diagnostics, home healthcare and medical imaging.

Med-Tech is still a challenge, especially in view of a major decline in funding and participation in recent times of venture capital investors. Angel life science investment has also dropped. This has prompted the policy makers  in the province of Ontario to start a C$400 million government backed venture capital funding initiative, and recently unveiled plans for a C$400 million tax credit initiative.

Most seed capital comes from Angel investors, whilst a fraction comes from government agencies and venture capitalists. At this stage of development, most  Med-Tech companies need it to support clinical trials, approvals, reimbursement studies and outcome trials (healthcare assessment). The Ontario government says that although money is provided by countries worldwide in support of R&D it is not always applied in the most effective areas. It’s a viewpoint that not only looks outwards but is also highly critical of its own perceived failings.

Ontario, and Canada as a whole, has kept on churning out new companies but recognises that it may not have helped them financially in comparison to countries such as the US.  Overall R&D spending has mainly been dished out in the form of tax credits. These help going concern companies, but start-up companies are less keen because they have to earn the money to get the money. The push for Ontario going forward is to refocus from pure R&D funding to translation and commercialisation and direct investment.

Government Funding

Funded by the Government of Ontario, the OCE’s mission statement is to create jobs in the province. Employing around 30 business development people, split in three regions – South West Ontario, Greater Toronto and North East Ontario – the OCE has a clear a focus on tapping into ideas that emerge from both universities and companies.

OCE has a clear criteria in awarding its grants. For every C$1 of funding it provides, the applicant must also at least match this funding. The goal is to support research at the very early stage and then pass it on to other organisations such as like HTX and Mars Excite. This “synergistic” approach with HTX aims to ensure the organisation work alongside each other rather than overlapping.

In total, 95 per cent of OCE funding is targeted within four industrial sectors, of which healthcare comprises 25 per cent. All decisions are externally verified and money is given based on milestones over a time period.

In 2011, OCE secured C$30 million from provincial government and C$5 million from the Federal government, along with industry matching contributions of approximately C$40 million. The initiative claims to have secured over 2,000 jobs were created by OCE initiatives in 2010. Encouraging spin-offs from university graduates/students

In practice, industry often approaches government and OCE employees also work with universities, but ensure that the university works with the company on the project. In fact, the commitment of the OCE is a key attribute to its activities. In some cases, the OCE may even help subsidise some of the salary of medical students as they gain a foothold in the industry for the first year or so, which has resulted in around 75 per cent of these students being offered permanent positions with their employers.

OCE also funds colleges and institution’s with Technology transfer grants. Dialogue with professors helps to identify IP and research that may offer significant opportunities within industry either in terms of a potential start-up or for licensing to larger established businesses.  OCE provides funding and as the technology matures within university helps to look at the issues involved in transferring them to additional programmes.

The OCE’s Social Innovation Programme (SIP) provides a valuable link between industry and not-for-profit organisations and helping the two conflicting parties work to together. In these cases, the non-profit company would hold the IP, and the OCE will provide cash in partnership with companies to make the programme a reality….

This article, and the rest of the articles to follow next week in this series, have been kindly provided by Lawrence Miller, editor of Espicom Business Intelligence’s excellent publication Medical Industry Week and medical newsletters teamleader.

Please come back to read the rest of this article tomorrow, and more in this Canada Healthcare System series this week.


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