The fate of the US healthcare system is uncertain, at this time. US health care system was ranked highest in cost, 37th in overall performance, and 72nd by overall level of health, in the study of 191 nations, conducted by World Health Organization, in 2000. Spiraling cost of healthcare in the US has made quality care beyond reach, by many Americans. Recent research by CDC indicates that over 15% of Americans remain uninsured. And yet, biotech, medical device, and pharmaceutical industry, see a significant market growth in the future. Hope is that through innovation and new approaches, through new products, new technologies, new compounds, and new ways of partnering, consumers will be able to gain better access to quality and affordable healthcare.
Between January 11 and January 13, OneMedForum brought together the world’s most promising emerging companies, investors, and strategic partners, in San Francisco, CA. Focused panels were followed by company presentations and breakouts to facilitate discussions and explore opportunities among those with common interests.
Diagnostics and personalized medicine panel, moderated by James Datin, EVP and Managing Director at Life Sciences Group, discussed advances in molecular biology. Scott Garrett, Former Chairman and CEO of Beckman Coulter, expressed optimism about future and observed that personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics will play a significant role in the growing market with aging baby boomers. He opined that user centered innovation, with systems and tests that are low cost, will fare best. Risa Stack, Partner with KPCB suggested getting bigger players involved, increasing focus on neuro and psychiatric diagnostics, and focusing on high value clinical question. DNA sequencing will play a big part, said Paul Grossman, Sr. VP with Life Technologes. Grossman also predicted huge opportunities on the Informatics side as amount of data will continue to grow to overwhelming proportions.
A distinguished panel focused on Neurology, discussed possible technological innovations in the area of chronic conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and for acute conditions like ischemic stroke and spinal injury. Jeffrey Erb, Director of Bus Dev. At Medtronic shared that Medtronic is utilizing pump technology to deliver protein therapies. In partnership with St. Jude, Medtronic is also playing in the space of deep brain stimulation, for chronic diseases. Denise Barbut, Founder of Benechill, opined on greater need for more non-invasive technologies in neurology space.
Urology and women’s health were discussed at length in a panel moderated by J. Casey McGlynn, Partner at WSGR. This panel was represented by large medtech acquirers, venture partners, and private equity firms. The panel largely focused on the broader issue of investment opportunities and unmet needs. The panel agreed that some of the key unmet needs in this area include overactive bladder and pelvic prolapse. David Amerson, VP at Coloplast Surgical Urology, stressed the importance of following reimbursement as a key to partnership deals. Benjamin Daverman, VP at GTCR, a private equity firm, said they look for cash-flow positive opportunities. Jan Garfinkle, Managing Partner with Arboretum Ventures, expressed a preference for devices and healthcare IT.
Cardiology focused panel discussed unmet needs in the area of cardiac care, a growing market, particularly in Asia. In the opinion of Michael Buck from Abbott Ventures, we need better predictive capabilities in cardiology to decipher when precisely plaque would rupture. Hypertension and AFib are large markets with lot of potential, said Frank Litvack, former President of Conor. Teo Dagi, partner with HLM Ventures, identified a great need for reduction in infection rates in implantable cardio procedures.
Aging US population is driving the growth in orthopedics market that includes knee and hip replacements, extremities, dental, spine, trauma fixation, and arthroscopy. Orthopedics panel, moderated by Bryan Hughes, discussed opportunities in this market. According to Nancy Lynch, Orthopedic Surgeon, we need to move beyond metal and plastic and identify new materials. She stressed the need for early intervention, particularly in case of spine deformities. Rich Ferrari, Managing Director with De Novo Ventures, predicted that the innovation will come from regenerative medicine and biologics. Karen Talmadge, VP, Medtronic, expressed the need for better diagnostic tools.
With over 500,000 deaths from cancer in the US every year, there is a lot of activity in developing diagnostics for early detection and advanced therapies for many cancers. Oncology panel represented by several luminaries, tackled this topic and discussed new technologies and tools targeting different cancers. Euan Thomson, CEO of Accuray shared about future growth of robotic surgery, particularly those targeting lung cancers. Daniel Kraft, Faculty at Stanford, stressed the need for better understanding of algorithms in stem cell therapy, with bone marrow from patients’ own stem cells. Norman Weldon, Investor with solid track record of 12X returns, shared about his interest in seed stage investors, particularly where CEOs invest their own money. Tom Umbel, Sr. VP of Bus Dev with Hologic, predicted innovation in ultrasound, MRI and PET Scan, in addition to Mamography, for looking at breast, for early signs of cancer.
Current discussions of the healthcare reform are driven by increasing momentum towards consumerization of healthcare. “Patient as consumer” panel focused on this topic. John Young, VP of CIGNA, talked about the need for price transparency and making information readily available to the consumers to enable them to make informed decisions. He also stressed the importance of offering HSA plans to help bring the costs down. According to Andy Donner, Director of Physic Ventures, consumers are less likely to pay out of pocket and new innovations have to be employer focused. Their firm prefers platform on platform and integration of data type innovations and prefer to stay away from individual opportunities and devices. Contrarily, Geetha Rao, CEO of MyMedFax, focuses on consumer driven model. Similar to financial advisors helping the management of financial portfolio, MyMedFax focuses on owning the patients longitudinally at structural level, and helping them manage their own health portfolio with individually customized information and health advisors.