Health Care: Thoughts on Burrill’s 2011 “Converging Technology” Prognostication

January 4th, 2011
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When it comes to the life science industry, many have made 2011 predictions, including renowned biotech specialist, venture capitalist, and frequent public speaker Steve Burrill. It’s not all that surprising that he envisions much of what will happen in the year ahead will be based upon an environment that favors risk-mitigated companies, emerging biotechnology markets (e.g., Brazil and China), and challenges due to U.S. healthcare reform.
While I encourage you to take a look at his full list of predictions, I’m most interested in those that tie to some of the topics we’ve been discussing since we launched this blog in November, especially with regard to converging technologies.

Burrill notes: “Expect to see a greater emphasis on prevention and wellness. A greater understanding of human genomics and the advent of molecular diagnostics, and the convergence of information, wireless, and medical technology promises to make personalized medicine an ever present reality in the way doctors and patients approach healthcare.”
While the idea that mobile, wireless technologies will be applied to unmet needs in healthcare has become generally accepted, it’s a trend we at Popper and Company have been focused on for more than a year. This trend, in my opinion, became firmly established following the emergence of the iPhone and its App Store when many consumers quickly realized the breadth of applications that could be run on this pocket-sized computer. Many of the mHealth applications available today (or being developed) involve a smartphone/tablet – either as an integral part of the application (e.g., remote radiology viewing) or as an added benefit (e.g., smart pill bottles that send data to the cloud where it can be accessed by a variety of devices, including smartphones).
Burrill talks about how the “advent of molecular diagnostics” and our increasing understanding of genomics will make personalized medicine a reality (as an aside Caroline and I have been saying the same thing since the late 1990s). While the concept of personalized medicine is understood and accepted, the reality is that we are in the age of “semi-personalized” or “more personalized” medicine, with tests that can distinguish between categories of patients (i.e., those that will not respond vs. those that may respond) rather than tests that can determine the specific effective therapy for an individual patient. In 2011, we will continue to move along the continuum of “personalized” medicine, but it will be “semi-personalized” for a while longer.
Also of note, Sprint announced yesterday that it is partnering with BodyMedia to bring healthier lifestyles within easy reach via a next-generation of health and fitness devices. This is another example of convergence, in this case mobile and wellness, which will likely be an area of increasing investment and attention with the growing realization that the pharma and biotech industries are not generating the silver bullets that many had hoped for and that perhaps much disease can be avoided by employing healthier behaviors.
My colleague Patti Doherty wrote in this blog a few weeks ago: “At Popper and Company, we keep a sharp eye toward emerging technologies whether it be in the development of point-of-care tests, regulatory and reimbursement issues, personalized medicine, the global expansion of mobile medicine or other areas of interest.” We’ll keep scanning the horizon for predictions and trends, formulate our own interpretations, and help ensure you stay current.
Are there specific 2011 life science industry or health care predictions you’ve come across that resonate loudly? Share them here or state a few of your own. We’d love to discuss!

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About the Author:

I co-founded Popper and Company more than ten years ago to help life science companies at all stages of development and of all sizes address inefficiencies in health care. Along with my team members, I focus on helping clients develop and implement strategies that enable the application of technology and processes to improve health care in novel ways, often through the establishment of relationships with industry partners. Click to send me an email.