January 17th, 2012
Posted by Caroline Popper, M.D., M.P.H.
On the heels of our team’s attendance at some key conferences over the last several days, I had a chance to talk with my colleagues. Shane Climie attended the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Ken Walz participated in OneMedForum (across the street from the JP Morgan conference), and both Ken and Paul Sonnier were at the Digital Health Summit in Las Vegas. Following are the highlights from my post-conference discussions with the team:
CP: Paul, tell us what happened in Vegas that shouldn’t stay in Vegas?
PS: There were two themes that will—and should—escape Vegas and transform our health. The first theme, digital health, was underscored by Eric Topol’s keynote address and hardcover book release. This was the most cogent expression I’ve seen of the convergence of consumer health, clinical care, research, and life sciences. Greg Lucier, CEO of Life Technologies, illustrated the second theme with his announcement of the company’s new $1,000 genome sequencer, which has the ability to be used in a doctor’s office. Lucier explained that technology is moving medicine into the “genetics age.”
CP: Ken, what did you take away from the OneMedForum and the Digital Health Summit?
KW: Generally, the panelists at OneMedForum (who represented private companies) were optimistic about the impact of innovation on healthcare quality, but were less optimistic about investment in these innovations. They also cited the usual impediments to progress – regulatory hurdles and reimbursement issues.
There were also some standouts among diagnostics and device companies, including:
- Invuity, a late-stage medtech firm, which has developed a device to deliver direct illumination, without heat, to assist surgeons.
- BrainScope, another late-stage firm, which has developed a non-invasive way to rapidly diagnose and assess traumatic brain injury.
- Ridge Diagnostics, which is developing diagnostics for neuropsychiatric disorders, including clinical depression.
At the Digital Health Summit, John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple who is becoming familiar to the many people reading the recently published biography of Steve Jobs, compared the current state of the digital health industry segment to that of the PC business in the early-1980s. We can only hope that some of the young companies in this space grow to play as important a role in our lives and our economy as Apple, Microsoft and IBM have.
CP: Shane, what were some key observations from the JPM conference?
SC: There was a bit less optimism here among instrument and tool companies, as the presenting companies from this sector seem to be struggling to maintain growth rates. Reduced (or flat) funding within the academic market is having an impact on sales, even though academic markets constitute no more than 20 percent of those companies’ revenues.
Future sales growth and manufacturing of product may depend on the success of these companies in getting into markets in China, India, South Korea, and Brazil (though North America and Europe will continue to be important).
As Paul mentioned, the announcement of large-scale, low-cost genome-scanning technologies shows the remarkable progress in next-gen DNA sequencing. At the same time, we’re seeing more software tools to support data analysis and cloud-based tools that make this technology accessible to more labs.
Clinical markets for sequencing could expand to $24 million in the next few years, while cancer and newborn sequencing markets could explode, perhaps up to $300 million. But the biggest market of all? Consumer sequencing, says Illumina CEO Jay Flatley, now that the technology is easier to use, and more affordable.
Next up? Paul has helped to organize an event focused on the integration of life science technology developments into digital health. “Personalized Medicine: How Genomics and Wireless Technologies are Making Healthcare More Predictive, Preventive, Personalized and Participatory” will take place in San Diego on January 24. Stay tuned for more learnings around medical and life sciences innovation, as we’ll report them in this blog.
Did you attend JPM12, OneMedForum or the Digital Health Summit? Do you have takeaways to share with our readers and us? Do you agree that this is the year we will see the power of the consumer in digital health? We look forward to hearing from you.