When UBM Canon decided to launch the MEDTEC EMDT Innovation Awards, the PIP implant affair was not front-page news. The organisers merely thought that the contributions made by Europe’s medical technology industry in ameliorating the human condition deserved recognition. But in the aftermath of the wall-to-wall coverage of the French breast implant scandal, it’s more important than ever to celebrate and trumpet the achievements of this remarkable industry.
I have just looked over the finalists in the six categories, and it is, in my opinion, an impressive roster. The shortlist is now online, and the winners will be announced on 14 March during MEDTEC Europe. To my mind, the finalists in one particular category—Best Medical Device Start-Up of the Year—perfectly embody the best traits of this industry: its engineering genius, creativity and generosity of spirit.
The three finalists are Telcare, Sequana and Vivoline. Each one is already a winner, as far as I’m concerned. But here is what specifically captured my attention.
Telcare developed what it calls the world’s only cellular-enabled glucose meter that transmits readings to caregivers and receives coaching and clinical feedback that is displayed on the screen. To bring this device to life, engineers overcame a significant number of technical hurdles, which are well outlined in the submission, but what interested me above all else is the human element. More than 100 million people in the world have diabetes and, if the condition is not monitored and treated properly, the consequences are tragic. In designing this device, Telcare sought to create an “ecosystem of care” connecting patients with their healthcare professionals, family members and close friends to provide them with daily guidance. Diabetes has been called the condition that never gives you a day off. A device that performs as well as this one does, achieving a ±10% reading accuracy, while building a network of care can make those days more tolerable.
Refractory ascites, a disorder whereby patients accumulate fluid at a rate of 1 liter a day in their abdomen, is a brutal condition that typically requires patients to undergo repeat large-volume paracentesis, a procedure whereby a needle is inserted into the abdomen to drain the excess fluid. Sequana Medical has developed an implantable pump that moves ascites from the abdominal cavity to the bladder. The battery-powered device can be charged through the skin; an easy-to-use one-button charger with OLED display indicates correct placement and charger operation. The ALFApump system reduces the need for repeated invasive intervention and, according to the manufacturer, delivers significant savings to the healthcare system when you consider that “paracentesis costs on average more than €1000 per procedure and is often necessary on a weekly or biweekly basis.” Individual patients as well as society at large are the beneficiaries of this device.
Demand for lung transplants far exceeds the supply of usable donor organs—approximately one-quarter of patients die while waiting for a transplant.
It is worth noting, however, that only 20% of donated lungs are ever transplanted because of uncertainty about the quality of the organs. Vivoline Medical has developed a system that enables efficient extracorporeal testing and treatment of rejected lungs, thereby increasing organ supply. A creative incremental improvement, I think, that gives more people a new lease on life.
And the winner is . . . ? Sorry, but you’re going to have to wait until 14 March, when the best medical start up of the year, along with the winners in the other five categories, are revealed. Please join me at the awards ceremony in Stuttgart. If you can’t attend the event, go to medtechinsider.com on 15 March for the results.
The MEDTEC EMDT Innovation Awards programme is organised by UBM Canon, which also operates MEDTEC Europe and publishes EMDT and medtechinsider.
– Norbert Sparrow, Editor in Chief, EMDT, medtechinsider