Sensors in combination with implants as “the” future opportunity for medtech companies
January 2023 – In the field of sensors in combination with implants and application systems, considerable technical progress has been made in recent years. They are thus considered “the” future opportunity for medtech companies.
A study published by the German Society for Biomedical Engineering in the VDE already identified numerous existing technical solutions with high market readiness in glucose measurement as well as pressure measurements in the application fields of cardiovascular system, ear and eye.
Advances in nanotechnology, micro- and nanoelectronics and new manufacturing techniques have made it possible to produce very small sensors with very low energy consumption and high biocompatibility.
The TOP-10 applicants for patent applications in the USA and Europe include large medical technology companies such as MEDTRONIC, Boston Scientific, COCHLEAR, ETHICON, DexCom, Abbott, but also smaller medical technology companies.
There are two main reasons for combining an implant with a sensor:
1. the data measured by the sensor represents an essential or additional function of the implant, e.g. in a closed-loop system for the treatment of diabetes (continuous measurement and simultaneous insulin delivery) or in an eye implant used to measure intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.
2. essential processes related to the implant function are better understood through sensor data and can thus be improved, e.g. acting forces when using a knee implant or flow measurement data in a stent.
The technical challenges are such as small size, best analytical properties, wireless data transmission, low energy requirements, high biocompatibility, biodegradability, long-term stability and sterilisation. In addition, there are also challenges for the market launch that have to be weighed up together with the opportunities, as there are:
- the market position of one’s product compared to competing products
- the expansion of one’s own business model through the new product
- the IP and patent situation
- technical risks/development risks
- regulatory requirements
- strategies for reimbursement by the public health system
Therefore, to be successful, the new products must fit the strategy of the respective medical technology company. Furthermore, the products should be based on standardised connectivity, have sufficient interoperability with other products and be understood in their use by the user and patient. Of course, early communication towards regulatory authorities should not be missing.
All in all, sensors made of suitable materials in combination with implants or application systems would open up completely new opportunities for the medical technology industry. They would not only fulfil the extended manufacturer obligations under the MDR, but they would also improve the outcomes and cost-effectiveness of healthcare. Sensors in combination with implants are thus “the” future for medtech companies