Earlier this year I wrote about medical imaging and how advanced materials are improving CT and nuclear imaging. That is, semiconductor sensors using CZT materials are lowering x-ray and photon dosages while at the same time improving image quality. This blog expands on the health theme by providing three more examples of how advanced materials will impact human health. Biosensors can help people monitor their health and seek treatment when necessary. Nano-particles can carry and target drug treatment inside a patient’s body, and antimicrobial coatings can substantially reduce the rate of infection.
Biosensors are in vivo or ex vivo devices that react to changes in the body. These changes can be chemical. For example, sensors can detect glucose levels in diabetic patients or read biomarkers in sweat. The changes can also be physical. For example, some companies have developed patches that detect temperature changes for children and the elderly. When these changes occur, a signal is sent to the patient or the doctor. As well, numerous companies are using printed electronics to add micro intelligence to health sensors. These are like mini computers with semiconductors that can cost less than one dollar. The sensors have antennas that transmit signals to a person’s smart phone when something is wrong or, more likely, when everything is okay. Imagine an app on your phone that lets a diabetic know that his or her glucose level is fine!
Advanced materials of various characteristics are also being researched to carry and target drugs to specific parts of the body. The most widely researched application is the delivery of chemotherapy drugs to malignant tumors. The drugs are carried through the body and are only released when they come in contact with the tumor. Think of the potential health benefit to cancer patients. Some of the advanced materials we have seen being used in drug delivery are nano-shells, nano-glycogens and carbon nanotubes.
Last year, Pangaea sold a company called Semprus BioSciences, a spin out of MIT that had developed antimicrobial coatings for medical devices. The coatings are functional peptides that are bonded to an in vivo device, like antimicrobial swords that pierce bacteria. The result is a catheter that can stay in a patient’s body without infection for over 30 days rather than just 3 days. The coatings also help to prevent blood clotting. These advanced materials are so revolutionary that Teleflex, a large medical device company, purchased Semprus before FDA approval for a “healthy multiple” on our invested capital.
Not surprisingly, venture capital investors are putting more dollars to work in the health care market. In fact, PWC and the NVCA reported in Q3 2013 that $566 million was invested in medical devices and equipment which is more than ten times the amount invested in health care services. Perhaps one reason for this is the health exit for these companies. Thomson Reuters and the NVCA reported that in Q3 2013 there were 16 venture backed acquisitions and two venture based IPOs of non-biotech health companies.
In summary, People care about their health and are willing to pay for it. Like the Internet, people want information in real time so that if something goes wrong they can react immediately. Pangaea expects to make more investments in companies solving fundamental health problems. Stay tuned.