Why blood holds the key to launching next stage health-tech.

Leading European corporates are quickly adopting “start-up methodologies” to push forward their innovation. That means building incubators and matching corporate “intrapreneurs” with disruptive startup’s from outside. Jonathan Marks, Editor StartupDelta, has been investigating the approach at one part of Philips research.

Business Insights from the new Philips Med-Tech Incubator

You know that wearable health-tech has gone mainstream, when the New York Times spots US President Obama sporting a new fashion accessory – a smart watch. It’s a clear message that the wearer is into health and fitness at a time when these are seen as valuable characteristics. Shoes and clothes fitted with micro-sensors that monitor your daily progress in the gym are already available, telling you when to slow down or speed up. But this is merely a glimpse of what’s just round the corner. The “Internet of Everything”, after all, is about connecting people, processes, data, and things in startling new ways.

In an innovation lab on the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, Philips researchers and engineers are trialing a technology platform to be launched commercially later in 2015, designed to take health-tech a significant stage further.

Its first application will be to enable doctors and paramedics to do a blood test at the scene of an emergency, and see lab-quality results on the spot within minutes. It’s only when you realize that over 65% of clinical diagnosis decisions are supported by a blood test, the full significance of this breakthrough technology becomes clear.

 “In life threatening conditions, like a heart attack, every second counts”, says Hans Driessen, who works with the Philips Healthcare Incubator. “For instance, troponin testing is the gold standard test for myocardial infarction diagnosis. But even in most hospital emergency wards, it usually takes over an hour for the surgeon to get the results back from the lab. That means 60 minutes before he is able to take a fully informed decision.”

“Being able to do tests at the point of care would also save both time and anxiety in many other situations. At the moment, when you go to your GP, he or she will often refer you to another health department to take a blood sample. That means at least two new appointments; one to take the sample and another to get the results. Patients naturally experience the wait for blood test results as extremely stressful”.

“Our Magnotech technology allows fast results at the point of care. So the healthcare professional can take a blood sample and get immediate results during that same appointment. Getting instant results also raises confidence in the doctor-patient relationship. It means a physician can make an early decision on the best course of treatment.”

“In fact, we have broader plans for this new handheld analyzer device from Philips. In the medical world, device manufacturers usually design their equipment to work with proprietary disposables. In contrast, we envisage other companies using this hardware to perform their own point-of-care tests. The physician simply inserts a different analysis cartridge into the Philips device. This collaborative approach is different.”

“We intend to grow the market, either through licensing or through partnerships – like the one we announced back on March 25th 2015 with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson and Johnson. Philips Research will develop tests for Janssen, who use the Philips Handheld device in the analysis of neuropsychiatric disorders. They now have a way of checking whether patients are responding to the medicines or monitoring whether they are taking them in the prescribed doses at the right time. All this gives the physician the best information with which to take the best decision and fine tune the care to fit that particular patient.”

It sounds so obvious. So why hasn’t this been done before?

Hans Driessen smiles. “Although it sounds straightforward, to perform handheld blood sample analysis to laboratory standards is extremely complicated. Philips Research on the High Tech Campus has been studying ways of doing this for well over a decade. Then seven years ago, the research was transferred to our incubator unit, which is a part of the company designed to build new businesses based on disruptive ideas. The breakthrough innovation making faster, accurate testing possible is the result of biosensor nanotechnology called Magnotech. It draws on Philips’ extensive experience in magnetics (compact cassette), optics (DVD), and nanotechnology.”

“Our “startup” unit developing Handheld Held diagnostics is also busy manufacturing the cartridge on the High Tech Campus because this is the most difficult part of the device. Each blood test requires a new cartridge, to exclude any possibility for errors through contamination from other samples. ”

“As I see it, this technology has much broader potential further down the line. You can imagine such handheld devices being used for tests in the food industry. But, for now, we're focused on healthcare in which Philips has established a clear lead.”

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