Earlier this month, I attended  a great MIT Enterprise Forum  discussion on new medical devices designed to provide low cost tests far from laboratories or medical centers, in the developing world.

At the meeting, held by the Forum’s Health Care and Life Science Special Interest Group at the British Consulate in Cambridge,  former Mass Biotechnology Council  President Una Ryan described the paper-based  medical testing technology that her new nonprofit enterprise,  Diagnostics for All  (DFA), has licensed from the George Whitesides Lab, at Harvard.

The technology allows bodily fluid to accumulate in patterns on postage-stamp sized pieces of paper–to be used for  multiple  tests simultaneously. DFA’s first project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a liver function test to monitor the effects of drugs for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, to help manage viral hepatitis. Such tests, which ordinarily require laboratory evaluation, will first be sold in convenience stores in Africa at a cost of approximately ten cents each, Ryan said.

Bill Rodriguez, CEO of Daktari Diagnostics, showed a handheld, point of care, battery-operated diagnostics device the size of a small lunch box or portable radio that will first be used to test for AIDS in Africa–at a cost of $1.50 per test–starting next year. He pointed out that while drugs are available to treat the  33 million people worldwide who have  HIV– “ten million of them don’t know it.”

Scientia Advisors Partner Arshad Ahmed, who  served as moderator, (and is my client) pointed out in a recent blog that emerging markets may have the opportunity to adopt the latest point-of-care products, leapfrogging developed countries, in some instances–and that “emerging markets are where we will see the first application of low cost and inovative disruptive technologies at work.” Launching in the developing world allows companies to test out and market technologies before going through the rigorous approval process required in the developed world.

I was blown away by the prospects for  devices like these and asked when and how they will affect the  costs and structure of, say, US healthcare–and whether those who make and market our costly technologies will try to keep these new testing devices out.  While Ryan, whose nonprofit will have a commercial wing, responded that she does not expect opposition from stakeholders in our current system. But can that possibly be right?

Anita M. Harris

Anita M. Harris is President of the Harris Communications Group, a marketing and public relations firm specializing in health, science and technology industries, worldwide.


My client Scientia Advisors has released a fascinating new review on healthcare opportunities in China.

 Based on primary and secondary research including interviews, third-party reports and several trips to Asia, Scientia foresees exponential growth in diagnostics and major opportunities in medical devices and healthcare information technology (HIT). 

However, Scientia cautions that to succeed in the Chinese marketplace, companies must understand the changing Chinese health care system  and how government reforms will impact growth.

“In recent years, the Chinese government has sought to expand access to care and cut costs,” said Harry Glorikian, managing partner of  Scientia Advisors.

Reforms will increase funding for public hospitals, decentralized care, infrastructure development and public medical insurance, according to the Scientia industry review.  At the same time, the government will tighten the management and oversight of medical institutions, health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and retailers, and will more closely monitor the safety of water, food and the workplace.

“These changes, along with increasing incidence of diabetes, heart disease and various infectious diseases,  are opening opportunities for point-of-care, molecular diagnostics, food and water testing, and HIT in China,” Glorikian said. “But new regulations will lead to lower prices for certain products.”

The review highlights expected double-digit  growth in diagnostics–especially molecular and point-of-care; 25 per cent growth in health information technology; and 20 per cent growth in patient-monitoring equipment and other devices–given that 75 per cent of  medical equipment in China is at least  20 years old.

The review is available for download at www.scientiaadv.com–or contact me for more information!
–Anita Harris

HarrisCom blog is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA. We also publish New Cambridge Observer

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