Making a medical adherence unicorn
Name: Andrew Thompson
Title: Co-founder and CEO of Proteus Digital Health
It's not easy, or common, for a businessman to be incredibly patient--to nurture a scientific vision through research and development then past years of regulatory hurdles, made particularly high for a technology that could be widely used. But that's precisely what Andrew Thompson has done. He started out with Proteus Digital Health when it was founded in 2001, and he remains with it still as it starts making major partnerships and looks forward to the potential of having the first approved drug that incorporates medication adherence technology.
Perhaps what has made Thompson so enduring is knowing the billions that are potentially at stake. Proteus is already viewed as one of a quite rare breed--a med tech unicorn, a private company deemed worth in excess of $1 billion. That valuation is staked on what this technology could mean for the broad biopharma industry.
Patients are notoriously poor at compliance, or regularly taking their medications as prescribed. Taking their drugs on schedule and in the prescribed amounts could mean a better outcome for patients--and also translate into significant bumps in sales for drug companies whose revenues are already measured in the billions. The potential for, say, a 10% increase driven by improved compliance would be impossible for any biopharma to ignore.
The first trial case is already in the hands of the FDA; Proteus and partner Otsuka submitted a version of Otsuka's Abilify to treat severe mental illnesses to the agency last September. The benefits and difficulties of medication adherence in such a patient population are painfully obvious. Earlier last year, FDA specifically cleared the Proteus system for measuring medication adherence. But it first received de novo clearance from the agency way back in 2012.
In Europe, the Proteus system recently was given a positive opinion from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to offer its stamp of approval for use of the system in clinical trials. It initially had received a CE mark in Europe for its ingestible sensor system to detect medication adherence in 2010.
Proteus has long had prominent partners, including Oracle ($ORCL) and Novartis ($NVS) in addition to Otsuka. But it's just started attracting customers. The first hospital system, South Lake Tahoe, CA-based Barton Health, recently adopted the Proteus technology for use in chronic conditions; it can be taken alongside medication as well as be embedded within it.
"Patients are seeking easier ways to engage in their own care; healthcare providers are looking to more effectively manage chronic conditions," Thompson said in a statement to note the deal. "Barton is among a group of pioneering health systems addressing these opportunities head on by adding digital health solutions that extend their physical footprint, laying the groundwork for a durable population health strategy."
The Proteus system includes an ingestible sensor that sends signals to a wearable patch after it reaches the stomach, and the patch then records and time-stamps the information, sending it back to a mobile phone or Bluetooth device.
The sensor also records other patient metrics such as rest, body angle and activity patterns, giving a better picture of what a patient is doing while they're taking the drug and potentially improving adherence.
With an MBA from Stanford as well as dual Master's Degrees in engineering and education, Thompson seems well equipped to keep steering Proteus through its next phase of growth, which seems likely to proceed as it gathers more customers and partners and likely looks toward an IPO.
He also serves on the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers selection committee, which could help him to remain in touch with cutting edge innovation even as his own company's product may become more commonplace.
-- Stacy Lawrence (email | Twitter)
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