FierceMedTech's 2018 Fierce 15

FierceMedTech Fierce 15

These are the ideas that can move the needle.

FierceMedTech’s Fierce 15 class of 2018 is aimed at advancement—whether it’s simply combining new know-how with old methods, making definitive improvements in well-trodden fields, or pushing us to reconsider how far we can reach with the means available today.

They are about taking steps over, around or through what many have accepted as the limits of current medical technology, in order to make tangible impacts on patients’ lives, or the development of therapies that will.

Take Potrero Medical, for example. By developing a smart, sensor-laden version of the 100-year-old Foley catheter, they’re now able to more accurately gauge a patient’s kidney health and urine output—harbingers of cardiac failure in patients in intensive care, as well as the acute kidney injuries linked to over 300,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

Previously, nurses would have to manually move either the patient or the tube to clear the urine trapped in the line, resulting in inaccurate collections and blocked flows. But only because a simple plastic tube was all they had to work with.

AblaCare aims to update a long-validated technique to treat infertility associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome, using RF ablation in a safer manner to avoid the unpredictability of hormone and pharmaceutical treatments.

Others, like Pear Therapeutics, make us ask: Why can’t a piece of software create clinical responses the same way as a pill, injection or intervention? To answer that, they’ve subjected their prescription digital therapeutics to the same gold-standard rigor, producing not only familiar endpoint data but also dose-response curves in the treatment of substance abuse disorders and other areas.

On the development side, Evidation Health is casting a wide digital net across the many facets of human behavior, to search for patterns in everyday life to inform product development. Their lake of data allows companies to design fast, virtual studies that dip in to answer targeted questions while still respecting an individual’s consent and data privacy.

Elsewhere, 10x Genomics has been making strides in genomic sequencing and epigenetics, to provide higher-definition pictures of how the body works on a cell-by-cell basis. Their technology helped uncover a new type of cell in lung tissue linked to cystic fibrosis, where previous sequencing methods lost the signal amid the noise, to potentially provide a new avenue for treatment.

Mekonos, meanwhile, aims to bring assembly line-style manufacturing to cell therapies on a massive scale. Inspired by manual in vitro fertilization—picture two pipettes slowly operating on a single egg cell under a microscope—the company envisages fields of computer-controlled microneedles that individually deliver the genetic material necessary to turn cells into cancer fighters, sidestepping the need to use a viral vector entirely.

And while these 15 companies move forward, we’ll be close behind, watching how their progress advances others’. Stay tuned, and feel free to reach out with the ideas you think are fierce enough to make that significant difference. — Conor Hale