A futurist map of disruptive healthcare technology of the future offers a stunning projection of what will be possible. What’s interesting is that much of it is already beginning to take shape in some form or another.
Developed by trend forecasting studio Envisioning Technology’s futurist Michell Zappa with Patrick Schlafer and Colin Popell of Prokalkeo, and featured in Fast Company, the themes focus on developments in telemedicine, augmentation, diagnostics, regeneration and biogerontology over the next 30 years.
Here are nine startups that embody some of the disruptive healthcare technology included in Zappa’s awesome innovation orb. We’d also like to get your thoughts on other startup companies you think belong in this guide. Post them in the comment space below and tell us what they’re doing to disrupt healthcare.
DxUpClose Inc. is developing a point-of-care, hand-held diagnostic device to screen a fluid sample for specific pathogenic bacteria. It identifies the bacteria if it can or counts the bacteria and then does an antibiotic sensitivity test on them within an hour. The device contains samples of antibiotics and electronic sensors within the device monitor the growth of bacteria from a sample under the influence of those antibiotics. The device then sends a list of recommended antibiotics to a healthcare worker’s email or smartphone. The technology was developed at Texas A&M University. Its initial application will be for urinary tract infections.
UE Lifesciences is a breast cancer diagnostics startup that uses fingertip sensors to detect tumors. Its Intelligent Breast Exam can distinguish between normal breast tissue and a tumor. Breast cancers are stiffer and less mobile than the surrounding tissue, according to a paper documenting the device. It provides a noninvasive, radiation-free alternative to mammograms.
What could be more futuristic than growing skin from plants? Invasion of the Body Snatchers, anyone? Not quite. Eqalix is working with three Philadelphia institutions to grow synthetic skin from soybean protein. CEO Joseph P. Connell sees applications for diabetic foot ulcers, bed sores, trauma and burns. Connell said the synthetic skin addresses the biggest problem in wound healing — closing a large wound surface. In a second technology the company is developing, using regenerated blood vessels, there won’t be a need to track down and harvest donor arteries in the patient’s body or from another person. The technologies were developed by researchers and clinicians from Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Ekso Bionics makes exoskeletons for people who have been paralyzed from spinal cord injuries. Here’s how it works: Electrical motors move the frame’s joints and mimic the actions of muscles. The technology has been licensed to Lockheed Martin for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veebot, a startup from Stanford University’s nonprofit accelerator, has developed a robot that draws blood and starts IVs. It uses existing visualization technology along with computer vision and robotics to locate blood vessels. These actions are estimated to be performed 1.4 billion times every year in the U.S. alone.
CellScope Inc. combines telemedicine and mobile technology to make it easier to diagnose ear infections remotely. Its at-home diagnostic system uses an optical attachment for a cellphone with an app. The system converts a mobile phone into a mobile otoscope. Parents use the device to capture interior photos of their child’s ear, which are transmitted to CellScope’s Web platform where they are accessed by a physician.
Cryonics is not just about plot lines for movies like Sleeper. Arigos Biomedical is developing high-speed cooling methods for reversible, organ and whole-organism cryopreservation. The company secured funding from former PayPal founder Peter Thiel’s Thiel Foundation’s new funding program for research scientists, Breakout Labs.
Bioelectronic drugs are another wave of the future and hold the promise of whittling down at least some of the healthcare expenses associated with noncompliance. MIT spinout MicroCHIPS is developing a bioelectronic drug-delivery method in which a tiny chip that’s implanted inside the body is programmed wirelessly to release doses of drugs at the right time. It would be particularly useful for conditions that require consistent, long-term regimens of injected drugs. The chip is also designed with a path for an electrical current to pass through in order to melt the bonds when it’s time for a dose of the drug to be released.
The chip is implanted under the skin, usually below the waistline or in the arm, in an outpatient procedure. A physician can program the chip to release doses on a regular schedule, or to release a dose on demand with small, calculator-sized device that’s connected to a computer. The chip can be reprogrammed if the patient is in the same room as the physician with the device.
Fate Therapeutics develops stem cell modulators with the goal of restoring cells destroyed as a result of intensive chemotherapy, radiation or immunotherapy to treat hematologic malignancies like leukemia and lymphoma. Its lead drug, ProHema, uses a small molecule (FT1050) to modulate hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), or blood-forming cells, that are transplanted to restore cells destroyed by the anticancer treatments.