Digital Medicine from Proteus
In a May 2013 report published by McKinsey Global Institute, 12 disruptive technologies were listed that could drive truly massive transformations in the coming years. One of the technologies listed in this report was “The Internet of Things“. Coined in 1999, this often used phrase while sounding mystical simply means that more and more objects are becoming embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate via the Internet. One good example of this concept applied is Proteus Digital Health.
Founded in 2001, Redwood City based Proteus Digital Health is a private company with 130 employees who are developing intelligent medicine products. The company has taken in around $88 million in funding so far with a large portion of that being a Series F financing round in May 2013 which raised $62.5 million and brought in Oracle as an investor. Prior rounds included funding from Novartis, The Carlyle Group, Medtronic, and St. Jude Medical among many others.
Update 9/27/2018: Proteus has now taken in a total of $487 million in funding with the last round raised in February 2016.
The Medication Adherence Problem
In the United States, it is estimated that from one-third to one-half of all patients do not take their medications properly. The cost to the US healthcare system as a result is $290 billion in avoidable medical spending annually. “Forgetfulness” and “other priorities are the most common reasons for not taking medications at 30% and 16% respectively. These facts were taken from a 2011 paper on the early use of Proteus’ sensor technology that acknowledged it as effective in helping to monitor patient adherence to an oral medication regime.
The Proteus Sensor
Proteus currently offers the only commercially available sensor that can directly confirm its own ingestion. The sensor itself is the size of a grain of sand, and is made mostly of silicon. It does not contain a battery but rather is powered by two conductive materials, one on either side, that when become wet in the stomach power the sensor for a short amount of time. The sensor then emits a unique identifier with a time stamp to a patch the patient wears. This patch transmits the received data via Bluetooth to any number of devices along with heart rate, temperature, activity and rest patterns.
Proteus can deliver full solutions that integrate sensor hardware, software and content into a company’s existing drugs that are co-ingested with the sensor to allow for a rich set of information streams. Proteus sensor technology has been approved by the FDA in the United States and is also CE marked per the Medical Device Directive for use in the European Union.
The applications for this technology are vast as it could potentially be applied to any prescription drug available. While Proteus has first mover advantage, other companies will be looking at this space as well. The USPTO database lists 8 patents assigned to “Proteus Digital Health” and while it remains to be seen how these will prove to be effective barriers to entry, Proteus does seem to have some truly disruptive potential.
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