Fogarty Innovation Headlines Session on “The Future of Innovation” at Influential Conference

by | Dec 9, 2021 | Alliances, Fogarty Innovation, Thought Leadership

Fogarty Innovation is always honored to have a seat at the table at significant industry events, and the most recent was MedTech Strategist’s Innovation Summit San Francisco 2021, where we were an organizing partner along with Deerfield Partners, Lightstone Ventures, NEA and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati. 

As one of the first significant in-person meetings since the pandemic started, it offered a broad and deep take on the issues and opportunities driving the medtech industry today. Investors, strategics and startups participated in the conference, which featured a variety of prominent speakers and presentations from emerging medical companies, including Fogarty companies iDentical and Materna Medical.

Fogarty Innovation headlined a very popular session, “The Future of Innovation,” which featured Andrew Cleeland, CEO of Fogarty Innovation, our partner and colleague Josh Makower, director and co-founder of Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign, and moderator David Cassak, editor-in-chief of the MedTech Strategist. On a separate panel, Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, chief commercial officer of Fogarty Innovation, joined Ingrid Ellerbe, executive director at Diversity by Doing, to discuss “The Importance of Diversity,” which you can read here.

The role of disruption in medtech

The conversation kicked off by discussing whether the medtech industry can still be considered disruptive,  given that it has traditionally been dependent on physician customers who tend to be conservative about adopting new technology. 

The role of disruption in medtech

The conversation kicked off by discussing whether the medtech industry can still be considered disruptive, given that it has traditionally been dependent on physician customers who tend to be conservative about adopting new technology. 

Josh believes that the traditional medtech business model of physicians treating patients with devices is just a small part of the full opportunity. “While there are still robust opportunities in traditional medtech, innovators need to think more broadly and open the solution set beyond procedures,” he says. “Our vision of what medtech is has to change as technology increasingly evolves and is more inclusive of other kinds of technologies like AI/ML, molecular diagnostics and probes, digital therapies, and many others.” 

Andrew shared that our industry is vastly different today because of advances in the technology sector. This has enabled medtech companies to leverage innovative resources to solve problems, contributing to the continual advances in the industry, including the rise in digital health innovation. “Now our job is to understand how to fix clinical problems using whatever technology is available,” he said. 

The speakers agreed on the importance of a needs-based approach that is driven by understanding the disease itself through firsthand observations, versus being influenced by a physician. “As with any industry, you see what the real need is rather than only asking what a customer wants,” said Andrew.

Consumer technology as a powerful force

Another emerging area and opportunity for growth is consumer health technology. Even traditional medtech models are enabled by consumer awareness, as today’s strong social connections are a powerful tool to advance innovation and education. “Any situation where a patient gets to make a decision is an appropriate opportunity to use a consumer model,” said Josh. 

While larger tech companies, such as Apple, Fitbit and Google, have slowly been integrating health-related features into their products, it will be difficult for them to innovate at their accustomed pace from a regulatory perspective. “It’s just not feasible with their traditional business models, so unless we rethink the regulatory framework for these types of devices, they are likely to remain less impactful, as they are at the moment,” added Josh.

However, while adjustments might be required to better accommodate digital health, that’s not to say that regulatory agencies shouldn’t continue to provide important checks and guidelines.

“A strong, balanced, transparent, fair, predictable FDA, setting appropriate boundaries, has always been important – it helps industry and it helps patients,” says Josh.

Andrew believes that although the medtech industry focuses heavily on treating chronic disease, there’s now increasing attention to preventative medicine, driven in part by behavioral modification enabled by technology. “I used to question the value of my friends’ focus on attaining those 10,000 daily steps, but we have seen that having a goal like that does help change behavior, motivating someone to get up from watching TV and take a walk instead,” he said.

A bright future — together

Looking ahead, the very nature of innovators is that they adapt to their environment, whether it’s regulatory or financial — for example, by surfacing thoughtful ideas that don’t require a lot of capital or are better able to navigate existing regulatory or reimbursement hurdles 

As Andrew pointed out, “We’ll always be coping with disease states, and thanks to technology, solutions will continue to evolve.”

The speakers concluded by underscoring the important work that organizations like the MDMA, AdvaMed or the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) do for medtech companies of all sizes. They believe it’s critical for innovators to join as a way to participate in the conversation and help ensure that new technologies are part of the full regulatory package, including reimbursement. “Entrepreneurs should make these organizations a priority as we all benefit and are impacted by our ecosystem,” said Andrew. 

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