Excerpted from BioWorld MedTech, Volume 22, No.109, June 6, 2018
By David Godkin, Staff Writer
The global orthopedic implants market valued at $47 billion in 2016 is expected to grow to $75 billion by 2023. To get a piece of that action, lead investors at Vancouver, B.C.-based Quark Venture Inc. are investing $10 million in Chirp data analytics software developed by Vancouver-based Canary Medical Inc. That investment, Canary Medical CEO Bill Hunter told BioWorld MedTech will provide real-time feedback on the performance of orthopedic medical implants.
“We can say to a knee implant manufacturer, for example, ‘You’ve got a lot of dead space in your knee, and we can put a self-contained analytics device in the stem of your knee or hip that reports back for 20 years.’ So the money that we’ve raised will be used to contribute our part of that technology.”
A physician by training, Hunter said a major drawback of current wearable health and fitness monitors is that patients forget to wear them or stash them away in their night table drawer. In a study of 92 knee replacement patients, Hunter confirmed what his own medical practice told him, that “25 percent of people never even wore it once; 25 percent wore it for the full 90 days and half wore it sometimes and not at other times.”
“We wanted to have a system in which the patient really didn’t have to do anything,” said Hunter. “The device is on, monitoring the implant all the time and for long periods of time.”
Canary Medical has achieved that, Hunter added, through “a medical grade, super data set from the Canary implant and connected informatics network,” including sensors, pacemaker-grade batteries “and a way to transmit collected data from inside to the outside of the body.”
“If you’ve had a total knee replacement, an Iwatch can tell you how many steps you took, but what’s going on at your left wrist doesn’t necessarily correlate with what’s going on in your right knee,” Hunter explained. “By having that sensor capability within the knee itself, we can monitor your cadence or your stride length and tell if the knee is healing or loosening.”
Data: the new oil
The $10 million to Canary Medical is not the first time Quark Venture has invested in innovative biotechnology. Its Global Health Sciences Fund is a relatively diversified portfolio of biotechnologies that include investments in the measurement of hemodynamic severity in coronary lesions and in wearable biosensors that give doctors direct access to vital patient data.
Quark Venture CEO and partner Karimah Es Sabar told BioWorld MedTech Canary Medical’s Chirp system embedded in an artificial knee implant is a first for her company. “It’s really cool because you’re really talking about AI combined with a medical device. I really think you’re going to see more and more of this in the future: converging technologies, digital health, genomics and AI.”
In short, data is the new oil, Es Sabar said. What she found particularly compelling about Canary Medical was the ability of data management “to drive patient care.” That means digitally triaging implant patients across a spectrum of medical severities, improving overall patient outcomes, managing the doctor’s time “but also saving a huge amount of money.”
“Knee implants require a lot of replacement surgery. What this does is systematize and optimize when and how and where this should be done.”
Not just for orthopedics
Es Sabar called Bill Hunter a very “savvy, experienced and thoughtful leader, the right person to lead a company like this.” She expects his reputation to help him navigate the next step in the use of Chirp: as monitoring technology following vascular implant surgery. “It’s a platform that can be used following cardiovascular procedures, hearing and visual implantation. There are many applications for it as we stretch our imaginations.”
Hunter expects the Chirp’s cost of goods to be $250-$300, plus the cost of a home base station to transmit the data from patient to doctor, “which might be another hundred bucks, but will last 15 to 20 years.” Before that can happen, the Chirp system must first be approved for use in the U.S. Assuming all goes well, Hunter expects the technology “to be market-ready in two to two and a half years.”