Proteus: China likely to swallow "smart pills" first

By Brian Dolan
11:21 am

Proteus Biomedical's "smart pill"Proteus Biomedical CEO Andrew Thompson describes his company as a pioneer of intelligent medicine -- Proteus embeds computers and sensors inside drugs and devices to monitor in real-time when a patient takes a drug and how they respond to it. Thompson says the service will also include reminders and notices for patients' caregivers or family members to keep them in the loop. And although Thomspon told attendees at CTIA earlier this year that he believes intelligent medicine has a $100 billion market opportunity, Proteus won't be charging an arm and a leg for their service.

"We'll do all of this for the same price as the drugs you buy now," Thompson told California Healthcare Institute during a recent interview. "For one daily price of your medicine you get the drug, the monitoring, the applications and tools, the incentives and the connectivity."

As we have noted before, Proteus' Raisin technology runs on an electric charge generated by the patient's stomach acid. The charge is detected through the patient's body by a sensing patch on the patient's skin. The patch records the time and date that the pill is digested and also measures some vitals like heart rate, activity and respiratory patterns. The information is then sent to the patient's mobile phone and then onto the internet for caregivers to review and analyze.

One challenge for Proteus has been the time that the technology can stay active in the human body. After all, it is running on stomach acid, a rather corrosive liquid. According to a post from the blog Singularity Hub, Proteus has been developing a solution -- ChipSkin. This technology aims to keep Raisin technology and other implantable devices, like pacemakers, around a little while longer by coating parts of the solution in a protective layer to make the electronic bits more resistant to breaking down. The result could be another step toward a continuous internal monitoring system for drug responses and medication compliance.

So when can we expect Proteus' technology to hit the market in the U.S.? Not before it hits the market in China, Thompson told the CHI blog. Developing markets like China can't afford to replicate the entire care ecosystem that currently exists in the U.S., so it's likely they will be more aggressive in rolling out new technologies like Proteus'. 

While Proteus isn't likely the only game in town, Thompson believes that his company's biggest competitor is Walmart. Ever the provocateur. 

To find out why read the entire interview over at the CHI blog here.

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A patient at Houston Methodist Hospital, participates in a smartphone screening test to analyze stroke-like symptoms she's experiencing. Photo credit: Houston Methodist Hospital.



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