Orthopedic device industry watchers think so, and Zimmer Biomet appears set to be the first out of the gate this year through a partnership with the startup Canary Medical.What do drug-eluting stents and “smart” implantable medical devices have in common? It turns out it’s a lot, at least according to Dr. Bill Hunter.
The founder and CEO of Angiotech Pharmaceuticals from 1992 to 2011, Hunter saw that medical device companies had cardiovascular stents that could save lives but also caused inflammation problems, while pharmaceutical companies had drugs that could stop the inflammation. He helped bring the technologies together, playing a role in the invention and development of the Taxus drug-eluting coronary stent from Boston Scientific and the Zilver PTX peripheral drug-eluting stent from Cook Medical.
Hunter started Canary Medical (Vancouver, British Columbia) in 2012 because he thought that micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), sensors, batteries and wireless communications had advanced enough — especially when it came to pacemakers — that one could package sensors with implantable medical devices.
The company’s name came from the idea that the resulting data stream could do for healthcare what canaries did for coal miners: Provide an early warning.
“I used to say, ‘We live in a world where your refrigerator’s connected to the internet. Why are lifesaving medical devices not?’ There’s some pretty valuable information we’d like to know,” Hunter said in a recent interview with Medical Design & Outsourcing and MassDevice.
“We were all from a cardiology background,” Hunter said of the Canary team in the early days. “We thought, ‘Hey, we could do this almost by making a pacemaker.’ We take a battery, we take telemetry, substitute sensors for the leads.”
The execution of the idea was still hard, according to Hunter. “You got to have consumer electronics to get it there. You got to do cloud storage and data analytics and user interfaces on the other end. None of the components is rocket science, but putting them all together is actually a bit bigger task than meets the eye. And so it’s pretty exciting.”
The result was the Canary Health Implantable Reporting Processor (CHIRP). It’s the size of triple-A battery and modular enough that Zimmer Biomet officials in recent years saw the potential of embedding the sensor inside the tibial extension segment of a commercial knee prosthesis.
Zimmer Biomet this year plans to launch the Persona-IQ, a next-gen version of its successful, personalized Persona Revision knee implants that will incorporate the CHIRP sensor.