MassDevice.com is liveblogging the World Health Medical Technology Conference at Boston University.
The World Health Medical Technology Conference (WHMTC) is a one-day workshop dedicated to exploring the opportunities and challenges of designing, building and funding medical technologies for the developing world. It’s a way to bring together stakeholders from the medical technology industry with the leading minds in the Global Health movement. To find out more about the conference, visit the conference’s website for an agenda, registration information and a list of speakers.
Dr. William Rodriguez, MD said you get laughed about of the room a lot when you say you’re developing technology for the poorest people in the world. The President and CEO of diagnostic start-up Daktari Diagnostics remarked during his presentation at the WHMTC that raising money from venture capitalists for global health issues is difficult, but not impossible. There are, according to Dr. Rodriguez, entrepreneurial possibilities for innovations that will affect the developing world.
He said almost $25 billion is spent every year on HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, but this is only about $500 per person affect and pales in comparison to what the developed world shells out for healthcare. Some good news may be that four million people are now being treated for HIV, compared to 200,000 individuals 10 years ago.
The CEO of the "5.5 person" company said there’s a certain criteria, which Una Ryan addressed when she described the WHO’s ASSURED test, that can be met with common investment models, but you need innovation, you can’t just retrofit tech that was intended for use in a laboratory. Eventually, the Arlington, Mass.-based start-up raised $3 million from venture investors and $500,000 from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.
President of the Bienmoyo foundation, Dr. Jeffrey Blander, MD, the base of the consumer pyramid for the healthcare is humanitarian. Technologists in the medical field typcially commericalize their products with only for the wealthiest people in mind: few devices are manufactured and therefore costs make the technology out-of-reach for the majority of the world’s population.
Dr. Blander’s organization has recently worked to provide point-of-care medical technology to rural Tanzanians, a vital resource in a country where patients travel great distances and few doctors means follow-up appointments aren’t feasble. He said responses from investors for third world innovation are commonly the following: silence, "I mean no disrespect, but take me off your distribution list," or "What is your expected return on investment?" He could answer the last question because the products he dealt with were designed to be scalable, a popular theme at the WHMTC.
Many presenters highlighted the importance of simplicity in care. In some countries in Africa, there is a 50,000 to one ratio of patients to doctors, versus just over 400 to one in the U.S. and about 950 to one in China.
It may be a consolation to some entrepreneurs in the medtech space that General Electric has also noticed a profit potential for investing in healthcare technology designed to reach as many people as possible. GE’s Earl Jones said that his company is motivated to create new medical technology based on an increasing affordability.