Making wearables more wearable
The market for wearables—the digital devices that track everything from blood pressure and glucose levels to a person’s daily steps and skin temperature—is exploding. Researchers at IDTechEx predict sales of wearable technologies will more than triple to $70 billion in 2025, with most of that growth coming from the healthcare sector.
But the current generation of wearable medical devices fails on several fronts. They tend to be bulky, boxy and more like wearing a small machine than something that works with your body. And the data typically aren’t transmitted directly to the healthcare provider.
Lexington, Mass.-based technology company MC10 aims to change that by redesigning monitoring devices to be more wearable, accurate and even customizable.
It has piloted its BioStamp Research Connect System with dozens of companies and research institutions and now looks to move into the broader market.
The BioStamp is small, thin and flexible, and can be worn on multiple sites on the body. MC10’s device and accompanying software allows researchers to customize the information they collect, whether it is someone’s stride rate or the electrical activity of the heart or motor neurons.
For physicians, the device can chart a patient’s rehabilitation after an orthopedic procedure such as a total knee or hip replacement by measuring the individual’s gait, range of motion and cadence against his or her preoperative baseline.
“Being able to quantify that objectively is very, very powerful,” said Isaiah Kacyvenski, a former National Football League linebacker who is now MC10’s global head of business development, research and consumer segments.
Kacyvenski should know. During his eight years with the NFL—six playing for the Seattle Seahawks, two for the St. Louis Rams—he underwent 11 surgeries. Now, the former Harvard University pre- med student is helping develop new applications for the BioStamp device.
Kacyvenski joined MC10 when it was a company of nine people—it now has almost 85 employees, with 75 engineers.
“This is only the start,” he said. “We’re going to continue to add more and more sensing capability.”
MC10 timed the unveiling of BioStamp for last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But it’s no newcomer. The revenue-generating company has worked with about 40 institutions over the past seven years to beta-test the device and has formed several industry partnerships to test its wider applications.
Last year, for instance, the company partnered with pharmaceutical company UCB, which develops drugs for patients with severe neurological diseases. The BioStamp sensor will allow it to measure the physiological impact of products that treat epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and restless legs syndrome, data the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and insurers are demanding to assess the drugs’ efficacy and comparative effectiveness.
Paolo Bonato, who directs the Motion Analysis Laboratory at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, has used the BioStamp in his own research. One of his studies involves helping late-stage Parkinson’s disease patients titrate their medication based on their symptoms.
Often, patients can’t tell the difference between tremors and dyskinesia, which means difficulty performing voluntary movements. Doctors have to make medication decisions with only a small window of time to observe the patient. “That 20 minutes is not representative of what happens with a patient,” Bonato said.
Pharmaceutical companies are also interested in wearable technology because it’s more efficient to continuously monitor patients in their homes.
Reebok has incorporated BioStamp sensors into its Checklight product, a tightly fitted cap worn under a helmet that retails for about $150. The cap measures force of impact. And while it doesn’t diagnose concussions, it can be used as a tool for concussion research. MC10 also has partnered with cosmetic company L’Oreal on a patch that can track the skin’s exposure to ultraviolet light over time.
BioStamp’s advantage comes from its flexibility. Few of today’s wearable technologies are flexible, with most still designed on a flat printed circuit board, said Spaulding researcher Bonato.
MC10 does not disclose its revenue, but Kacyvenski said the company has raised more than $65 million in venture capital. Its largest investor is North Bridge Ventures.
The BioStamp is small, thin and flexible, and
can be worn on multiple sites on the body.