MedTech sector boom worth billions is coming to the Middle East

Experts say more intelligent technology is urgently needed

An attendee demonstrates a suite of wearable technology devices at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, 2022 in Las Vegas. AFP
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One of the world's most influential medical technology advisory companies is looking to expand its reach to the Middle East in light of the booming diagnostic and device market, worth an estimated $600 billion and growing fast.

Life Science Intelligence (LSI) brings together investors and entrepreneurs as well as industry leaders in the MedTech sector which is expanding at an estimated 5 per cent a year, according to chief executive Scott Pantel.

“We have a sincere interest in partnering with investors in the Middle East who see the value of health care and MedTech,” Mr Pantel told The National.

Quote
The Middle East and the UAE is a very cutting-edge-technology-driven part of the world. There is an increasing amount of interest from the region but I think we are just scratching the surface
Scott Pantel, Life Science Intelligence

“We are thinking seriously about bringing an event to the Middle East in the next year or so.

“The Middle East and the UAE is a very cutting-edge-technology-driven part of the world and we are finally seeing the convergence of traditional medical devices and diagnostics with data software and tele-health.

"We are very bullish about the space. We think this industry is set up for double-digit growth over the next five years. So, we are very much looking forward to aligning ourselves with groups in the Middle East who would like us to bring this type of innovation to the region.”

Asked where he would like to hold the summit, he replied: “Dubai or Abu Dhabi would be our obvious first thoughts.

“But we have a blank piece of paper at this point and we will move to the location where partners can rally round what we are trying to do.

“Currently there is an increasing amount of interest from the region but I think we are just scratching the surface."

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What's next in MedTech?

Robotics, AI, and machine learning ― for routine surgical procedures, medical machines, and programmes and algorithms able to help diagnostics.

Cardiovascular and cancer-related medical devices ― everything from new and more sophisticated cardiac grafts and ventricular-assisted heart devices to non-invasive cancer treatments.

Remote patient monitoring ― for better patient outcomes, faster response time, and significant cost reductions.

Digital therapeutics ― software programs accessed via a patient’s smartphone or PC that can monitor and help treat a patient. This then frees up human medical care time and can highlight immediate issues rather than the need for an appointment.

New ways to develop drugs ― the greater use of AI and ever-increasing computing power to aggregate more data to reduce the current trial and error approach to creating new drugs.

Nanomedicine ― the medical application of nanotechnology, which operates on the tiniest atomic and molecular level, opening new ways to image, diagnose and deliver health care and combat major killers such as heart disease and cancer.

Mobile diagnostics ― sophisticated devices able to speedily diagnose a whole range of potential illnesses and conditions in one assessment, without the need for centralised laboratory testing, and delivering gold standard and early intervention results.

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Finding investors

After almost 20 years in business, LSI has just run its first summit outside California, which was held near London and attended by 450 delegates.

More than 100 hand-picked early-stage companies attended seeking investment.

Mr Pantel, if only tongue in cheek, likened it to business speed dating, with entrepreneur pitches to prospective investors lasting no more than nine minutes. He estimates investment worth up to $2bn was secured over four days last week.

Wearable technology that can help doctors investigate illnesses would greatly reduce the strain on the healthcare industry. AFP

Figures from world-leading companies in the space such as Medtronics, Johnson & Johnson and Siemens also gave their thoughts on future trends and the rapidly expanding sector.

“We are seeing the digital transformation of health care," Mr Pantel said.

So what are the areas that are creating such excitement and what is driving the growth?

“At a macro level it is an ageing population plus the ripple effect of Covid and what was required of us [to deal with] Covid,” he said.

Mr Pantel points to the expansion of big data software, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, remote patient monitoring and digital health wearables, such as Apple watches.

For example, if you have cardiovascular issues your doctor can place a patch on to the body to monitor what is going on.

Remote consultations

Telehealth is another boom sector. “During Covid you didn’t go in to see your physician, [you would] maybe go on to a Zoom call and have your check-up via your desktop. The need to go into the office or the hospital has changed dramatically," Mr Pantel said.

Surgeons around the world can now remotely take part in procedures to share best practices, with clinicians and healthcare systems collaborating like never before.

There has also been an explosion in virtual reality. Companies are training physicians and prepping them for surgery on the actual physiology of the patient that they will be seeing, prior to the surgery actually happening. With VR and AI a procedure can be simulated before it takes place.

There is also a big shift in thinking and the idea of moving from a survivor mentality to one of the "pre-vivor", where clinicians are able to identify issues well before they would otherwise be able so that people can be treated earlier in the disease cycle. Data shows that early detection is vital in the treatment of cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Urgent need for intelligent tech in health care

For Bernd Montag, the chief executive of Siemens Healthineers, innovation cannot come quickly enough for an organisation such as the NHS in the UK.

He said the NHS needed to inject more “intelligence into the system”.

“When you have more demand than you can fulfil, this is where innovation plays a role. This is when you invest in technology.”

Mr Montag emphasised that the key to health care is early diagnosis, not throwing medical staff and resources at the problem later. And to maximise use of the technology.

He also spoke about the “hidden cancer pandemic” facing the UK and other nations. Cancer currently kills 10 million people globally every year, five times the number of Covid deaths, so why does cancer not command the same fear in governments, health professionals and the public?”

Updated: September 29, 2022, 3:05 AM
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