Bioelectronic Medicine Emerges
As the staff of Neurotech Reports prepares for our first Bioelectronic Medicine Forum on March 22, we’re left with much of the same optimism that we felt 17 years ago, preparing for the first Neurotech Leaders Forum. The sense of excitement that accompanies the birth of a new industry can be overwhelming, and certainly raises new questions.
Among these are questions of nomenclature and terminology. What do we mean when we speak of bioelectronic medicine and which products and technologies are included in this industry? As it turns out, different organizations have slightly different definitions of the term and we suspect that this issue alone will spark some lively debate on March 22.
For example, the journal Bioelectronic Medicine defines the term as “nerve-stimulating or nerve-blocking devices either implanted on a nerve or held against the skin, that have the potential to modulate specific nerve activity, elicit a specific change in organ function, and restore health without the complicated side effects of pharmaceutical agents.” The National Institutes of Health’s SPARC program refers to “modulation of nerve signals to control organ function.”
As editors of this publication, we have had to consider the extent to which bioelectronic medicine overlaps with neurotechnology. In our new market study, The Market for Neurotechnology: 2018-2022, we created a product category called “bioelectronic stimulators,” which includes neuromodulation therapies that treat disorders that are systemic in nature or affect a specific end organ outside of the nervous system. But we recognize that this delineation is imperfect, and necessitated by the need to avoid double-counting legacy product categories we have tracked since 2001. It may be that our next release of the market report will make use of a different taxonomy for projecting product sales, perhaps one based on physiology, rather than technology. Medtronic started this trend a few years back when they restructured their neuromodulation business unit, moving responsibility for specific product lines into new entities dedicated to disorders such as pain, brain, spinal, and gastrointestinal. We wouldn’t be surprised if other vendors followed suit.
Another critical issue that arises with the advent of bioelectronic medicine—and one we expect to discuss on March 22—is the development of new revenue models for bioelectronic therapies. Imran Eba of Action Potential Venture Capital has introduced the intriguing concept of pricing device therapies by the dose, rather than hardware cost. This economic model would likely be more familiar to professionals entering our industry from the bio/pharm world.
We hope to see many of our readers in New York on March 22. And for those with an interest in the bio/pharm industry, we recommend our marketing partner BioCentury’s Future Leaders Conference the next day at the same venue.
Editor and Publisher