“Twenty years from now, every medicine will have a chip in it. Once it’s clear that a digital medicine is a more powerful product than a dumb medicine, and that the cost is reasonable, why would anyone use the dumb medicine?” – Andrew Thompson, CEO and co-founder of Proteus Digital Health.
Redwood City, Calif.-based Proteus Digital Health is working to create a new category of products and services called Digital Medicines. Those will be the same pharmaceuticals you take today, with one small change: each pill will also contain a tiny sensor that can communicate, via a digital health feedback system, vital information about your medication-taking behaviors and how your body is responding.
The system uses a tiny ingestible sensor that patients swallow with their medication every day. The sensor contains tiny amounts of magnesium and copper that react together and send a signal to a battery-operated patch that’s worn on the patient’s abdomen. The patch, which lasts about a week, reports its data to a tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth, and the device forwards the information up to the cloud. Once the data is in the cloud, doctors and other caregivers can monitor it.
A handful of health systems in the U.S. and U.K. are now testing the Proteus system in a “private beta.” The investing communities are also big believers: Proteus’ most recent round of funding this July, its seventh, generated an additional $172 million, driving the total to around $400 million. Proteus lists Carlyle, Essex Woodlands, Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Novartis, Otsuka, Oracle, and ON Semiconductor as existing investors.