Innovations in the fields of medicine, artificial intelligence, robotics and sensors are finally giving a new life to medical technologies and are making human enhancement a reality.
Bionics, which is taking on human body dysfunctions and disabilities and, more globally, helping improve the wellness and lifespan of the world population, benefits from long-term drivers:
an ageing world population and a shortage of donated organs,
major technology breakthroughs leading to an impressive product pipeline,
an improving outlook for the reimbursement of bionic devices by insurers or health agencies.
The investment universe encompasses next-generation prosthetics, medical wearables and devices, surgical and medical robots, exoskeletons, 3D printing, synthetic biology and artificial intelligence all play a major role in the emergence of bionics.
Fixing our body dysfunctions:
Leveraging on life mechanisms:
The first artificial organ was designed in 1943 to replace a deficient kidney: a dialyzer.
Now a Microchip filter used in an artificial kidney is to be tested in humans by the end of 2017 and might keep a patient off dialysis.
Today, 60-70% of human body functionalities can be artificially performed as demonstrated by Frank, the bionic man Bertolt Meyer designed in 2013.
Still missing: digestive system, liver, skin and brain.
Medical technology innovations are made possible thanks to advances in:
Research is performed on extending Moore’s Law by optimizing chip technology. Quantum computing will further extend Moore’s law exponentially.
The price of bionic devices has been unsurprisingly high until now (between $50,000 and $150,000 for an eye or limb device and surgery).
Encouragingly, coverage by Medicare in the US seems to be heading in the right direction the health agency recently paid for a $144,000 bionic eye.
Declining costs and social welfare: a major catalyst for expanded health coverage.
According to the UN, the population aged 60 years or over will grow from 900M in 2015 to 1.4Bn in 2030, while the population >80 years old will grow from 125M to 201M. The bulk of the growth comes from Asia: 66% growth of people >60 years old.
Data source: United Nations (2015).
World Population Prospects: The Revision
Source: Various market research firms
Synthetic biology is the engineering of biology: the synthesis of complex, biologically based systems which display functions that do not exist in nature.
While products that utilize synthetic biology are yet to be commercialized, this market is set to literally explode in the next few years driven by demand for improved drugs and vaccines.
Key constraints are mostly ethics and bio-security/safety, as synthetic biology can be misused.