LYON, France About three years ago, Wim De Geest found out his wife was pregnant with their first child after forgetting to take her birth control pills. The surprise also spawned an idea for a disposable electronic patch to remind users when they need to take their medications.
De Geest enlisted his brother, Jan, an engineer, to help develop the concept and start a self-funded company, TheraSolve NV (Belgium). Now a number of drug and technology companies have expressed interest in their startup which is testing the concept of its product with users.
The brothers envision a patch with a tiny ASIC just two millimeters-squared in size that can be programmed wirelessly to deliver a mild shock to wearers when they need to take their next pill. The approach could also be an enhancement to existing patches that deliver time-released drugs to let users know when the patch needs to be changed.
The company has not designed the ASIC yet, thinking the cost of that work might be picked up by a future partner company willing to bankroll fabrication. To date, the brothers have simply taken the concept to a chip design firm which has quoted them an unspecified price for designing and delivering an initial batch of 1,000 chips.
The patches should cost as little as one dollar each, a price low enough that they could be included in the package with many prescription drugs. The brothers envision a simple wireless PC peripheral that would let doctors or pharmacists program the patches during an office visit or at the pharmacy using a short-range RF connection not yet defined.
The ASIC's die would be mounted in the center of the patch with printed circuitry around its periphery for delivering a mild shock and supporting an antenna for a wireless programmer. The duo believe an individual patch could last for up to a week and be capable of alarming users at least three times daily.
The brothers presented the concept of their so-called MemoPatch at the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology conference here. According to an independent study as many as a third of US adults fail to take their medications regularly.
An increasing number of researchers are looking at the patch as a useful concept for body worn electronics of various types. One researcher here presented a concept for a patch linking elderly users via Bluetooth to a set of health monitoring systems in the home.