BOSTON -- ESC Boston keynoter Charles G. Sodini claimed that by 2020 medical devices will have made a similar impact on the technology roadmap as transistors did in the 1980s and smart phones in the 2010s.
“Back in the 70s when I worked at Bell Labs we could count the number of transistors inside chips, said Sodini. “Today ICs are completely changing medical devices design.”
Currently the LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sodini has research interests focused on medical electronic systems for monitoring and imaging. These types of systems require the latest mixed-signal technologies with extremely low energy dissipation.
Sodini’s quest has materialized in the Medical Electronic Device Realization Center at MIT, which he co-founded. Sodini explored the MEDRC, why it is different from other university research centers.
“MEDRC was founded to provide a strong interaction between our research, the industry and IC companies,” stated Sodini in his keynote. “While MIT has a 30-history interacting with the industry, industrial MEDRC member companies cooperate in pre-competitive projects which they then are encouraged to apply to real products.”
Citing the greater Boston area as a center of the medical world, Sodini said that MEDRC will serve as the gestation center for next-generation medical devices. The process for brining this forth may be unique. “We will prototype an electronic medical device for clinical trials and get a ‘use model’ from both physicians and patients. It’s more important to get the buy-in from doctors and from users before a project gets turned into a product.”
Sodini discussed wearable or minimally invasive monitoring devices, medical imaging, laboratory instrumentation, and the data communication from these devices and instruments to health-care providers and caregivers.
Sodini has industrial experience which serves him well in his current position, which helps in evaluating what the industry is capable of. He was a member of the technical staff at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories from 1974 to 1982, where he worked on the design of MOS memory. He joined the MIT faculty in 1983 with EE degrees culminating in a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He was also a co-founder of SMaL Camera Technologies a leader in imaging technology for consumer digital still cameras and machine vision cameras for automotive applications.
In the keynote Sodini detailed two projects at MEDRC. One is a noninvasive monitoring system of intracranial pressure. ICP monitoring for injuries to the head is very invasive today and research is ongoing for applying phase array techniques to cerebral blood flow measurements to find a noninvasive approach. The second project described by Sodini is a wearable vital sign monitor at the ear, whose prototype is in clinical trials and will be integrated after the model use is understood.
“A major challenge is to convince physicians that the information they receive from our devices is trustful. Electronics can provide many, many data points but physicians need information analyzed from the data to treat diseases. That’s a major goal for MEDRC,” said Sodini.
He is right about physicians being a key driver. In my experience there are a very few that are interested in advancing technology and a majority that do not trust it. This also drives the approval process, which is incredibly conservative. I have seen articles on individual patients who were much more aggressive about hacking their own bodies than what is seen in the mainstream medical industry.