Like other industrialized nations with aging populations, France must find new ways to meet rising demand for healthcare and rein in spiraling healthcare costs. Advances in medical technology (medtech) should open the door to new solutions to these public health challenges. In Grenoble-Isère, businesses and institutions in the public and private sectors are working together on medtech applications ranging from diagnostics and therapeutics to remote healthcare—and their cooperation is paying off.
Medtech encompasses disciplines as diverse as software, mechanical engineering, electronics, robotics, materials, and biotechnology. And Grenoble-Isère has played a key role in many of the technologies currently converging in the field of healthcare. Of the world’s top ten medtech firms, four have operations in Grenoble-Isère. These well-established firms leverage the area’s leading-edge technology and research, while a strong local tradition of innovation continues to spur new business start-ups. The medtech industry is coalescing around the I-Care cluster, which aims to create synergies between medicine, IT, physics, and micro and nanotechnology to get healthcare solutions to market faster. The ultimate goal is to improve patient care from prevention through to post-treatment monitoring.
Finding new solutions to today’s challenges
Clinatec®, one of Grenoble-Isère’s most recent medtech initiatives, is a biomedical research center focused on healthcare applications for micro and nanotechnology. The Grenoble-based Institute for Structural Biology takes a multidisciplinary approach bringing together biology, physics, and chemistry. Local SMEs like Cytoo and SynapCell are developing innovative tools for research, while others like ImmunID are testing new methods in diagnostics and therapeutics. The sheer variety of research and development work is evidence of just how vibrant the medtech industry is here in Grenoble-Isère. And, with complementary expertise in promising fields like cellular engineering, medical and surgical robotics, proteomics, systemic biology, and in vivo and in vitro diagnostics, the outlook is bright.
treatment through earlier, more accurate diagnoses
Grenoble-based research lab CEA-Leti fosters collaboration between academic research and a number of industries including healthcare—a plus when you consider the host of new possibilities that microtechnology, and now nanotechnology, will create in the field of medical diagnostics; labs-on-chip and DNA chips are just two of the most recent examples. The goal is to diagnose illnesses earlier and more accurately to better determine the optimal treatment for each patient. Many companies are taking a keen interest in these innovative, growth-driving technologies: bioMérieux, a developer of miniaturized testing kits, recently chose Grenoble for its new biomolecular research center; and Roche Diagnostics also elected to locate its headquarters here. Advances in imaging now make it possible to obtain high-resolution images in just seconds, opening up new possibilities for both diagnostics and treatment (see articles on Trixell, page 1, and Fluoptics, opposite).
Providing better patient care, for less
Grenoble-Isère is also home to broad-ranging expertise in the field of therapeutics. For example, it was here that Professor Alim-Louis Benabid developed deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease. And the Grenoble Neurosciences Institute—one of the world’s best—looks at central nervous system processes, both normal and pathological, and comes up with innovative techniques to explore them. GMCAO, a lab specializing in computer-assisted surgery, has contributed to a number of international clinical breakthroughs. GMCAO’s work has led to the development of several new products and spurred the creation of start-ups like Praxim and Surgiqual Institute, which design systems for minimally-invasive surgery. Their systems can both shorten hospitalization time and speed recovery—thereby reducing healthcare costs. Market leaders like Becton Dickinson (see sidebar) are working to develop new drug delivery systems that carry medicine directly to the affected tissue, while start-up Eveon has come up with a secure, fully-automated injection and blood sampling system that will enable more patients to administer their own treatments. And Grenoble-Isère software developers are also active in the medtech field, creating remote applications that monitor patients’ biological and physiological data so they can go home from the hospital sooner and receive better—and increasingly paper-free—follow-up care.
Numerous well-established Grenoble-Isère companies, like ARaymond, Siemens, and STMicroelectronics, are also entering the medtech market, and other major medtech players continue to invest massively in the area, anchoring medtech firmly in the local ecosystem and paving the way for tomorrow’s healthcare.