“MedTech industry is constantly evolving to accommodate new technologies”

In this exclusive 'CHAT WITH BIOVOICE', Mr Divya Prakash Joshi, Senior Director and Site Leader, Medtronic Engineering and Innovation Center, Hyderabad takes us through the medical technology related research and development initiatives launched by his company in India

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Divya Prakash Joshi – Senior Director & Site Leader, Medtronic Engineering & Innovation Center, Hyderabad.
In an exclusive interview with BioVoice, Divya Prakash Joshi – Senior Director and Site Leader, Medtronic Engineering and Innovation Center, Hyderabad shared insights on the key milestones achieved by the company, research and development activities being spearheaded to promote innovation and objectives behind the setting up of Medtronic Engineering & Innovation Center (MEIC) in India. Read the details:

BV LogoPlease take us through the milestones achieved by Medtronic in India in the last few years? 
For more than 40 years, Medtronic has lived its Mission in India and over the years has expanded its footprint, while significantly contributing to the healthcare ecosystem in India. Medtronic Engineering and Innovation Center (MEIC), our R&D center in Hyderabad has been leveraging the unique strength of the country and the large talent pool to “accelerate R&D globalization and innovation to create value for Medtronic and healthcare industry globally”.
One of the key milestones is Medtronic’s recent investment announcement of INR 1200 crores to scale up and expand MEIC into a state-of-the-art engineering and innovation center. This will make MEIC the largest global R&D center outside of the United States for Medtronic. The center will partner with the Global R&D Units to create value and deliver solutions in various therapy areas; including respiratory Intervention, patient monitoring and digital health, surgical robotics, electrosurgical generators, cardiac rhythm and heart failure, and navigation, amongst others.
The team of engineers at MEIC has made many significant contributions to the world-class technologies developed at Medtronic. The unprecedented pandemic brought in a need for the use of ventilators as life-saving devices in the management of COVID-19 infections. MEIC engineers contributed immensely in partnership with the global R&D units for the Vital Sync™ monitoring and clinical decision support (CDS) solutions. The other contributions in recent times have been in remote monitoring, alarm management, reporting, and emergency room connectivity. During the pandemic, remote monitoring has helped care givers greatly to monitor patients remotely and deliver care safely. The Vital Sync™ system is a simplified and remotely deployable solution that can help physicians monitor the vital parameters of their patients, no matter where they are, thus ensuring safety and minimizing clinician exposure. This technology is not yet launched in India.
In September this year, Medtronic launched the Azure™ pacemaker with BlueSync™ technology in India which is the world’s first pacemaker that can communicate directly with patients’ smartphones and tablets. The pacemaker communicates directly and securely with the MyCareLink Heart™ mobile app – an important advancement in the ongoing quest to constantly monitor patient condition remotely. MEIC played a vital role in the development and testing of the latest version of this app which is available in many countries and is a boon in current times as remote monitoring of heart conditions allows patients to receive expert medical advice from their physician while at home or traveling instead of making multiple trips to the hospital, providing peace of mind and freedom. The partnerships and synergies with the Global R&D units have been a key to the various innovations.
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What are the key objectives behind setting up Medtronic Engineering & Innovation Center (MEIC) in India, especially in Hyderabad? 
R&D leads to innovation and innovation is at the core of everything we do. Globally, Medtronic spends over $2.3 Billion in research and development. MEIC was established in Hyderabad in June 2011 and has been leveraging the local presence and eco-system to support the business needs. It is a true symbol of Medtronic’s commitment to growth, locally in India and globally. With access to top-notch software and engineering talent, the strategic goal of MEIC is to “become a destination Center for medical device software and engineering solutions” in Medtronic.
Key highlights of the center include 375+ Highly Qualified Engineers; 140+ Patents and 400+IP disclosures; Complementary competence to support global R&D Projects; Quality & Compliance projects; State-of-the-art well-equipped labs; and Multi-Stream capabilities and alliance partnerships.
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When will the facility get fully operational? Please provide a few key insights into its current activities and project initiatives in the pipeline?
MEIC provides advanced engineering R&D support to the Global Business Units of Medtronic in the areas of software development and testing, test automation, design, analysis and hardware and PCB design.
MEIC is fully functional and operational since 2011 and will be moving to a bigger facility which will be operational from January 2021. The center will see an expansion with the recent announcement of INR 1200 crore ($160mn) investment and will support software development and testing of advanced technologies and high-end imaging and robotic equipment. It is currently partnering with the various Global R & D centers in new product development, released product engineering – product management. In future, the center would also contribute to the software development efforts for Robotic surgery advancements and Navigation. The expansion will also help energize the medical devices innovation ecosystem in India and create several hi-tech job opportunities within India.
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Which are the segments under R&D focus that would receive the benefit of a whopping INR 1200 Crore investment?
The investment will be used across various operating units. However, the center will start playing even more advanced roles in the software part for surgical robotics, navigation in neurosciences, ENT, electrosurgery, Spine, Respiratory intervention and patient monitoring to name a few.
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How are fresh innovations shaping up the MedTech sector? Please share a few trends with our readers.
The MedTech industry is constantly evolving to accommodate new technologies and increased access to healthcare solutions. Innovation is finding new ways to transform how patients receive treatment, especially in an increasingly digital, customer-centric industry.
One such area is the space of remote monitoring. Remote monitoring uses technology to monitor patients in non-clinical environments, such as in the home. It can aid patients with numerous conditions, but technology is most widely used for monitoring heart conditions and diabetes. The other area is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
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What are the challenges faced by the company due to COVID-19 and measures were taken to ensure smooth operations?
Medtronic has played a vital role in the global fight against Covid-19 pandemic. Publicly sharing the design specifications for the Puritan Bennett™ 560 (PB 560) ventilator is a testament to that. It enabled participants across industries, around the world to evaluate options for rapid ventilator manufacturing to help doctors and patients dealing with COVID-19.
During the course of the lockdown, we focused first on employee safety and regularly issued personal health and safety advisory and guidelines. For those coming to office, we provided them with sanitizers and masks to protect themselves. We have also supported them with requisite tools to work efficiently and effectively from home. It has been a challenging period, but we’ve used virtual tools for work and fun engagements to keep the teams motivated. The support from the center and the state departments during the unprecedented times has been a great help and commendable.
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What is your future outlook for the MedTech sector in India?
The med-tech sector is poised for growth in India. The medical devices industry is pegged at $11 billion in India and an ecosystem with fast turnaround and capability for prototypes will help boost to the sector. Furthermore, the collaboration between stakeholders such as MNCs, Academia, KOLs, Hospitals, Government and Start-Ups would also help synergize strengths and keep the sector moving forward.