The Supporting Cast
As is the case with other new industries, the neurotechnology business depends on support from suppliers in related fields. Perhaps no class of vendor is more important to manufacturers of neurotechnology devices as electronic component suppliers, as we discuss in our article on page 1 of this issue. Over the years, neurotech vendors have come to rely on outside sources of power supplies, hermetic packaging, leads, cable assemblies, pulse generators, programmers, and a host of other components and subsystems.
Electronics suppliers are particularly essential for startup neurotech firms, since the manufacturing experience and design expertise offered by public companies like AMI Semiconductor and Tessera Inc. can help eliminate some of the uncertainties of new product development. Many component suppliers in the neurostimulation industry, for example, have leveraged their track record in cardiac stimulation systems and other implantable medical devices. This experience can be reassuring to investors in early-stage neurotech startups. It can also bring a boost of confidence to clinicians and hospitals who are early adopters of a new neurotech therapy, because there is more reason to believe that regulatory and certification processes will proceed on a regular schedule.
In some respects, the stability that electronic components suppliers offers to new neurotech firms is analogous to the relationship between startup biotech firms and more established pharmaceutical companies. In much the same way that drug companies have hastened the product development schedules of many biotech firms they have partnered with, more established electronics manufacturers promise to help move new neurotech devices from the lab to the clinic in less time. They also offer a product migration path for future generations of devices as enhancements in power consumption, intelligence, and miniaturization come to pass.
One of the unique benefits that accrues to the neurotechnology device industry is that the steady pace of advances in electronics design and manufacturing brings automatic performance improvements to neurotech systems that rely on digital microelectronics. Just as Moore’s law has ratcheted up the pace of product development in consumer electronics, computers, and telecommunications, so too will it speed up future generations of neurostim and neurosensing devices.
And that, perhaps, presents a challenge to neurotech manufacturers: they must be constantly ready to implement new and improved generations of electronic components into their systems. Fortunately, with the wealth of experience that their partners bring to the table, they won’t have to face that challenge alone.
Editor and Publisher