We no longer realise it, but health has been at the forefront of digital innovation for many years. The use of the first surgical robots dates back to the early 1980s and medical imaging tools (MRI, scanner, ultrasound…) are now the norm when it comes to making a diagnosis.
However, this does not mean that the sector is going through the current digital revolution. “Today, all healthcare stakeholders are very receptive to the benefits that technologies such as artificial intelligence or blockchain can bring,” explains Jean-Philippe Arié, manager of the Luxembourg BioHealth Cluster at Luxinnovation. “The challenge is to integrate them as quickly as possible, while respecting the many standards that govern them.”
At the same time, new social and economic realities have a directl influence on the evolution of health services. Aging population, increase in chronic diseases, evolution of treatments, outpatient or not… “We are seeing a reorientation of the sector towards a predictive approach and personalised medicine”, summarises Françoise Liners, head of the Health Technologies Department at the Ministry of the Economy.
A now visible ecosystem
A context that is both complex and highly competitive, in which Luxembourg is trying to position itself. However, with a complete ecosystem, the country has nothing to be ashamed of. Especially with regard to health technologies.
Collaborative work by teams from the Ministry of the Economy, the Competitiveness Observatory, the BioHealth Cluster and Luxinnovation’s Market Intelligence department provided a detailed overview of the companies active in this segment.
Presented on 15 January at the House of BioHealth during the conference “Health Technologies @Luxembourg – Shaping the Future Together”, this mapping shows that the health technology sector generated an added value of 175 million euros in 2016 (latest available data), representing 0.38% of GDP.
“There are 131 companies developing health technologies in Luxembourg”, adds Jean-Philippe Arié. “They represent some 1,600 employees, 80% of whom are active in structures with no more than 10 employees. And 31 of these structures are specialised in digital technologies.”
Some of them presented their solution at the evening event at the House of BioHealth. Four of them with strong growth potential caught our attention.
- ITTM – Created in 2015 as a spin-off from the University of Luxembourg, ITTM, or IT for Translational Medicine, specialises in medical data management. Health has indeed entered the era of big data, but the origin and quality of data remains very diverse. ITTM allows information obtained from hospitals, clinics, mobile applications and even specialised research publications to be gathered, anonymized, standardized and stored and then analysed for its customers.
- AR Spectra – Established in Luxembourg since last year, this start-up wants to be present in operating theatres thanks to augmented reality. It has developed 3D glasses that allow surgeons to have all the patient’s information obtained in advance through medical imaging in front of their eyes. Saving time during the operation – the surgeon no longer wastes time turning his head towards the screens positioned in the operating room – but also has the guarantee of improved accuracy when using the scalpel. To market its products, AR Spectra is still waiting for the validation from the sector’s regulators, which should arrive this year.
- Fast Track Diagnostics – This is undoubtedly one of the biggest Luxembourg success stories in the sector. The company was founded in 2006 with the idea of offering an ultra-fast diagnostic system for a large number of infectious diseases. For this purpose, it has developed a kind of mobile laboratory that fits in a box no larger than a backpack. This is linked to a platform accessible from a computer that allows real-time analysis of samples taken from a patient. In early 2018, Fast Track Diagnostics was acquired by Siemens Healthcare Division, Siemens Healthineers.
- Techcyte Europe – American by origin, the company opened its European headquarters in Luxembourg in 2017. Its objective is to put artificial intelligence at the service of pathologists, those health professionals who search for pathogenic cells in tissues or biological fluids. An extremely time-consuming task that is carried out using a microscope. Through deep learning, Techcyte’s technology learns to recognise and locate diseased cells. However, it is the pathologist of course who has the last word.
Photo Credit @ Marie de Decker