On my way to chair a panel on medtech investing at the Montreal 2016 Pharmed conference, I thought I would reflect on my recent visit to the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit. Now in its 14th year, the conference brings more than 1,500 people together over three days to discuss the overall state of healthcare innovation in the U.S. and globally.

Already a world leader in patient care, research, and education, the Cleveland Clinic continues to prioritize continuous improvement with this conference, with the objective “to drive healthcare innovation and quality and put innovation in front of its development agenda”. The tremendous value and excellent reputation of this conference is reflected in the Cleveland Clinic’s ability to attract industry leaders such as:

  • Jose Almedida, Chairman & CEO, Baxter;
  • Omar Ishrak, Chairman & CEO, Medtronic;
  • Ian Read, Chairman & CEO, Pfizer;
  • Mike Mussallem, Chairman & CEO, Edward Lifesciences;
  • George Barret, Chairman & CEO, Cardinal Health;
  • Robert Bradway, Chairman & CEO, Amgen;

And other VIPs:

  • Joe Biden, Vice President, United States of America;
  • Dan Gilbert, Owner 2016 World Champion Cavaliers
  • Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

The conference was held at at the Huntington Convention Center and the Global Center for Health Innovation. Adjacent to the convention center, the Global Center for Health Innovation is a living lab that brings together over 45 healthcare, IT, and medical devices companies. The objective of the center is to bring together start-ups, industrial partners and members of the clinical community to foster engagement, connection, and innovation around themes like: access and value-based care, IT innovation, cybersecurity and interoperability.

A lot of great topics were discussed during the two days, with recurrent themes around: risk management, interoperability, education, wearables, big data and artificial intelligence (AI).

The sessions were very informal and with a format that generated good interactions between the panel members and the audience. The networking highlight for me was on the second day of the conference at the Rock ’n Roll Hall of Fame, watching both the Cavaliers pre-game Champion ring ceremony and the first World Series Game between the Indians and the Cubs (Go Cubs!).

As usual, the highlight of the meeting was the Cleveland Clinic’s Top 10 Medical Innovations list of breakthrough technologies. The list is developed through a rigorous process, gathering the opinions of Cleveland Clinic physicians and developing a consensus around the top medical innovations. The selection committee interviews nearly 100 clinicians and researchers to elicit more than 150 nominations, which are presented, debated, and ranked to establish the final list. To be considered, the innovations must have significant clinical impact, offer significant patient benefit, improve healthcare delivery, and have a high probability of commercial success in the coming years.

This year’s list (See here for a more complete description of the list):

  1. The Microbiome: to Prevent, Diagnose and Treat Diseases
  2. Diabetes Drugs that Reduce Cardiovascular Diseases and Death
  3. Cellular Immunotherapy to Treat Leukemia and Lymphomas
  4. Liquid Biopsy to Find Circulating Tumor DNA
  5. Automated Car Safety Features and Driverless Capabilities
  6. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources
  7. Ketamine for Treatment-resistant Depression
  8. 3-D Vizualisation and Augmented Reality for Surgeons
  9. Self-administered HPV Tests
  10. Bioabsorbable Stents

We can see in the list that clinicians are interested in treatment options that can be impactful to the general population (#1, #2 , #7, #9 and #10) and are looking for ways to make their life easier (#6 and #8); and in innovation around proven technologies (#9 and #10). One outlier in the list came from the IT/AI world and certainly came as a surprise for yours truly: the driverless car listed at #5. The expert panel made a very good point that 94% of the 40,000 deaths each years in the U.S. could have been prevented and accidents were the #1 cause of trauma cases coming in the ER in most urban centers (way before gun wounds).

While Google is developing his driverless cars that could have a deep impact on population health, other big players like Watson Health, Samsung or Roche are investing significant time, effort, and money to develop AI in the health sector. Start-ups built around the idea of developing clinical applications in genetic research and imaging are also attracting interest and financing. Our group, for example, recently invested in a Montreal AI imaging start-up with involvement of Yoshua Bengio with the objective to build an AI healthcare hub in the Montreal-Toronto corridor.

Aside from the great venue and interesting topics discussed during the conference, the real value of this conference is the concentration of industry leaders, venture capitalists and other members of the financing industry, entrepreneurs, payers, researchers, and members of the clinical community with the single goal to drive innovation and quality of care. I believe that this summit is one of the many reasons the Cleveland Clinic is so successful in the U.S. and abroad. The Canadian healthcare system would benefit from this level of engagement with the stakeholders in the health innovation ecosystem.

Jean-François Pariseau

I started my professional career as a wannabe entrepreneur, building two start-ups from the ground-up while writing my thesis. After a couple of years drinking from that particular fire hose, I took a sabbatical to complete a MBA. I was then recruited by a global pension fund to join the dark side as a VC and never looked back. I’ve been scouting Canada ever since, trying to find the next big idea that will disrupt healthcare. I have a passion for people who share a common vision to build global leaders in their marketplace. When I’m not on a plane on my way to meet with great people, you can find me on a bike somewhere between Montreal and Mallorca, or in the car driving the kids to the dojo or cheerleading classes.

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