Apple Ramps Up its Medtech Workforce
January 14, 2016
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff
SAN FRANCISCO – Apple is continuing to make moves in its healthcare division, developing wearable gear and hiring four new positions in its health technology division, including listings for biomedical engineers and a lab technician, BuzzFeed reported on Tuesday.
The new positions are likely to support Apple’s continued foray into developing wearable medical devices. Apple has promised to deliver a new device soon, but it is unlikely to be a newer version of the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is designed in part, with health in mind. The watch measures “all the ways you move, such as walking the dog, taking the stairs, or playing with your kids. It even keeps track of when you stand up and encourages you to keep moving,” according to Apple’s website.
Descriptions for the new positions Apple is hiring for include a “good understanding of non-invasive sensors used to measure biological signals” and comes with responsibilities that include developing “prototype hardware for physiological measurement applications,” BuzzFeed said.
In November Tim Cook, Apple’s chief, said the smart watch will not be included in the health sphere as the company does not want the watch to undergo regulatory scrutiny by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But, whatever the company does produce will be something “adjacent to the watch,” Cook said in an interview with the Telegraph of London.
“We don’t want to put the watch through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) process. I wouldn’t mind putting something adjacent to the watch through it, but not the watch, because it would hold us back from innovating too much, the cycles are too long. But you can begin to envision other things that might be adjacent to it—maybe an app, maybe something else,” Cook said in November.
Wearable technology that collects health and fitness data is an important tool drug companies can tap into as they create eye treatments for various diseases. A massive amount of patient data would allow the companies to develop therapies and drugs that target disease at its source, which is part of the push toward precision medicine. The raw data will allow research scientists to study their genetics, environmental information and microbial information to learn how to individualize medical care. Last year Biogen partnered with PatientsLikeMe to explore ways to use wearable activity trackers with multiple sclerosis patients to gather data about patient activity, which will be able to help physicians with treatment options. The majority of MS patients deal with mobility issues.
Apple’s technology has been on the cutting edge of data gathering to develop patient information. In April, Apple unveiled ResearchKit, a software framework designed for medical and health research that helps doctors, scientists and other researchers gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants using mobile devices. The app was met with enthusiasm as more than 60,000 iPhone users signed up with the app. The first research apps developed using ResearchKit study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. According to Apple, the open source framework allows any medical researcher to take advantage of the initial modules in ResearchKit to study health and wellness and better understand disease. Developers can also build new modules based on the open source code and contribute them to ResearchKit. The initial customizable modules address the most common elements found in research studies—participant consent, surveys and active tasks.
In July, GlaxoSmithKline and Purdue Pharmaceuticals announced they would be using Apple’s ResearchKit to integrate the information into clinical trials.