"If you look at every healthcare system in the world, it's finished," says Don Cowling, VP at Proteus Digital Health. "Instead of spending $10 billion (£6.4billion) trying to find a new molecule, why not spend half a billion getting today's products working properly?" That's what he is doing at California and London-based Proteus Digital Health, which harvests biological data using ingestible sensors and skin patches, to improve diagnosis and treatments already available. It's making edible sensors that fit inside pills and tell your doctor when pills are taken. They're expected to come to market in late 2014.
When a patient takes pills erratically and their condition worsens, a doctor may simply up the dose. Proteus is building silicon, copper and magnesium chips of about 1mm squared that can be inserted into tablets -- these report via Bluetooth when a pill's been taken.
In May, the firm announced a $62.5 million (£38.9 million) funding round, including investment from Oracle. But smart pills are just the start, says Cowling. Proteus's patch sensor can gather dozens of other data points, including heart rate, to present a sophisticated picture of patient health -- like a medical-grade FuelBand. "We can now get a formal classification of what disability looks like -- we can measure it."