Biotech Industry Bracing for Apple’s Brand of Disruption

| The Back Page

Apple's hiring binge in the biotechnology field is already rattling the industry. According to Reuters, Apple scooping up chief medical officers, engineers, and others in field has some executives complaining, a sure sign they're worried. And, they should be. Apple is coming.

Apple in Biotech

In recent months, it has become evident that Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" product will have an intense focus on medical monitoring and fitness. 6-12 months ago Apple was hiring sensor experts and other engineers with sensor experience, but more recently the company has been bringing medical experts on board, including doctors.

"There's no doubt that Apple is sniffing around this area," Ted Driscoll, a partner at Claremont Creek Ventures, told Reuters. According to him, Apple is targeting people with experience in "monitoring the body's perimeters."

And the whole thing is making the people who will soon find their business models disrupted tense.

For instance, Joe Kiano, CEO of Masiano, a company that lost its chief medical officer to Apple, told Reuters, "They [Apple] are just buying people. I just hope Apple is not doing what we're doing." He also said that, "Some of the talent [Apple recruited] has access to deep wells of trade secrets and information."

Of course, Apple doesn't have a known history of abusing trade secrets that its new hires might have from previous companies. Nor does Apple have a track record of "just buying people." Indeed, it's quite the opposite—Apple has a reputation for running as lean as a startup.

But, when it's your employees being poached and your company being lined up in Apple's cross hairs, you might be excused for being a little worried.

The biotech industry—especially those companies in the business of making devices that monitor and measure our bodies—are realizing what the rest of the world seems to have forgotten. When Apple releases a new product, it's unexpected, disruptive, and puts the company in a new market.

Apple's "iWatch" won't be an iPhone companion or even an extension. It's going to be something new. It's going to be something that we didn't realize we needed or even wanted, and it's going to make Samsung's reactionary Galaxy Gear become the LOL product of the decade.

One more thing: Tim Cook told us at the company's annual shareholder meeting in February that the product that will be made in Arizona is going to launch a new ecosystem. I think that's why the company has been hiring doctors and chief medical officers of late—they're job is to help Apple develop the ecosystem that will support the hardware the sensor experts and other engineers that Apple hired a year and two years ago have been designing.

It's also why Nike killed development of its FuelBand but will continue to develop the Fuel platform. The company either knew or saw the writing on the wall for the iWatch and intends to develop for that device rather than its own.

All the pieces are falling into place—or rather being revealed in place—and the picture they paint is that Apple is going to disrupt the heck out of something dealing with health and fitness with the iWatch.

John Martellaro contributed to this article through conversation.

Image made with help from Shutterstock.

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John Dingler, artist

Apple surely must have a commitment – more profound than that of other similar companies – to a unique department within its center devoted to understanding what its IPs can do and how they can be adapted to fields related to its present and future products and services, staffed with futurists, theorists, psychics, humanists, remote viewers, generalists, time travelers, artists, and integrators, in other words, an internal think tank that is isolated from quotidian concerns which might otherwise disrupt their serious flight of fancy and their inspired reveries.


“Apple’s “iWatch”... (is) going to make Samsung’s reactionary Galaxy Gear become the LOL product of the decade.”

It already is.


Some random

Can’t help but think that Steve Jobs’ intimate experience with the healthcare system in the last years of his life must have had something to do with this new product category.

Couple of years back, Mr. M. started a discussion asking readers what industries they thought would improve greatly from an Apple reengineering.  My top choice was the airlines.  I think we have our answer now.

Digitizing medical records has been a deathly expensive endeavor, especially for the smaller practices mostly in small towns.  With talk of a healthcare platform a la iOS, Apple to the rescue?

Next time I go in for a procedure, instead of that indestructible plastic wrist band that they slap on patients, an Apple wrist device that is more than just an i.d.?  With iBeacons deployed in the hospital?  And it stays on you post-discharge to monitor your recovery?  And best thing, no ads.

For granny, in case she’s fallen and she can’t get up?

Einar Zettergren

The correct term would be medtech, not biotech. Biotech is making drugs, manipulating bacteria’s DNA and other chemical stuff (“wetware”), whereas medtech is making machines/appliances (“hardware”).


How do we know their not manipulating bacterial DNA or doing stem cell research?

Bring on the iClone!


Apple’s “iWatch” won’t be an iPhone companion or even an extension. It’s going to be something new. It’s going to be something that we didn’t realize we needed or even wanted, and it’s going to make Samsung’s reactionary Galaxy Gear become the LOL product of the decade.

No Bryan, I think the Galaxy Gear already succeeded in doing that all by itself. No assistance from Apple needed, thank you very much.

The arena of health and fitness is so ripe for disruption that it is almost impossible to know where to begin. This is currently a field whose concept is dominated by applications for fitness enthusiasts, a worthwhile endeavour unto itself, however there is so much now under discussion (much of which I am not at liberty to discuss) regarding not simply health monitoring with real time telemetry being sent to an offsite and ever vigilant monitoring system, but interventions that, thanks to that same capacity for realtime monitoring and even remote physician controlled application, will open whole new fields of healthcare and off-clinic delivery that will potentially, and vastly, improve quality and perhaps longevity of life. These devices and apps will become virtually indispensable within a heartbeat (no pun intended but apposite reference) of their release.

One additional benefit, this is the field, perhaps far more than any other, that will earn the ultraportable handheld supercomputer that we style the ‘smartphone’ - its current form and function born from the template of the iPhone - and the devices that will follow it, the acclaim of being one of the single greatest, most impactful inventions on the quality of human life, of the 21st Century. I can assure you that, for most of the public, the range of possibilities that this new field are unsuspected and would be overwhelming if some of their possibilities were unveiled today. This technology will, within a very short time, find its way to remote corners of the globe that, today, are isolated and languish under the scourge of neglect and isolation, and lead to rapid and substantial improvements in the quality of life.

I suspect that Apple, unlike many of their rivals, are on that trajectory, and not the well-trod path of cluelessness taken by their competition.

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