Top Med-tech Trends of 2021: BioWorld looks back as we head into 2022

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Here, you’ll find links to the most important med-tech stories and trends of 2021 with an emphasis on what it all means for 2022.

Strong financing year for med-tech as investors focus on digital health

At more than $48.2 billion raised through mid-December, the med-tech industry has recorded another stellar financing year — one that is 19% below 2020, but above every other year to date. 

Once again, the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight onto the sector largely responsible for diagnostics and digital health technologies. 

Investors kept a close eye on the space and have freely doled out funds in 2021.

Move over Chevy, smartwatches take the heartbeat of America now

This year saw continued advances in smartwatches as they increasingly move from wellness assistants to medical monitors. 

Nowhere has that been clearer than in cardiovascular health, where multiple wearables now allow users to quickly detect atrial fibrillation, a notoriously shy condition previously only detectable in early stages by chance in a physician’s office or by wearing a cumbersome Holter monitor for 24 to 48 hours.

Regulatory torpor adding drag to advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning

Regulatory agencies across the globe had their hands full in 2020 and 2021 in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is just one reason that regulatory frameworks for artificial intelligence are lagging. 

Several regulatory proposals have been floated, but one of these hints at a need for regulatory harmonization, a requirement that seems certain to add yet more drag to a process that is already years behind the technology.

Notable med-tech M&As close, value hits $145B, but deals way down

Although 2021 med-tech deal volume is 13% higher than last year, the deals represent less than half the value recorded in 2020. 

The industry has completed 1,576 deals, including licensings, collaborations and joint ventures, through mid-December of 2021. ]

They are valued at $2.13 billion. A total of 573 M&As, on the other hand, have reached $144.75 billion, a 282% rise over 2020.

Diabetes market poised for growth, despite pandemic

Diabetes care will continue to evolve in 2022. New digital offerings and advanced algorithms, along with new product launches in insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) will power growth in the future, according to key analysts.

Better therapy matching brings optimism to depression treatment

2021 may mark the beginning of a new phase in treatment of depression. While genetic matching of depression therapies to patients has been touted for a decade, meta-analyses have not supported claims of improved response rates with studies often finding that any improvements seen likely came from switching patients to guideline-recommended therapies rather than any insight from genetics.

As AI-enhanced radiology solutions proliferate, scaling them becomes the challenge

Announcements of new radiology solutions enhanced by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning appeared almost daily in 2021, all promising more accurate diagnoses in less time and increased productivity and confidence for radiologists. 

Hospitals and health care systems have increasingly recognized the advantages of these systems, with Sage Growth Partners reporting that 90% of hospitals have an AI strategy in place, up from 53% in 2019, but the deployment lags, with only 34% of hospitals having installed an AI solution.

Differentiation will be key for plethora of mental health techs

Investor appetite for digital mental health technologies is expected to continue in 2022, although startups will face the challenge of standing out from competition. 

Venture capital firm Rock Health reported funding for digital mental health startups was the top-funded therapeutic focus in 2021, with $3.1 billion raised by the end of Q3. Key trends are emerging, as investors seek companies addressing complex mental health conditions.

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