Michael Weiner co-founded Biophan Technologies, of West Henrietta, N.Y., in December 2000 with Wilson Greatbatch, inventor of the first successful implantable cardiac pacemaker. Biophan's primary mission is to develop and commercially exploit technologies for biomedical device companies, including technology for enabling devices to be safe and compatible with MRI diagnostics. Weiner serves on of the board of Biophan, NaturalNano, and several privately held technology companies.
Spectrum Online: Where is the medical device industry going?
Michael Weiner: Well, a lot of different directions in my opinion. For one thing, miniaturization is enabling many more implantable devices. Improved power systems and improved telemetry and sensing is going to further expand this revolution we’ve had in the last 45 years since the first successfully implanted pacemaker. That’s on the implantable side. What Biophan is doing has to do with making the devices compatible with MRI, safe with MRI, imageable with MRI, which is an important subset. Also, we're developing batteries that we hope to have powered by body heat instead of chemicals, for longer lasting capability and for miniaturization. So there’s a lot happening on the implantable side--and all kinds of additional applications.
Who would have thought that there would be a pacemaker approved for obesity, for example? Or who would ever have imagined that a medical implant could actually stop an advanced-stage Parkinson’s patient’s tremors? These are miracles. The same thing is now happening in the interventional medicine world, and there are revolutions happening in the non-invasive world as well. Biophan has acquired the Myotech Myo-Vad. This is a revolution in medical capability, because it can take an arrested heart, when all the standard care fails and the person is about to lose their brain cells after 8 to10 minutes without a heart pumping. This device can restore full cardiac output in under 3 minutes. That’s a revolution. It has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of people a year.
Now, there’s a whole other aspect to that technology that may be able to reverse, through remodeling, congestive heart failure. That’s the biggest single killer and the biggest sinkhole of cost and expense in the United States health-care system. It’s amazing, there’s one rather remarkable innovation--and I’m personally involved in it. There are many others. It’s an amazing time. Then there’s some very interesting predictions that are perhaps science fiction or very futuristic. Ray Kurzweil, who’s on our scientific advisory board, is saying that the convergence and the acceleration of technology is coming at such a rapid pace that within perhaps 30 or 40 years we’re gong to have major biomedical augmentations to humans, far beyond anything we’re thinking about, to the point where it will change society. I don’t know about that. It would be nice to get even halfway there. But it’s certainly quite remarkable what’s happening.
SOL: So where does Biophan fit into the picture?
MW: Well, we like to say that we don’t make medical devices, we make them better or safer. We try to improve through innovation to make major advances in innovation. For the most part, these are technologies that can be adapted by a large manufacturer to make their device more competitive, more efficient, or some combination thereof. We have 144 U.S. and 46 international patents pending, issued, or licensed, which is a very big number for a relatively small company. So we’re fitting in, and we do a lot of innovation.