Next week ACerS will be holding its first Innovations in Biomedical Materials conference with aim of generating some synergy from representatives of the materials research, manufacturing and medical communities.
Some of the goals laid out for the conference are:
- Share and explain technical advancements
- Facilitate product innovations; and
- Identify potential new applications.
These aren’t pedestrian matters. It’s fair to say that there are a lot of people in the materials science community that think we are on the brink of bringing an enormous and amazing range of new applications (e.g., novel biocompatible materials, sensors, delivery systems and imaging systems) to the medical community.
Of course, the most important aspect is identifying new ways of improving the human condition through better healing methods, improved disease detection and treatments, advanced prosthetic devices, etc.
From a business perspective, there seems to be a huge opportunity. A lot of businesses are looking at demographics, treatment trends, engineering breakthroughs and so on, and are starting to make some estimates of how valuable this field is.
Even with current technologies, the market seems huge. For example, a recent report from Market Research.com valued the 2011 global medical ceramics market at $10.4 billion and estimates it will reach $13.1 billion by 2017. Ceramic technology developments have contributed heavily to the development of implantable electronic devices. The authors of the report noted that ceramic materials are “ideal for a range of medical implant applications, from artificial joints to implantable electronic sensors, stimulators and drug delivery devices.” The authors also highlight the role of alumina and zirconia for dental uses, orthopedic repair applications, implantable electronic devices and surgical and diagnostic instruments.
Here’s another window into the potential business opportunity: A BCC Research report issued earlier this year estimates that the global medical device coating market, alone, reached $5.4 billion in 2011 and predicts it will grow to $8 billion in 2017. The authors looked at a wide range of materials and related innovations, including alloys, ceramics, hybrids, energy-absorbing, micro- and nanomaterials, protective polymers and surface treatments. A separate BCC Research report places the North American market just for high-performance ceramic coatings (including thermal spray and chemical and physical vapor deposition technologies) at $1.4 billion in 2011, an amount researchers say should grow to $2.0 billion by 2016.
Of course, the materials world is much broader than ceramics. There are also polymers, metals, composites and hybrid materials that have to be factored in before the size of the entire market can really be captured. At the broadest level, a thorough market evaluation would even extend to devices such as laser-based devices and next-generation CT machines.
Biomedical materials is an exciting field to watch these days, and I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to providing some blog posts based on the presentations at next week’s meeting. Stay tuned.