Microchip-In A-Pill Creates Warning

Saturday, September 18, 2010
By Paul Martin

Innovator: Andrew Thompson

The engineer-turned-venture capitalist wants to transform your pills into miniature computers that can send out an alert when you miss a dose

By Olga Kharif
September 16, 2010

Modern cars come with a bevy of dashboard alerts, from the “check engine” light to the low-oil warning. “That’s why cars rarely break down,” says Andrew Thompson. The human body has no corresponding system, and as a result, “people break down all the time. The tow truck is called the ambulance.”

Thompson is trying to create the medical equivalent of a dashboard alert. The chief executive officer and co-founder of Redwood City (Calif.) Proteus Biomedical is developing ingestible chips that can be embedded in pills, turning them into networked, digital drugs. The technology, says Thompson, will reduce the likelihood of a patient missing a dose, which for those with serious conditions can lead to complications or even death.

Thompson, 47, has dubbed his creation the Raisin System. The one-millimeter-square Proteus chip is activated by a patient’s stomach fluids and sends a signal to a Band-Aid-size computer worn on the body. The computer uses Bluetooth wireless technology to communicate with the patient’s mobile phone, which alerts patients (or their caregivers) when they forget their medicine. The computer, which also has an accelerometer to monitor physical activity and skin sensors to record heart rate, can contact a doctor if health problems develop. The system has been tested in trials for drugs that treat heart failure, hypertension, tuberculosis, and other diseases.

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