2019 top news stories

3 January 2020 (Last Updated January 3rd, 2020 12:31)

Brain-computer interface could translate thoughts into speech and US regulator sought additional details on $4.2bn Boston Scientific-BTG deal. Medicaldevice-network.com wraps up key headlines from 2019.

2019 top news stories
The system uses speech synthesisers and AI to track brain activity and reconstruct the words heard by a person. Credit: digitalbob8.

Brain-computer interface could translate thoughts into speech

Neuroengineers from the Mortimer B Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University in the US developed a brain-computer interface that directly translates thoughts into intelligible, recognisable speech.

The system offers hope for people with limited or no ability to speak, including patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or those recovering from a stroke. Around one in three patients who have had a stroke have some kind of problem with speech.

Based on speech synthesisers and artificial intelligence (AI), the interface tracks brain activity and clearly reconstructs the words heard by a person.


US regulator sought additional details on $4.2bn Boston Scientific-BTG deal

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requested additional information and documentary material from Boston Scientific and BTG on the proposed $4.2bn acquisition deal.

The antitrust regulator is focused on the Boston Scientific and BTG’s therapeutic beads businesses, and the FTC review will see an extension of the waiting period until 30 days after the companies comply with the request.

This request for additional details is part of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, which requires companies to file premerger notifications with the FTC for acquisition clearance in the US.


MIT researchers created device to deliver TB drugs

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers developed a drug delivery system that could ensure a sustained release of antibiotics in the stomachs of patients with tuberculosis (TB).

The device is intended to help TB patients switch from their six-month course of daily antibiotics to monthly doses.

TB is one of the world’s deadliest infections and responsible for more than one million deaths each year.


Study finds hearing aids may protect against dementia

An online study by the University of Exeter and King’s College London revealed that wearing a hearing aid to address age-related hearing problems may eventually result in better brain function.

Called PROTECT, the study builds on recent findings by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care, which indicated that hearing loss is a key risk factor for dementia.

According to research, involving 25,000 people aged 50 years and above, a hearing aid can protect the brain and potentially reduce dementia risk.

The study involved annual cognitive tests over two years in a group of people who wore hearing aids and another group who did not.


DeepMind develops AI tool to predict kidney disease in advance

Google division DeepMind partnered with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) tool that could predict acute kidney injury (AKI) up to 48 hours in advance.

AKI, which occurs when a person’s kidney functions abnormally, is associated with quick deterioration. According to DeepMind, up to 30% of cases could be addressed with earlier intervention.

The company applied AI technology using a dataset that comprised de-identified electronic health records of 703,782 adult patients from 172 inpatient and 1,062 outpatient VA sites.


Boston Scientific completes $4.2bn acquisition of BTG

Boston Scientific closed the acquisition of UK-based BTG, which provided products used in minimally-invasive procedures related to cancer and vascular diseases.

The companies signed an agreement covering the £3.3bn ($4.2bn) acquisition in November 2018.

BTG operated Interventional Medicine, a speciality pharmaceutical and licensing business, which features interventional oncology technologies designed for liver and kidney cancers. It also included a vascular portfolio to treat pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, superficial venous disease and deep venous obstruction.


DataArt launches SkinCareAI app to detect early melanoma signs

Global technology consultancy DataArt launched a prototype application called ‘SkinCareAI’, which analyses skin images to detect early signs of melanoma.

Featuring the latest advancements in machine learning (ML) technology, SkinCareAI was developed by DataArt ML expert Andrey Sorokin for the International Skin Imaging Collaboration (ISIC) challenge.

The app makes use of ML algorithms for early detection of melanoma.


3M closes $6.7bn acquisition of Acelity

US-based conglomerate 3M completed the acquisition of wound care solutions provider Acelity and its KCI subsidiaries globally for around $6.7bn.

3M acquired the firm from a consortium of funds advised by Apax Partners, along with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments).

The deal, announced in May last year, is part of 3M’s strategy to boost its presence in advanced and surgical wound care.


Researchers develop test to diagnose common genetic cause of autism

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in collaboration with Lineagen, a Utah-based diagnostic genetic testing and clinical information services company, developed a test called Methylation Specific Quantitative Melt Analysis, for the more accurate and timely diagnosis of Fragile X syndrome.

Fragile X syndrome is a common genetic cause of intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder.

This syndrome impacts about one in 4,000 children. Approximately 90,000 Australians and over one million Americans are impacted in some way by this syndrome.


HealthLytix obtains FDA approval for prostate imaging software

The FDA granted 510(k) clearance for HealthLytix’s breakthrough prostate imaging software, RSI-MRI+.

The approval leverages an advanced diffusion MRI technique known as Restriction Spectrum Imaging (RSI). It allows clinicians to detect and diagnose prostate cancer at an early stage.

Claimed to be the first FDA-approved imaging software, RSI-MRI+ uses artificial intelligence (AI) and a tissue microstructure model to enhance the visibility of reduced water in the body’s tissue.