•  — Qualcomm Life Inc. plans to take a disposable biometric patch that monitors vital signs to market with the help of a corporate partner by 2018.

    That’s the Qualcomm subsidiary’s short-term goal.

    The long-term plan is a little more audacious: driving down the price of the radio-connected patch to less than a dollar, and helping to change the complexion of medical care.

    Qualcomm Life said in late September that it drew up a design for a radio-connected patch which Benchmark Electronics Inc. has licensed. Arizona-based Benchmark (NYSE: BHE) plans to take it to the FDA for clearance, and then to the U.S. market. Financial terms of the license deal were not disclosed.

    Hoping for FDA OK in 2018

    The first version of the patch will monitor and report body temperature as well as the patient’s movement. In the future, it might gather more complex data such as heart rate or even more, said Rick Valencia, president of Qualcomm Life.

    Eventually, a person going home from the hospital might carry one or multiple patches. In 10 years, the patch will be “ubiquitous,” Valencia said.

    U.S. Food and Drug Administration review is not expected to take nearly as long as that for medications, Valencia said, adding the company hopes for clearance by 2018. In the near term, Benchmark will offer patch kits for research, to get medical professionals thinking about “the art of the possible.”

    Benchmark might work with other companies to add new functionality, building on the radio-connected foundation that Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) designed.

    Data Security

    The patch will transfer its data securely over Qualcomm Life’s 2net wireless connectivity platform.

    To be effective, the cost of the patch will have to be driven down to $1 or below, Valencia said. The numbers look promising. Qualcomm believes that the opportunity for the device is billions of units.

    The patch will contain a radio, a battery able to power it for a day or as long as a week, and an antenna. It will have a one-year shelf life.

    While Qualcomm Life has competitors in the patch space, Valencia said it’s all alone in providing a low-cost device that continuously monitors basic vital signs.

    Proactive Care Model

    The patch design “will fuel new, scalable care models as we transition as an industry from episodic, reactive care to more continuous, proactive, intelligent care,” said Dr. James Mault, Qualcomm Life’s chief medical officer, in a prepared statement.

    In the future, Valencia said, medicine will be much more data-driven. He added that the patch may be one of the technologies that changes the health care business model to one that pays based on successful outcomes, rather than by the transaction.

    Valencia has a lot of work ahead. The medical establishment is resistant to change, and getting the patch into health care providers’ day-to-day workflow will take some time, he said.

    His peers in other parts of Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM) don’t seem to have that problem. They can put a new technology into 100 million phones within 12 months.

    “The pace,” Valencia said, “is slower in medicine.”


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