STMicroelectronics (NYSE: STM), the world's leading supplier1 of MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems)2 devices for consumer and portable applications, has announced that it will develop and supply a wireless MEMS sensor that acts as a transducer, antenna and mechanical support for additional read-out electronics in a breakthrough platform developed by Swiss company Sensimed AG. This solution will enable better management of glaucoma patients via earlier diagnosis and treatment that is optimally tailored to the individual patient.
Known as the SENSIMED Triggerfish®, the solution is based on a "smart" contact lens that uses a tiny embedded strain gauge to monitor the curvature of the eye over a period of, typically, 24 hours, providing valuable disease management data that is not currently obtainable using conventional ophthalmic equipment.
Glaucoma3, the second most common cause of blindness around the world, is an irreversible progressive disease of the optic nerve that can eventually lead to blindness. Although it cannot be cured, its progress can be controlled once it is diagnosed and treated properly. The standard test is the measurement of intraocular pressure (IOP), using an instrument known as a tonometer, during periodic visits to an ophthalmologist. However, the tonometer may fail to detect an elevated IOP, especially in glaucoma patients, because the pressure varies during the day and often peaks during sleep or outside of office hours. As a result, the disease is often diagnosed only after significant damage to the optic nerve has already occurred, and the disease keeps progressing in many patients due to inadequate treatment.
Sensimed's ingenious solution is a two-part system comprising the smart contact lens and a small receiver worn around the patient's neck. In addition to the strain gauge the lens contains an antenna, a tiny dedicated processing circuit and an RF transmitter to communicate the measurements to the receiver. The lens is powered via the received radio waves and does not need to be connected to a battery. The embedded components are positioned in the lens in such a way that they do not interfere with the patient's vision. The lens is fitted by the ophthalmologist and when the patient returns the next day the ophthalmologist removes the lens and receiver, obtaining a complete record of IOP changes over the preceding 24 hours.
"Application trials are confirming the significant benefits that our unique platform can provide and the next step is to commercialize the product to a larger number of centers in selected geographies," said Jean-Marc Wismer, CEO of Sensimed. "With its unrivalled track record in developing and delivering accurate MEMS sensors and its readiness to collaborate with innovative customers, ST was the natural choice of partner for this key step."
The SENSIMED Triggerfish® has obtained the CE mark4, is currently running numerous application trials, and is commercially available in selected centers. "The device is easy to use and has facilitated and improved patient care substantially," said Dr. Kaweh Mansouri who has been using the Triggerfish at the University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland.
ST engineers are now working with Sensimed to translate this breakthrough technology into a reliable commercial MEMS product ready for mass production. ST expects the development of the MEMS sensor to be completed in Q2 2010 and manufacturing to start in Q3 2010, with availability outside trials to doctors and patients subject to regulatory approvals. Sensimed and ST anticipate progressively rolling out the product country-by-country across Europe beginning in Q3 and entering the US market by the end of 2011.
"We have a strong focus on developing and manufacturing wireless sensor networks for diagnostics and other applications in medicine. This wireless, self-powered, on-body sensor will be used in a product that promises to greatly help the millions of people at risk and suffering from glaucoma," said Benedetto Vigna, General Manager of STMicroelectronics' MEMS, Sensors and High Performance Analog division. "Sensimed's imaginative application perfectly illustrates how, by working with healthcare experts, we can combine two different disciplines and know-how, along with our manufacturing infrastructure, to improve the health and wellbeing of people all over the world."
SENSIMED AG is a Swiss company with its principal focus on the design, development, and commercialization of integrated micro-systems for medical devices. The company grows within a world-leading cluster for medical devices in the lake of Geneva area. SENSIMED AG has developed the SENSIMED Triggerfish®, a new, patented, non-invasive solution that will significantly improve identification and treatment of glaucoma disease by monitoring intraocular pressure around the clock.
STMicroelectronics5 is a global leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications with innovative semiconductor solutions. ST aims to be the undisputed leader in multimedia convergence and power applications leveraging its vast array of technologies, design expertise and combination of intellectual property portfolio, strategic partnerships and manufacturing strength. In 2009, the Company's net revenues were $8.51 billion. Further information on ST can be found at www.st.com.
1. According to iSuppli (December 2009)
2. MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) technology exploits the mechanical as well as the electrical properties of silicon. In conventional silicon chips, electrons move within the static silicon. However, silicon also has several important mechanical properties e.g. it is stronger than steel yet has a high elasticity. The techniques that are used to build silicon transistors can also be adapted to build microscopic silicon structures such as cantilevers, springs and even gears that are capable of physical movement, allowing the manufacture of highly miniaturized sensors and activators.
3. Glaucoma is such a widespread health concern that in 2008 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a "World Glaucoma Day" to draw attention to the challenge. It is estimated that by 2012 there will be around 60 million diagnosed glaucoma patients worldwide.
4. The CE mark is a mandatory conformity mark for products sold in the European Union and also in some non-EU countries. It certifies that the product conforms to EU directives on health, safety and environment.
5. This collaboration is one of many on-going partnerships between ST and experts in various fields of healthcare. Other partnerships include collaborations with Debiotech (insulin micropumps), Mayo Clinic (remote heart monitoring) and Veredus Laboratories (molecular diagnostics).