A spoonful of sensors helps the medicine go down. At least that's what Proteus, valued at $1.5 billion, seeks to prove. As Business Insider explains, the digital medicine company manufactures “smart pills,” described as “versions of regular medications embedded with a tiny sensor that can be tracked by a patch worn on a patient's stomach.”
After applying this technology to 40 different medications for a range of illnesses and conditions, the health tech unicorn is tackling cancer. The outlet reports that Proteus is launching its first program with a focus on oncology, partnering with nonprofit Minneapolis-based health system Fairview Health Services and the University of Minnesota.
“As part of the initiative, seven patients with advanced colorectal cancer are now taking a sensor-embedded version of the common chemotherapy drug capecitabine in place of their regular medicine,” says Business Insider.
While Proteus is beginning with seven patients, it has plans to enroll as many as 750 patients across the country in the program within the next two years to determine whether the smart pills optimize timing and dosage to make the medication more effective.
"In cancer, the difference between too much of a medication and too little of a medication is very narrow."
"In cancer, the difference between too much of a medication and too little of a medication is very narrow," Edward Greeno, program lead and practicing oncologist who is also the director of the University of Minnesota Health's oncology service line, told Business Insider.
So what makes these smart sensors, which are about the size of a period, smart? Business Insider explains how they work:
“The sensor can either be stamped into a pill or included alongside a traditional medication and then encased in a translucent shell that breaks down when a patient swallows it. Then, patients attach a credit card-sized adhesive sensor anywhere on their stomach. The sensor tracks when the pill is ingested.”
Besides tracking the intake of medications, these digital pills are also a window into the activity levels of patients, which doctors like Greeno say that patients are perhaps surprisingly not opposed to sharing.