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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Digital Health Thrives on Key Players Being in Close Proximity

The convergence of high-tech and biotech is creating an explosion of opportunities in digital health, and San Diego is well-positioned for a competitive edge.

“San Diego is in an incredibly unique position because we have a huge concentration of health care companies, along with life science discovery,” said Ken Weixel, health care industry expert and managing partner at Deloitte LLP. “Put that together with our technology companies who are interested in wireless health and you see that San Diego has the potential to lead this convergence of technology and health care.”

San Diego has long been known for its health technology sector, an industry that emerged from the city’s history in science and technology. Global leaders in health tech call San Diego home, including Qualcomm Inc.’s health tech spinout Qualcomm Life Inc. and the multibillion-dollar medical device maker DexCom Inc., which recently inked a deal with Google’s new life science division.

According to Joe Panetta, president and CEO of the San Diego-based life science group BIOCOM, much of the region’s reputation for digital health excellence can be attributed to the presence of Eric Topol, a prominent digital medicine researcher working as director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla.

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Topol wrote a book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine,” in which he examined the impact of both the genomic and wireless revolutions on the health care system. His most recent book, “The Patient Will See You Now,” published in 2015, explores how smartphones, big data and technology are combining to democratize health care.

“When you have someone like Eric Topol in the region who is seen as one of the thought leaders of digital health, people want to be near that level of knowledge and sophistication,” Panetta said. “People gravitate to San Diego to develop wireless health products.”

Many medical device companies in the region have already gotten started. In the last couple of years, San Diego-based ResMed Inc. focused heavily on making its sleep apnea devices more wireless and digital. In 2015, DexCom developed its first completely mobile continuous glucose-monitoring system, designed to send glucose data wirelessly from the system to a smartphone or tablet. And Qualcomm Life is developing digital tools for the entire health care industry to use with its 2net system and HealthyCircles SaaS platform, both well on their way to be industry standards used in connected health.

Competitive Edge

Panetta said that San Diego’s collaboration and close-knit community of tech and biotech is what gives the region a competitive edge.

“Life science and high-tech communities are already highly integrated (in San Diego),” Panetta said. “This has been facilitated by the extremely close geographical proximity of our life science companies to the high-tech companies here, the ease of getting around town, as well as Qualcomm’s active investment in life sciences and digital health through its Qualcomm Life Sciences fund.

“While both life science and technology thrive in the northern part of our state, their integration with each other can’t happen so easily. It’s more than an hour drive from Silicon Valley to the life science hub in South San Francisco, so it isn’t as easy for the two industries to become integrated like we have here.”


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