Apple on medical tech hiring spree, a possible hint of iWatch plans

May 06 2014, 07:44 IST
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Apple is under pressure to deliver on Cook’s promise of new product categories this year. (Reuters) Apple is under pressure to deliver on Cook’s promise of new product categories this year. (Reuters)
SummaryApple Inc is building a team of senior medical technology executives, raising hackles in the biotechnology community...

a Silicon Valley-based partner at Claremont Creek Ventures, which specializes in digital health and medical devices. He said Apple seemed primarily focused on recruiting engineers with experience in "monitoring the body's perimeters."

Apple has poached biomedical engineers from companies including Vital Connect, Masimo Corp, Sano Intelligence and O2 MedTech.

Masimo is best known for its pulse oximetry device, which non-invasively measures patients’ oxygen saturation, an indicator of respiratory function. Vital Connect focuses on tracking vitals like heart rate and body temperature. O2 Med Tech also is experimenting with biosensors and developing new devices.

A LinkedIn search shows Masimo chief medical officer Michael O'Reilly; Cercacor chief technology officer Marcelo Lamego; and Vital Connect's Ravi Narasimhan, vice president of biosensor technology, and Nima Ferdosi, an embedded sensors expert, are among those who have moved over to the Cupertino company.

One source said Alexander Chan, a former biomedical engineer at Vital Connect, has also defected. His LinkedIn profile states he now works at a “technology company.”

Apple has also hired hardware experts Nancy Dougherty, formerly of wearable sensor company Sano Intelligence, and Todd Whitehurst, vice president of product at Senseonics Inc, a glucose monitoring product, according to their LinkedIn profiles.

And most recently, Divya Nag, founder of StartX Med, a Stanford-affiliated startup accelerator, joined an Apple research and development team two weeks ago to focus on an unspecified healthcare product, two people familiar with the matter say. Nag did not respond to requests for comment.

Attempts to contact the people on LinkedIn were not successful, except for Ferdosi, who declined to comment. Sano and Vital Connect declined to comment, Masimo and Cercacor confirmed the departures, Senseonics did not return an email requesting comment and O2 MedTech could not be reached.

"JUST BUYING PEOPLE"

Singularity University's Daniel Kraft, who chairs the FutureMed program that explores developing technologies and their potential in biomedicine, said the first version of the iWatch might track blood pressure and heart rate, among other vitals.

Eventually he expects Apple to release a device that could continuously monitor glucose levels without requiring a blood draw.

"Some of the talent (Apple recruited) has access to deep wells of trade secrets and information," said Joe Kiani, chief executive officer of medical device firm Masimo Corp, who lost his chief medical officer to Apple in mid-2013.

Kiani said that Apple was offering sizeable salaries with little indication of what researchers would be doing. "They are just buying people," he said.

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