Deborah Kilpatrick, PhD, is senior vice president at genomic diagnostics company CardioDx, which has been recognized in the Wall Street Journal Technology Innovation Awards, TIME Magazine’s Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs, and the 2012 Edison Awards. Deborah was formerly at Guidant Corporation as a Director of R&D and New Ventures, and she currently has various advisory roles for the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, and the Association of Women in Science. In 2011, Deborah co-founded the inaugural MedtechVision conference, focused on highlighting women leaders from all facets of the medtech sector.
MD+DI: How did you get your start in the medical device and technology industry?
Deb Kilpatrick: I realized in graduate school, during my PhD research in cardiovascular bioengineering, that I wanted to work in industry and not in academics. Given my technical focus and interest, the medtech sector was the obvious choice for me, however, I did not know what that actually meant in terms of what I would do. So I moved to Silicon Valley and did consulting for two years while I figured out where I would fit. I joined the R&D team at Guidant Corporation in 1998, which was a super exciting time to be a part of medtech and at Guidant. This whole series of decisions was such an important determinant of my career, and I am thankful for all the opportunities I have had to date and for the many people who provided them for me.
MD+DI: What important challenges does the medtech industry face in the next 5 years?
DK: We clearly have no shortage of innovative ideas, cutting edge technologies, or new products from what I can see. However, there are very complex questions about how to navigate the relationships between emerging products and the regulatory and reimbursement hurdles they face in the US market. So given that so much is happening globally, more and more of the daily dialogue is about international activity–not just clinical trial work, but broad commercialization strategies in many geographies. The challenge for management teams, especially in emerging companies, is that the ideal choice of where to place your commercial footprint is now less obvious than ever before. Though reimbursement hurdles are often highlighted as challenging innovation, I hold the view that these can often be good for innovation in terms of forcing us to integrate new efficiencies into our products and the way we deliver them. I have personally learned a tremendous amount in my role at CardioDx by delineating cost savings and cost effectiveness of our technology as key innovations we are bringing the system. Finally, I think some of the most intriguing challenges the medtech sector faces in the coming decade is how to deliver more advanced products into the settings of primary care and patient-centered medical homes. We are entering an era of major patient empowerment from all directions, the implications of which we must all seriously consider.