Reuters is out today with a story headlined “Apple on medical tech hiring spree, a possible hint of iWatch plans.” The article is mostly a summary of nearly a year’s worth of our reporting here at 9to5Mac, but does add some fresh 3rd party analysis into Apple’s impact on the biomedical field. Starting from the beginning of the reporting’s details:
Apple Inc is building a team of senior medical technology executives, raising hackles in the biotechnology community and offering a hint of what the iPhone maker may be planning for its widely expected iWatch and other wearable technology.
Apple has begun assembling a team of hardware and software engineering, medical sensor, manufacturing, and fitness experts, indicating the company is moving forward with a project to build a fitness-oriented, sensor-laden wearable computer, according to our sources.
iPad Air 2
Next, Reuters reports on a series of hires by Apple over the past year. The report says Apple has hired several people from companies such as Masimo, Vital Connect, Senseonics, and Sano Intelligence:
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.
Apple’s hiring of O’Reilly was first reported back in January along with the hiring of Narasimhan. The hirings of Lamego and Ferdosi were noted in February. Reuters, though, adds the name Alexander Chan (another former Vital Connect staffer) to the mix.
Next, Reuters profiles the hires of Todd Whitehurst and Nancy Dougherty:
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.
Apple has also poached at least one high-profile employee from Senseonics, a firm that also specializes in sensors to monitor human substances, to work on biometric sensors for wearables. Vice President of Product Development, Dr. Todd Whitehurst, departed for Apple at the beginning of this month, the Maryland-based company confirmed to us during a phone call.
Apple has hired away Nancy Dougherty from startup Sano Intelligence and Ravi Narasimhan from general medical devices firm Vital Connect. In her former job, Dougherty was in charge of hardware development. Narasimhan was the Vice President of Research and Development at his previous employer. Dougherty’s work at Sano Intelligence is incredibly interesting in light of Apple’s work on wearable devices, and it seems likely that she will bring this expertise from Sano over to Apple.
Reuters also notes the hire of Divya Nag, a Stanford researcher:
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.
Apple has added Divya Nag, a rising star in the medical device community, to its in-house medical technology team, according to sources with knowledge of the hire. Nag made her entry into the medical technology world earlier this decade by co-founding Stem Cell Theranostics, a company that focuses on technologies for testing new medicines for the market and how the drugs will affect patients. Nag also participated in the Stanford-based StartX, an “accelerator” for medical technology-focused startups. Nag was just recently recognized for her many accomplishments in the medical and science fields with the Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 award.
Reuters also reports that Apple’s medical space plans go beyond hardware:
One mobile health executive, who asked not to be named, told Reuters he recently sat down with an Apple executive from the iWatch team. He said the company has aspirations beyond wearable devices, and is considering a full health and fitness services platform modeled on its apps store. Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling declined to comment on the company’s health-tech plans or its recent hires. The med-tech community is betting on Apple to develop the apps-store style platform so startups can develop their own software and hardware mobile medical applications.
Seven years out from the original iPhone’s introduction, and four years past the iPad’s launch, Apple has found its next market ripe for reinvention: the mobile healthcare and fitness-tracking industry. Apple’s interest in healthcare and fitness tracking will be displayed in an iOS application codenamed Healthbook. I first wrote about Apple’s plans for Healthbook in January, and multiple sources working directly on the initiative’s development have since provided new details and images of Healthbook that provide a clearer view of Apple’s plans for dramatically transforming the mobile healthcare and fitness-tracking space…
The article does, however, add some new information. The report makes the important point that Apple has been hiring people with vast knowledge of trade secrets for various companies, and that this could potentially pose problems for Apple, these employees, and the former employers of Apple hires:
“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. “I just hope Apple is not doing what we’re doing.”
It does not appear that any former employers have made legal moves against recent Apple hires, but that would not be unprecedented. IBM sued former executive Mark Papermaster upon his departure to Apple, and a Blackberry executive is currently amid a lawsuit to join Apple as a vice president in its software engineering group. It’s worth reading the Reuters article for more of that insight and reporting.
Some other recent and pertinent Apple hires not profiled today include fitness expert Jay Blahnik, former fashion designer Paul Deneve, former Nike designer Ben Shaffer, former Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch, sleep scientist Roy Raymann, and optical engineer Ueyn Block. Our sources are also saying that Apple has been exploring potential acquisitions of various medical device companies in recent months, including full-fledged medical product firms that are not smartphone/wearable device focused. So, stay tuned for more on that and various other details as the rumored fall timeframe for the iWatch’s debut approaches.