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Pet Wearables – Are Companies Barking Up the Right Technology?

As the human wearables market begins to mature, a lot of interest and developments are also happening in the pet wearables space. An increasing number of pet owners becoming more technologically savvy has fueled product innovations in this segment, which traditionally was limited to GPS tracking. While location tracking continues to be the largest piece of the pie, other solutions, such as health monitoring devices, have been gaining prominence. However, this segment is still in its infancy and is toying with several technologies, such as biometrics, radar, and acoustic technology, to develop functional, accurate, and price-effective devices.

The last decade has witnessed exponential growth and advancements in human wearables. However, recent years have also seen the trend of wearables permeating the pet market. With upcoming technological advancements, the industry is expected to witness double-digit growth over the next six years and expand into new territories.

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ID tracking is the largest category, health monitoring is growing the fastest

The pet wearables market is primarily bifurcated into four applications: ID tracking, behavior control, safety, and health monitoring. At the moment, the largest category within the market is ID tracking solutions, which comprise GPS—and RFID-based trackers that help identify and locate pets. One of the leading players in this space is US-based Tractive, which provides a GPS collar that allows pet owners to know the exact location of their pets at all times.

The fastest-growing category is health monitoring. This segment encompasses devices that monitor a pet’s vitals and general health and raise an alarm in case of any irregularities. Growing pet obesity cases have resulted in pet owners choosing health monitoring devices for their pets. A popular product in this space is the PetPace Smart Collar by US-based pet wearable company, PetPace, which tracks physiological metrics such as pulse, respiration, temperature, heart rate variability (HRV), activity level, and posture. Along with GPS tracking and emergency alerts, it helps in early symptom detection and disease management.

The behavior control segment, which is still relatively small, covers products that help teach pets appropriate behavior, such as bark collars, which deter dogs from barking continuously. An innovative and popular product in this category includes the PetSafe Treat & Train Remote Reward Dog Trainer by US-based pet-tech company PetSafe. The product allows pet owners to dispense treats remotely through an electronic trainer to induce calm behavior in case of distracting situations, as well as allows owners to reward their pets in case of good behavior.

The smallest category is safety, which is largely an extension of ID tracking and comprises pet cameras that capture a pet’s movement. Mr. Petcam is a US-based company that provides collar-mounted HD video cameras for dogs or cats, allowing pet owners to see what their pets see in the yard, at home, or during walks.

Pet Wearables – Are Companies Barking up the Right Technology by EOS Intelligence

Pet Wearables – Are Companies Barking Up the Right Technology? by EOS Intelligence

The industry is undergoing both organic and inorganic growth

Pet adoption increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic as people were confined to their homes and lacked social and emotional connection. As per the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one in five Americans purchased or adopted a pet during COVID-19.

Many of these pet owners are adept in technology and spend vast sums of money on their pets. As pets are increasingly considered family members and with growing concerns for their health and well-being, pet wearables are experiencing a surge in popularity. The success of wearable technology for humans further fuels this trend. Moreover, increasing costs of veterinary services and treatments have propelled pet owners to invest in health and prevention-based wearables. Therefore, the industry is expected to grow significantly, especially in Europe and North America, in the coming years.

However, that being said, the industry is in its nascence and is highly fragmented at the moment. There is a large number of players fueled by several start-ups and new entrants. The industry is seeing a surge in acquisitions as players in the pet care and tech space are looking to expand their offerings to include pet wearables. Moreover, growing interest from venture capital firms is also resulting in large investments in companies showing promise in this space.

One of the leading players in the pet market, Mars Petcare, launched Companion Fund in 2018 and Companion Fund II in October 2023. The US$100 million and US$300 million venture capital funds, respectively, have been created to invest in start-ups in the pet care space, including pet wearables. Earlier, in 2016, Mars Petcare acquired the Whistle pet monitor and GPS tracker, similar to a Fitbit for dogs, for about US$117 million. This provided Mars Petcare an entry into the pet wearables space.

Several other players in the technology space have also acquired companies to expand their business to cover pet wearables. In 2019, Florida-based IoT company Smart Tracking Technologies acquired Link AKC for an undisclosed amount. This wearable pet technology company developed GPS-enabled dog collars and won the Best Innovation award at CES 2017 in the wearable technology category.

In April 2023, Ultrack, a leading global GPS tracking solutions provider, signed a contractual agreement to acquire and market Supreme Product’s wearable GPS-based Pet Tracker. The device is expected to have multiple features, such as health monitoring, behavior modification, predictive analytics, social media integration, and virtual fences.

Similarly, in May 2023, Datamars, a global data solutions company, acquired Kippy, an Italy-based GPS tracking and activity monitoring solution provider. Kippy collar’s main features include GPS tracking, customized activity monitoring and analysis, reminders and access to vet records, temperature alerts, tone and vibration training controls, a built-in flashlight, and the ability to create safe places for the pet.

While several companies are adopting the inorganic growth strategy, there is also a lot of venture capital interest, especially in ID tracking, which is the largest product category and acts as an entry point device for many customers in the pet wearables space. In 2021, Austria-based leading pet tracking company Tractive raised US$35 million Series A round (led by Guidepost Growth Equity) to expand its offerings in the USA. Similarly, in 2021, Fi, a US-based pet wearable start-up, received US$30 million in Series B funding (following a Series A funding of US$ 7 million in 2019) for its smart pet collars to expand its footprint across the USA.

Pet wearables companies seek the right tech for pet health monitoring

While most technologies used in pet wearables are fairly similar to those used in human wearables (such as GPS), one of the key differentiators is the effectiveness of biometric sensors for health monitoring. Biometric sensors are widely used in human wearables, although given the fur presence in animals, they are somewhat ineffective in the case of pets. Thus, pet wearables depend on other contactless sensors such as radar and acoustic. However, these have their own functional and developmental challenges.

Among these, acoustic sensors are some of the oldest and are used by one of the market leaders, PetPace. Acoustic technology uses sound waves to monitor a pet’s heart rate, heart rate variability (HRV), and respiratory rate. Players such as PetPace and Inupathy use this technology in their smart collars. Moreover, in 2020, the Bioengineering Department at Imperial College also developed wearable technology for sniffer dogs based on acoustic sensors.

While this technology is fairly widely used for clinically monitoring health for both humans and pets, there are certain challenges when it is translated into wearables for pets. Given external factors, such as background noise and motion artifacts, the PetPace collar is said to have only 53% heart rate detection sensitivity (i.e., in 53% of the cases, the standard deviation from measurements by PetPace and ECG was within 10%) based on a study conducted in 2020. However, based on another 2017 study, the device’s pulse monitoring accuracy levels can be much higher at 94.3%.

That being said, Tokyo-based Inupathy also uses acoustic sensors to capture a dog’s heart rate and HRV and displays colors and patterns on its pet collar to depict emotional state and heartbeat ranges. For instance, the calmest state is depicted with deep blue, whereas the most excited state is bright red. While the company claims to have 90% accuracy when compared with ECG monitors, the collar is marketed as a device to broadly understand the mental and physical state of the pet instead of accurately monitoring and projecting heart rate readings.

Thus, while acoustic technology can be used in pet wearables, it has limitations, especially regarding accuracy. With the PetPace collar being priced at about US$150 (with a monthly subscription of US$15) and Inupathy at US$200, the customer must be able to find value in the readings. One of the initial companies using acoustic sensors, Voyce, went out of business in 2016 due to slower-than-expected acceptability.

Acoustic sensors-based solutions by themselves may not be a sound product offering, however, when clubbed with other technologies and solutions, they can offer a wholesome solution to the pet owner. This can be seen in the case of PetPace Smart Collar, which, along with acoustic-based health monitoring, has additional offerings such as thermometers for temperature detection, 6-D accelerometers for activity, calories, and posture calculation, and GPS for location tracking.

A more promising and upcoming technology for health monitoring in pets is radar technology. The technology uses radio waves to enable continuous and contactless heart and respiration rate monitoring. While it is relatively new, it is expected to have better accuracy when compared with acoustic sensors. Two companies, France-based Invoxia, and Taiwan-based ITRI, launched smart collars with radar technology in 2022. Invoxia’s smart collar is priced competitively at US$99 (with a monthly subscription of US$13). It uses embedded artificial intelligence and miniaturized radar sensors to track a dog’s health. In addition, it monitors a dog’s daily activity, such as walking, running, scratching, eating or drinking, barking, and resting. The device has an accuracy of 98% for heart rate detection.

Similarly, ITRI also launched its smart wearable device, iPetWear, in 2022. The device uses contactless micro-physiological radar sensing technology to monitor a pet’s health. The sensor can monitor a pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, sleep cycle, and activity levels through the detection of pulse and chest motion through its lower-power Doppler radar technology. The device claims to have an error rate of under 10% for heart and respiration rate and under 5% for activity monitoring. The device is priced at US$80.

Given the improved accuracies and competitive pricing of these products, it is safe to say that radar technology-based sensors can disrupt pet health monitoring wearables. However, this technology is difficult to develop, and at the moment, only a limited number of companies have managed to commercialize it.

Companies are also exploring ways to make biometric sensors effective for pets, even though furry pets present a challenge for such sensors. This is seen in the case of Invoxia, which had previously launched the radar-based Smart Collar. At CES 2024, Invoxia launched another pet wearable device, the Invoxia Minitailz Smart Pet Tracker. The tracker uses advanced miniaturized biometric sensors along with AI to track respiratory and heart vitals and detect anomalies in the behavior of both dogs and cats. In addition, it tracks a pet’s location and daily activities and can differentiate between types of movement. It also claims to be the first pet collar in the market to detect atrial fibrillation (AFib). The device also seems to have high accuracy (similar to radar technology) as it claims to have 97-99% accuracy rates for monitoring respiratory and heart vitals. The product, priced at US$99 with a monthly subscription cost of US$8.30, is relatively new in the market, and its effectiveness is yet to be established.

If Invoxia Minitailz Smart Pet Tracker is successful and delivers on its promise (with regard to accuracy and functionality), several other players will likely also explore biometric sensors for pet health monitoring.

Other technologies, such as LiDAR and infrared, are also being explored as potential alternatives. However, there are not many commercially successful solutions based on them yet.

Potential risk of data breach is one of the biggest threats to pet wearables

Given the expanding scope of all these technologies, the pet wearable market is booming. However, it comes with its own set of challenges. While companies claim to have high accuracy rates, no FDA approvals are required for pet wearables at the moment. Thus, there is no way to verify the actual effectiveness of these devices. Moreover, since they deal with critical health conditions, a missed reading or a misdiagnosis can have dire consequences. Pet owners can also not consider these devices to be a replacement for their vet visits at large, and the devices can only act as information gatherers that can help vets make quicker diagnoses.

The industry is also facing a significant obstacle in the form of substandard battery technology. Given the number of features on each device (such as GPS tracking, health monitoring, two-way communication, etc.), its continuous and real-time work requirement, and the limited lifespan of lithium-ion batteries, companies have difficulty providing sufficient battery life for their devices. In several cases, pet owners find that the battery gets discharged sooner than they can recharge it. Therefore, the device loses its purpose since it is meant to provide continuous real-time data to be effective. To mitigate this, companies are looking into other battery options, such as lead acid (less efficient than lithium-ion) and silicon carbide (a more expensive option).

Another issue with these devices is the potential risk of data breaches. Wearables collect large amounts of data about pets and pet owners. In a 2019 study by Bristol University, pet wearable devices collected four times more data about the pet owner than about the pet itself. If this data is not properly secured, it could result in data leaks and cyberattacks and put the owner at risk.

EOS Perspective

With pet ownership increasing, the market for pet wearables will undoubtedly grow. Moreover, as human wearables continue to permeate our daily lives, it is natural that pet owners are looking for a similar advanced level of monitoring for their beloved companions.

The market, which started with single functionality tracking devices, is now moving towards more complex and technologically advanced solutions. While tracking and GPS-based devices continue to form a significant portion of the market at the moment, several leading players in the space (such as Tractive) are now integrating other functionalities with their location-tracking offerings.

Thus, the market is expected to move towards multi-functional solutions that offer basic features such as tracking along with advanced features such as activity and health monitoring. Also, within health monitoring, offerings will continue to differ based on complexity. For instance, some devices offer insights only into weight and temperature changes, while more advanced devices offer heart and pulse rate monitoring. As seen in the case of human wearables, the market is likely to move towards the latter as continuous advanced health monitoring becomes a standard way of managing well-being for both humans and pets.

Given the industry’s nascence, fragmented market, lack of big established brands, and low brand loyalty, the products’ key differentiating factors are likely to remain competitive pricing, advanced offerings, and effective technology.

For this, it becomes essential for companies to stay ahead of the curve and to explore possible technologies, beyond what is effective in human wearables. Therefore, companies that are investing in exploring suitable technologies, such as radar and biometrics, for advanced features, such as heart rate monitoring, are likely to emerge as market leaders in the long run.

Moreover, the pet wearables market is likely to also benefit from integration with pet insurance in the future. Both industries have synergies as the insurance sector can gain from health-based data derived from pet wearables. On the other hand, increasing demand for pet insurance is expected to provide a push to the pet wearables market, as pet owners who track and monitor their pet’s health can negotiate better and more competitive insurance rates.

Undoubtedly, the industry is poised for steady and strong growth. The market will likely consolidate, while players offering technologically advanced wearables focused on health monitoring and priced at around US$100-150 will emerge as leaders.

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The Rise and Fall of Cue Health: Market Lessons and Implications

Cue Health, the portable COVID-19 test maker, reached its zenith during the pandemic’s peak, securing investments and contracts from both government and private sectors. The company was lauded for its user-friendly, rapid-response COVID-testing kits. At its peak, Cue Health’s products were seen as game-changers, with the potential to revamp the healthcare sector by providing accurate at-home diagnostic results within minutes. However, sales of these testing kits plummeted before Cue Health could diversify and establish other revenue streams, leading to a series of layoffs and, ultimately, the shutdown of its operations.

As the public focus shifted away from the pandemic, so did the demand for testing. For Cue Health, the COVID-19 test was essentially their sole product, and this decline in demand marked the onset of turbulent times.

In the past few years, Cue Health struggled to maintain its market position and technological edge, focusing on restructuring and streamlining its operations. The company engaged in talks with potential investors and stakeholders, which did not materialize. It also implemented several cost-cutting measures to remain afloat amid financial turbulence, but these were insufficient to counter the broader economic challenges that Cue Health faced. Its share prices declined steadily, and several rounds of layoffs followed.

The final blow came when the FDA issued a warning letter and a safety alert on May 10, 2024, asking users and healthcare providers to discard Cue Health’s product. The FDA discovered unauthorized changes made to Cue Health’s COVID-19 testing kits. This ultimately led to Cue Health’s winding down operations and filing for bankruptcy in May 2024 after laying off all its employees.

Cue Health’s business failures: A look at three critical oversights

Absence of recurring revenue streams: The company’s COVID-19 testing device was a one-time purchase, and it did not need any consumables or refills. This prevented the development of a recurring revenue model, such as subscription-based services or ongoing product sales, which is essential for financial stability and sustained revenue stream. Dependence on the one-time test kit sales implied that once its demand subsided, there was no consistent income to support operations.

Top-heavy business model: Cue Health employed many individuals in leadership positions, a common mistake that start-ups tend to make. This resulted in high salary costs, even amidst financial turbulence, eventually leading to several layoffs.

Moreover, the company struggled with financial management and strategic planning. Efforts to engage with investors and stakeholders did not yield results, further compounding the company’s financial crisis.

Narrow focus: Cue Health’s business model heavily depended on a single product, the COVID-19 testing kit, which nearly constituted its complete product portfolio. This singular focus left the company vulnerable to the declining demand for COVID-19 testing kits, and it was not able to pivot quickly to diversify product offerings. Moreover, the company was also unprepared for post-pandemic market realities, which led to its decline.

Cue Health’s wind down: Repercussions for diagnostics sector and investors

Regulatory and compliance implications: Cue Health’s regulatory challenges highlight the critical need for compliance and transparency in product modifications. Consequently, other companies in the diagnostics and medical devices sector may now encounter heightened regulatory scrutiny by the FDA. To stay afloat and avoid similar pitfalls, these companies must invest more in compliance, ensuring all products meet regulatory and quality standards. This could result in better overall product quality and safety across the industry, although at a higher cost to the device makers.

Industry lesson: Cue Health’s trajectory – from swift growth to sudden downfall – serves as a case study for industry players to understand the risks associated with over-reliance on a single product and the importance of portfolio diversification. Companies operating in the diagnostics sector should leverage the company’s experience to reevaluate business strategies and enhance risk management practices.

Investor sentiment: Cue Health’s downfall, despite the substantial funding and a successful IPO, could lead to more cautious investor behavior and diminished confidence in healthcare start-ups, particularly those with a singular product focus. For future investments, investors may demand more scrutiny and rigorous due diligence. Consequently, companies may be pressured to build diversified product portfolios and more sustainable business models to mitigate risks associated with market fluctuations and regulatory challenges.

EOS Perspective

Cue Health’s shutdown highlights the volatility and unpredictability of the MedTech sector, underlining the importance of regulatory compliance, portfolio diversification, and market adaptability. While innovation and growth are imperative for staying competitive in the diagnostics sector, striking a balance with robust financial planning and risk management practices is equally important.

For other diagnostics companies, Cue Health’s downfall serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the importance of building sustainable business models that can withstand market fluctuations and external pressure. For investors and stakeholders, it accentuates the requirement of stringent due diligence and risk assessment for high-stakes investments in emerging health technologies.

Despite Cue Health’s closure, its journey is important. The company leaves behind a legacy of innovations, diagnostic tools, and resourceful healthcare delivery models. Other diagnostics companies can build on Cue Health’s technological foundation, learning from its experiences to navigate the complex healthcare technology landscape.

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FemTech: A Game-Changer in Women’s Healthcare

Women’s healthcare is one of the most neglected and understudied fields in the healthcare sector. Despite substantial advances in medical sciences in recent years, there still exists a huge gap in the treatment of diseases that are specific to women. FemTech focuses on addressing some of these gaps and offers the potential to help tackle the longstanding issues of women’s health.

FemTech developed as an answer to inadequate healthcare for women

According to a 2018 article published in Our World in Data, a UK-based online scientific publication, human life expectancy has increased tremendously from 30 to 73 years during the last two centuries (1800–2018). But this leap has not been reflected in women’s life quality. A 2024 report published by the World Economic Forum and the McKinsey Health Institute indicated that women live 25% longer in poor health than men, although they typically outlive males.

FemTech, a group of technology-enabled solutions such as diagnostic tools, wearables, products, software, and services, aims to tackle women’s health issues, such as maternal, reproductive, menstrual, and sexual health, as well as menopause. An example is the UK-based Flo Health app that tracks ovulation and the menstrual cycle, offers customized health insights and tips, and a closed community for sharing concerns and queries. US-based Natural Cycles is another example. This application provides personalized insights based on each user’s menstrual cycle patterns. This novel approach to improving women’s health and well-being has been gaining more importance in recent years.

Several challenges slow down progress and widespread acceptance

While FemTech offers promising solutions to help diagnose and manage many health issues affecting women that were previously overlooked, several challenges are awaiting interested players.

One major bottleneck players face is the scarcity of investments. Many investors still consider FemTech a niche sector and shy away from investing compared to other healthcare fields. This situation is slightly improving, as the industry has seen an increase in investment in recent years. Data from Dealroom, an Amsterdam-based provider of data and insights on start-ups and tech ecosystems, indicated that the venture capital (VC) funding into FemTech startups reached US$2.1 billion in 2021, an all-time high.

Despite this increase in investment in FemTech, the total funding for this sector still trails other sectors, especially if it is female-led. The CEO of a leading US-based fertility tracker Mira, said in an interview with Forbes that though 70% of FemTech startups are female-founded, male-owned businesses tend to raise more capital.

Investors and lenders often have unconscious biases against female entrepreneurs, affecting their willingness to invest in female-led businesses, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Financial Economics, a peer-reviewed financial journal. Also, women might only have restricted access to male-dominated fundraising sources, including crowdfunding websites, angel investors, and VC firms. Similarly, the traditional male dominance in some areas, such as technology and finance, can also lead to power imbalances in fundraising and limit the options available to women.

Insufficient R&D support is another major challenge faced by players in the FemTech sector. This can be seen from the fact that a significant proportion of the funding allocated to healthcare R&D is not focused on issues that directly impact women’s health and well-being, with a meager 4% dedicated to this area according to a 2018 article published in Forbes. This insufficient funding can cause innovation stagnation, set back product development, and reduce market opportunities.

The inadequate representation of women in clinical trials is another difficulty faced by FemTech companies. This lack of representation has created a knowledge gap in understanding important facets of women’s health, such as female anatomy, physiology, health issues, etc. A 2022 study published in Contemporary Clinical Trials, a peer-reviewed journal, showed that though women constitute 50.8% of the US population, just 41.2% of those involved in clinical trials were female. This creates a certain lack of awareness of how women’s bodies work, making it challenging for FemTech businesses to develop effective solutions.

Cybersecurity issues are also creating challenges in the development of FemTech. A joint study by Newcastle University, Royal Holloway, University of London, and ETH Zurich found serious privacy, security, and safety concerns that could put users at risk. The research indicated the danger of leaking sensitive information, such as fertility, medical data, etc., to third parties.

Cultural and social taboos are another bottleneck faced by FemTech companies. Female-specific issues such as postpartum depression and premenstrual syndrome are rarely openly discussed. This makes bringing societal focus to FemTech products a difficult task.

FemTech A Game-Changer in Women's Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

FemTech A Game-Changer in Women’s Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

FemTech industry is seeing significant development in some segments

Though confronting numerous challenges, FemTech remains a promising industry for interested players with its projected market growth. The FemTech market, estimated at US$40.2 billion in 2020, is expected to reach US$75.1 billion in 2025, according to a 2021 report by the US-based market research agency Arizton Advisory & Intelligence.

General health and wellness is the fastest-growing segment

FemTech offers several solutions for improving women’s health across various segments, with general health and wellness companies attracting the most VC investment, followed by reproductive health and contraception.

The general health and wellness segment combines digital health clinics, mental health services, and direct-to-consumer products. Since companies in this segment focus on broad-ranging solutions that address multiple issues, demand for them is expected to rise.

An example is Maven, a New York-based company offering a holistic solution encompassing pre- and post-pregnancy care. This virtual clinic provides 24/7 access to healthcare professionals, including mental health therapists, relationship consultants, and sleep coaches. In 2022, Maven attracted US$300 million in funding from prominent investors and individual strategic partners.

Another example is Stockholm-based Grace Health, acquired by Penda Health, a Kenyan medical care chain in 2023. It uses an automated health assistant called Grace to monitor and understand women’s sexual and reproductive well-being and receive timely reminders and notifications. The company is also expanding its local footprint in key African markets, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana, to solidify its position as a market leader in these regions.

Reproductive health segment is also seeing strong demand

The reproductive health segment and menstruation care are also expected to continue holding the interest of investors and customers alike. According to the NIH, in the USA, 20% of women are now having their first child after turning 35, owing to a greater emphasis on education and career. With increasing age, some women may experience difficulty before, during, or after pregnancy. Women will also need to effectively and accurately track their fertility to make informed reproductive choices. This is likely to greatly contribute to in increased demand for FemTech reproductive health solutions.

An example is the Clue App, a Germany-based fertility tracker that leverages user data to compute and predict individuals’ periods and PMS. In 2023, the company raised US$7.6 million in funding and partnered with global universities such as the University of Exeter to bridge the diagnosis gap for women’s health conditions. This collaboration is expected to create new trends in managing female health issues.

Oncology products are now aimed at individuals and medical professionals

Development is also underway in the oncology segment. An example is Nevada-based Cyrcadia Health developing a breast monitor that tracks changes in breast tissue temperature over time to aid in the detection and risk management of breast cancer. The monitor consists of two patches that track temperature changes and send the data anonymously to the Cyrcadia Health core lab. This data is analyzed using machine learning (ML) algorithms and predictive analytics software to identify and categorize abnormal circadian patterns in healthy breast tissue. The results are then delivered to healthcare providers. This solution, when it becomes available in the market, is expected to enable women to take more proactive control of their breast health.

Cancer continues to be a leading cause of women’s death both in middle-income and high-income countries, according to a 2017 article published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a peer-reviewed journal. Therefore, the focus on FemTech oriented at breast cancer and cancer in general is expected to gain momentum in the future.

Stigmatized conditions and marginalized subpopulations are increasingly addressed

Many FemTech companies are now exploring areas beyond menstrual and reproductive care and addressing stigmatized and unmet conditions such as preterm birth, endometriosis, pelvic care, and sexual health.

An example is London-based Elvie, a company that addresses pelvic floor dysfunction, a common and often overlooked health issue affecting many women. According to the NIH, 27% of women aged 40-59 and 37% of women aged 60-79 experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. Elvie has developed a Kegel trainer that uses biofeedback technology to improve pelvic and sexual health through five-minute workouts. The development of these solutions is expected to persuade more women to seek treatment and improve the diagnosis of these health conditions.

Similarly, apps are also being introduced for different sections of the population such as LGBTQ+, black women, and women from low and middle-income societies. US-based InovCares, an app designed to address the crisis of maternal mortality affecting Black women, is an example. This virtual OB-GYN platform connects users with culturally sensitive healthcare professionals who cater to various health needs, including fertility, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Solutions are being developed in various geographies

While FemTech solutions development is concentrated in the USA and Europe, it is also visible in developing geographies such as Africa and Southeast Asia. An example is Indonesia’s BukuBumil which provides information on various aspects of pregnancy, including fertility, maternal health, baby immunizations, family planning, and post-pregnancy care in the Indonesian language. The platform also allows users to track a baby’s development and milestones.

Another one is Ethiopia-based YeneHealth, a multilingual and culturally responsive platform with AI-powered trackers for menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and medication management.

AI and ML are expected to shape the future of FemTech

Technological advancements are creating waves in the FemTech industry. Many companies are developing smart wearables and AI-powered solutions. Zurich-based Ava Women has developed a wearable, the Ava bracelet (available without prescription), to track hormonal changes. It allows users to monitor their ovulation and detect potential health issues. Ava’s technology uses big data and AI to provide accurate and personalized insights.

Similarly, Ovum, an Australia-based health management app, currently in its pilot phase, offers an AI health assistant designed for women to generate a dataset to improve treatments and diagnostics of various conditions. The app integrates and stores medical records, allowing users to track their health and receive personalized recommendations. This comprehensive data repository is crucial for complex or chronic conditions such as endometriosis, where a diagnosis can take years.

Experts believe the widespread use of AI and ML in FemTech apps will help players provide more accurate and data-driven solutions to users. AI can also analyze large datasets and use predictive analytics to anticipate health risks, such as gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.

EOS Perspective

The FemTech landscape, though still developing, is expected to expand more and grow quickly, especially with the increasing discussion around female health, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels commented at the 2023 AWS re:Invent conference, the largest conference in the cloud computing community. He has highlighted the significant potential of FemTech to transform the female healthcare system, specifically considering that women make up 50% of the population and account for 80% of consumer healthcare decisions.

FemTech has also the potential to significantly impact the healthcare sector and the global economy as a whole in the coming years. A 2024 report by the McKinsey Health Institute indicated that improving women’s health could boost the world economy by at least US$1 trillion annually.

The market is expected to see FemTech players widen their business scope, offer multiple services, and address a broader set of health issues. An example of this trend is UK-based Peppy, which initially helped organizations better support their women staff members after they had a baby, but now also deals with menopausal issues. This shift demonstrates a broader approach to women’s health under a single solution and reflects a development towards more comprehensive and inclusive offerings within FemTech.

Since FemTech is still developing, extensive R&D can be expected in the coming years. Experts believe health issues affecting older women also offer interested parties a research investment opportunity. Even now, in discussions and debates regarding FemTech, the diseases suffered by older women get overlooked. This makes it a promising area for future developments.

As the FemTech market expands, it is likely to attract collaborations from players operating outside the healthcare sector. One of the first examples of this was seen in August 2021, when the French cosmetic giant L’Oréal partnered with Clue to research the connection between the menstrual cycle and skin health to improve its skincare products. Such collaborations, whether just publicity stunts for cosmetic companies or not, can help put FemTech solutions on the map of legitimate tools close to women’s health. Considering that FemTech is still considered a niche sector, this can draw attention to the relevance of this market and its players and, consequently, stimulate investment.

Over the long term, women-led companies are expected to create more effective FemTech solutions that identify and cater to women’s unique healthcare requirements. The key factor behind it is that women are better placed to understand the health issues affecting women. A 2022 study published in Harvard Business School’s digital research publication Working Knowledge has also indicated that female-led research teams are more likely to study conditions that impact both genders than male-led ones. With more women stepping into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) roles and female-led FemTech start-ups emerging, there is a promise of a more comprehensive scope of FemTech solutions.

A 2023 article published in Harvard Business Review noted an important trend that may positively affect the FemTech market: female investors are more likely to invest in and support female entrepreneurs. This suggests the potential for more capital flowing into women-led businesses, including in FemTech. As more women take on senior leadership roles in both FemTech startups and VC firms, this could substantially propel the industry growth.

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Gut Matter: Will FMT Change How We Look at Disease Treatments?

Converting poop to pills was something unimaginable a few years ago, but now Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) is taking the medical world by storm. This revolutionary technique, which promises to treat a wide range of diseases, from GI disorders to mental health issues, is becoming popular due to its success in treating recurrent clostridioides difficile infection (CDI), a serious infection that can damage the colon. FMT offers tremendous opportunities but also has challenges that players should consider if they want to thrive in this industry.

FMT is a procedure in which feces from a screened, healthy donor are transplanted into a recipient to balance the gut microbiota. This procedure can help treat certain infections and lessen the severity of some gut health issues.

Gut infections are usually treated using antibiotics, which can occasionally destroy beneficial bacteria. A 2000 study published in the Journal of Microbiology, a delayed open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, indicated that CDI recurring in around 15% to 35% of people is caused by antibiotics disrupting the gut microbiota and its balance (gut dysbiosis). Dysbiosis has been linked to several chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diabetes, and colorectal cancer (CRC).

FMT is highly efficient in treating recurrent CDI, with a cure rate of 90%, according to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Numerous trials to understand the efficacy of FMT in treating conditions such as obesity, liver disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD), and IBS are underway. There are also some pre-clinical studies in progress to understand the potential of FMT in treating illnesses such as diabetes, skin issues, lung diseases, and autism.

This article is the second in EOS Perspectives' coverage 
of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in animals and humans.

Read our related Perspective:
 Poop to Pills: Is FMT the Future of Veterinary Medicine?

FMT is showing promising growth

The human FMT sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5.1% and reach US$3.15 billion by 2031, according to a 2023 report published by India-based market research company The Brainy Insights.

The key factor influencing this growth is the rising incidence of GI disorders. According to the GI Alliance, a US-based network of gastroenterology providers, around 20 million Americans have chronic digestive disorders. Similarly, the CDC estimates that there are around 500,000 cases of CDI reported annually in the USA, and about 9% of elderly patients die within a month of contracting healthcare-associated CDI. All these have influenced the growth of FMT, which offers a promising solution to several conditions.

Other factors influencing the FMT sector growth are the rising patient awareness and interest in preventive healthcare and the emergence of effective probiotic strains.

There are several biotechnology companies currently involved in R&D and product development. Australia-based BiomeBank became the first company to get approval from a competent authority to market its FMT-based CDI solution called Biomictra Faecal Microbiota (colonoscopic, enema, and upper GI delivery) in November 2022. This was followed by the FDA approval of US-based Rebiotix-Ferring Pharmaceuticals’ REBYOTA (rectally administered) in the same month. Seres Therapeutics, a US-based company, has also received FDA approval for its orally delivered product Vowst (SER-109) for treating CDI in April 2023. Following Seres’ footsteps, Rebiotix-Ferring is now conducting trials to develop an oral alternative, RVX7455.

US-based Finch Therapeutics is another major company developing solutions presently undergoing phase-3 studies for diseases such as chronic hepatitis B and autism. Its solution, CP101, for treating CDI, has been discontinued.

Gut Matter Will FMT Change How We Look at Disease Treatments by EOS Intelligence

Gut Matter Will FMT Change How We Look at Disease Treatments by EOS Intelligence

The FMT sector is grappling with a multitude of pressing challenges

The FMT sector has the potential to treat numerous GI and other related disorders effectively. However, the business landscape is still marred by several challenges that players must consider.

Lack of consensus about policies is making development challenging

Regulatory hurdles are one major roadblock players face. The FDA currently regulates FMT as an unapproved biologic medicine. There is a lack of uniform guidelines for FMT, causing variations in processes, such as donor screening and processing.

The FDA took its first step toward FMT regulation in 2013. It released a set of guidelines removing the need for investigational new drug (IND) applications when FMT is used for treating CDI unresponsive to standard treatments if medical practitioners secure informed consent. However, this application is needed when FMT is used for other reasons, including safety studies.

The FDA drafted new guidance in 2016, which was finalized in November 2022. In this guidance, the FMTs acquired from stool banks are exempt from regulatory discretion. Also, the IND requirements will be waived if some conditions are fulfilled, such as getting informed consent from patients or authorized representatives and screening and testing stool under the supervision of competent healthcare professionals. There should also be no known potentially serious safety concerns, such as issues with improper handling or storage, or issues with administering product collection without the proper testing or screening. All these increase the procedural burden for healthcare practitioners. However, the FDA has indicated no regulatory policies for stool banks to reduce the administrative burden of private practice settings without the support of research staff.

Due to the significant variation in gut microbial composition among samples, FMT fails to satisfy EU drug classification requirements. Also, since human cells are not an active component of fecal matter, FMT is not covered by EU Directive 2004/23, which deals with the safety and quality of human tissues and cells. Therefore, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorized the member states to regulate FMT however they see fit.

This lack of consensus has led to diverging regulatory policies, causing uncertainties for interested players and making developmental activities challenging, particularly in Europe. But despite this, many companies, such as Rebiotix-Ferring Pharmaceuticals, are making leaps in R&D.

Donor selection has social, ethical, and financial challenges

Another bottleneck that needs to be addressed is the availability and selection of suitable donors. There is a debate regarding whether the patient should know the donor or not. Also, the ideal donor should be free from chronic illnesses or infections and willing to donate. The donor is screened for obesity, antibiotic resistance, microbiome diversity, oncogenic potential, a history of antibiotic use, and risky behaviors such as drug abuse.

Stool banks require donors to follow several restrictions, such as maintaining BMI, abstaining from unhealthy eating habits such as spicy foods or saturated fatty acids, and avoiding travel to infection-prone tropical regions for an extended period. With that, donor dropout is high due to the considerable commitment needed, according to a 2019 study published in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA).

FMT implementation is also facing several social and ethical challenges with questions such as donor compensation, gender of the donor, donor and patient vulnerability, and commercial use of fecal matter.

Companies can launch educational drives targeted at patients and ideal donors to raise their awareness about FMT, tackle social resistance towards the procedure, and build trust with prospective donor candidates and patients. This can help reduce people’s reluctance to participate in FMT procedures.

The procedure remains risky, especially for vulnerable population

FMT is associated with an increased risk of transmitting infections such as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and enteropathogenic E. coli (EPEC) from the donor to the receiver. Immunocompromised patients are at a higher risk of developing side effects, according to a 2020 study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. Similarly, a 2019 case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a journal of the Massachusetts Medical Society, showed a fatal infection contracted by an elderly immunocompromised individual following an FMT procedure.

Another challenge is the very few pediatric clinical trials, which makes it difficult for physicians to make the best judgments for when to initiate FMT therapy in children.

To tackle safety-related challenges, the FDA released safety advice in 2019 and 2020 regarding the possible risk of severe, potentially fatal infections associated with the procedure. Companies such as Boston-based OpenBiome have promptly modified their sample screening methodology to identify such infections.

Lack of studies on long-term effects

The lack of understanding of the long-term changes FMT can cause in a patient’s microbiota is another challenge. Several studies reveal that liver diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc., can develop due to microbiota dysbiosis. Investment in R&D by interested and capable players can help medical professionals understand the long-term implications and complications of FMT and identify feasible solutions, which can pave the way for widespread treatment acceptance.

The sector’s future appears bright, underpinned by extensive development

FMT is a highly effective treatment for recurrent CDI. New developments have been taking place in many areas, such as administration modes, stool collection, and storage, and interested players can find opportunities in these areas. The FDA is also becoming more accepting of FMT-based treatments that show good results. This is shown by the approval of Rebyota and Vowst, both of which were more effective in reducing recurrent CDI compared to placebo in randomized controlled trials.

Stool banking and processing is another area ripe with opportunities for interested players. Conventionally, fresh stool is used for FMT, but this can increase the cost of the procedure. Stool banks are being developed to facilitate cost-effective and safe treatment. An example is OpenBiome, the USA’s first and biggest public stool bank. Stool banks can also make the standardization of stool processing and donor selection easier, according to a 2019 report published by the European Helicobacter and Microbiota Study Group.

Players can also form collaborations with healthcare professionals and research institutions to offer FMT treatments and support microbiome research. Many government organizations are also showing interest in the development of FMT therapies. The GBP500,000 grant awarded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), a part of UK Research and Innovation, in 2022 to Norwich-based Quadram Institute (QI) to build and equip a new FMT research facility is an indication of this.

Investing in the development of FMT treatments can revolutionize the treatment of several diseases, and companies that can invest in research can gain a head start in the competition. Rigorous R&D is going on to develop FMT solutions for conditions such as obesity, depression, cancer, pediatric diseases, and autoimmune disorders such as Crohn’s disease.

A 2023 trial conducted by the US-based Emory University School of Medicine also showed that FMT can reduce the colonization of multidrug-resistant organisms in kidney transplant patients. Investigators believe more research in this field can help improve transplant success rates and decrease the chances of infection. Individual case studies have shown great improvement in cure rates for certain diseases, including mental health conditions, but more research is needed to present a solid case for product development.

EOS Perspective

FMT is gradually establishing itself as a promising solution for recurrent CDI and is expected to create waves in the treatment of numerous physical and mental health conditions despite facing several challenges.

Improvements in donor selection, early identification of certain conditions with better risk assessment, and increased treatment efficiency can be expected with ongoing research expanding the knowledge base of the medical community.

Experts are also looking into FMT’s potential as an adjunct therapy in treating diseases such as tuberculosis, and it is expected to open the door to interested players to create personalized and targeted FMT-based treatments for various diseases.

Studies are also being done to understand and substantiate the potential of gut microbiota to anticipate diseases such as IBD and CRC using AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning). ML can be used to identify biomarkers in the gut microbiota to aid in the early detection of CRC. These studies, when extended to FMT, are expected to help medical professionals identify ideal donors and improve treatment efficiency.

The Brainy Insights, in its 2023 report, predicts a growth in the probiotic infusion segment owing to the increasing studies on diabetes management. Therefore, competitive players interested in FMT can also diversify their portfolios by including consortia (multi-population systems with a broad spectrum of microbial species) and probiotic products that have the potential to offer regulated, standardized treatments. This can help them get an edge over their competitors.

Several oral FMT solutions are currently in phase-1 and phase-2 clinical trials, and many are geared toward treating conditions other than recurrent CDI. For example, US-based Vedanta Biosciences is developing FMT therapeutics for IBD, food allergies, solid tumors, etc. As research continues, it is expected that investigators will be able to identify the bacterial strains that can treat different diseases and isolate and mass-produce them, leading to a decrease in stool collection and processing and a reduction in stool transplant-related infections, but this development is expected to occur very far in the future.

Although marred by several challenges, FMT is well-positioned in the microbiome industry to obtain FDA approval and (with time) widespread acceptance. Right now, interested players can expect good returns by investing in oral FMT development, stool banking, and R&D.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Poop to Pills: Is FMT the Future of Veterinary Medicine?

Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT), the transfer of healthy gut bacteria from a donor to a recipient to treat a myriad of conditions, has been gaining traction rapidly in recent years. Though the human FMT market has stolen the spotlight, the animal segment is also quietly blooming as a niche area, presenting a unique business opportunity for enterprising players.

The global human FMT market, estimated at US$2.11 billion in 2023, is projected to reach US$3.15 billion by 2031 with a CAGR of 5.1% between 2023 and 2031, according to a 2023 report published by India-based market research company The Brainy Insights. The animal FMT market is undoubtedly smaller, but it is difficult to determine its exact size due to a lack of consistent data on exact use. Also, while the human segment has many players, such as UK-based Microbiotica, US-based Finch Therapeutics, and US-based Rebiotix, Inc., the animal segment has a few competitors, such as Amend Pet and AnimalBiome, both US-based companies.

This article is the first in EOS Perspectives' coverage 
of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in animals and humans. 

Read our related Perspective: 
Gut Matter: Will FMT Change How We Look at Disease Treatments?

Veterinary FMT is slowly but steadily growing

Increasing pet ownership is one of the most important factors influencing the growth seen in the veterinarian FMT sector. The American Pet Products Association (APPA), a Connecticut-based NPO, conducted a 2021–2022 National Pet Owners Survey, which found that 70% of US households own a pet, an increase from 56% in 1988 and 67% in 2019. A 2022 report published by HealthforAnimals, a Belgium-based global animal health association, indicated that owners are becoming more aware of their pets’ health needs. Similarly, a 2012 State of Pet Health Report released by Banfield Pet Hospital, a US-based veterinary hospital chain, has shown an increase in chronic diseases in cats and dogs.

The high incidence of diarrhea in pets also affects the FMT adoption rate. A 2008 report published in The Veterinary Record, a UK-based peer-reviewed journal, states that one of the most frequent causes of pet owners seeking veterinary care is acute diarrhea (AD).

Antibiotics are frequently used in the treatment of AD in dogs, 45% to 70%. The use of antibiotics in dogs can cause imbalances in the gut microbiota, leading to other diseases. This makes it essential to have a more holistic approach to managing pet diseases without disrupting their gut health.

The FMT sector is marred with several challenges

Though the FMT procedure offers many benefits, large-scale adoption still faces numerous challenges.

Empirical and scientific evidence is still lacking

A 2021 article published in Gut Microbes, a journal from the UK-based publishing company Taylor & Francis, indicated that the experimental information provided in preclinical FMT protocols is extremely uneven and/or lacking. The study suggested the reason for this is the lack of reliable guidelines for reporting requirements that would support efforts to replicate the study and, eventually, yield reproducible research. Many papers considered in the study lacked information on core aspects; for example, 92% had no reliable data about anaerobic conditions needed for FMT prep, and 49% had no information on efficient fecal material storage.

There is also currently minimal scientific information available in the field of veterinary FMT. Moreover, there is very little information on the therapeutic effectiveness of FMT in small animals such as dogs and cats, according to a 2016 article published in Veterinary Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), a peer-reviewed journal. The article suggests that though adverse effects are limited in human patients, assessing whether the procedure is safe in animals is difficult.

Regulatory framework is in its infancy

Regulation is a bit complex in veterinary FMT. While there are not many specific regulations for veterinary FMT, the FDA considers FMT treatments used to prevent or treat diseases in animals as a new drug. Marketing new veterinary drugs in the USA without an approved or abbreviated new drug application is illegal. These require the manufacturer to submit information proving that a proposed generic medication is equivalent to an approved reference-listed drug (RLD) in terms of quality, safety, and efficacy. The lack of detailed clinical studies in the veterinary segment can slow down regulatory clearance. The Center of Veterinary Medicine, the US department approving drugs for pet animals, does not have any specific regulatory policy regarding the use of FMT either.

Veterinarians lack experience

Lack of technical expertise and procedural experience can also hinder FMT adoption. A 2022 study published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine indicated that 71% of veterinarians had never performed FMT. These results were based on 155 responses from 13 different countries.

Risk of transmitting disease phenotypes is high

FMT can transmit disease phenotypes, including obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes, according to a 2020 study published in Medicine in Microecology, a peer-reviewed journal. Similarly, changes to the gut microbiota, such as exposure to antibiotics or the transfer of cecal material (fecal material from the bottom right quadrant of the cecum, a part of the large intestine), can affect disease phenotypes, such as an elevated risk of colitis.

Donor selection is difficult and pricey

The selection of an ideal donor is another challenge. The donor animal should be free from all kinds of parasites and pathogens and without any history of gastrointestinal diseases. Similarly, the donor should have no history of behavioral issues and should be of ideal weight. There should also be no history of antibiotic use within six months before the sample collection. Stool banks must thoroughly test the samples used for FMT, increasing procedural costs and hindering widespread acceptance and adoption of the technique among pet owners and veterinarians.

Poop to Pills Is FMT the Future of Veterinary Medicine by EOS Intelligence

Poop to Pills Is FMT the Future of Veterinary Medicine by EOS Intelligence

Numerous investment opportunities are available for interested players

Though veterinary FMT is still in its infancy, businesses still have several investment opportunities in this sector.

Focusing on extensive R&D

Veterinary FMT is a promising sector, but more research is needed to support product and service development. Since the current competition is concentrated on rigorous R&D, interested players capable of making risky research investments will likely gain an upper hand over their competitors.

The research so far has been promising, and the extensive R&D helps drive the market and build the necessary base for FMT to be recognized as a separate category for approvals. A 2022 study published in Frontiers in Immunology, a journal of the International Union of Immunological Societies, has indicated that several studies were conducted in the field of FMT from 2001 to 2021. This study analyzed key aspects such as donor selection, efficacy, and adverse effects. The incidence of minor and serious adverse effects after an FMT procedure was found to be 11.63% and 1.59%, respectively, while the overall efficacy was 76.88%.

The results from this study are promising, but they also indicate that more research is needed to understand and confirm the efficacy, safety, and quality of FMT treatments in animals. The FDA is more likely to approve these therapies with more robust evidence from newer studies, giving market players more opportunities.

Even though there is currently a lack of consensus or evidence-based standards regarding FMT dosage or donor screening for animals, a recently established international expert organization, the Companion Animal Fecal Bank Consortium, is developing guidelines in these domains. This can also be considered as a first step towards prompting FDA approval.

Developing the oral delivery route

Market players can find opportunities in developing FMT treatments administered through oral rather than nasoesophageal or rectal routes. Currently, the FMT delivery route is one of the critical bottlenecks in the more widespread adoption of the therapy.

Both nasoesophageal and rectal delivery routes are considered more efficacious but are associated with considerable risks. Nasoesophageal treatments use endoscopes that cause discomfort and aspiration and make it difficult to assess the colon mucosa or get mucosa tissue samples. In rectal FMTs, colonoscopes and anesthesia are involved, the latter often being a significant risk to the pet patient, deterring pet owners from choosing FMT. Both rectal and nasoesophageal routes are also associated with a risk of perforation, bleeding, infection, etc.

Conversely, the oral delivery route is generally preferred due to non-invasiveness and ease of use. However, oral FMT takes longer to reach the large intestine and has been perceived as less effective.

Market players can attempt to meet the preference for the oral route by building on a few research studies showing the good efficacy of oral FMT in pets. While research on animals is still limited, research in humans can be extended to identify approaches to improved efficacy of oral FMTs in treating animal GI infections. One such research was a 2017 study published in JAMA Network Open, an open-access journal by the American Medical Association, which indicated that in humans, oral FMT had efficacy in the treatment of C. difficile infection similar to that of rectal FMT.

One of the pioneers in this area is AnimalBiome, which developed an oral Gut Restore Supplement in an enteric-coated capsule (a coating that protects the medicine from the stomach’s acidic environment before it reaches the intestine and reduces side effects). The company conducted a pilot study in 2019 to observe the impact of the capsule on 40 dogs and 72 cats suffering from IBD. The study found that symptoms improved in 83% of the cats and 80% of the dogs. As the availability of such FMT solutions is still meager, there is plenty of room in the market for businesses to follow AnimalBiome’s footsteps and invest in creating oral FMT solutions.

Driving adoption through at-home administration kits

Another growth area for players is the development of user-friendly oral at-home administration kits for more straightforward treatment requirements. There is a demand for such easy-to-administer at-home solutions in the animal FMT space, as getting the pet to a vet is typically stressful for both the animal and the owner.

A 2011 survey published in the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) journal indicated that out of 2,188 dog and cat owners polled, 38% of dog owners and 58% of cat owners said their pet “hates” visiting the vet. If FMT has to be repeated or spread over multiple visits, the treatment process is also time-consuming, further decreasing the likelihood of completing the therapy.

At-home application solutions can help make significant inroads into FMT acceptance, as pet owners are more likely to opt for such treatments rather than in-hospital procedures whenever possible.

Increasing specialization and targeted treatments

Developing more target FMT treatments (specific to animal breeds or conditions) appears to be a good area of opportunity. Currently, studies are being carried out to develop farm-specific FMT to treat various conditions in cattle.

A 2022 article published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed journal, investigated the effects of farm-specific FMT on pre-weaned calves. The study indicated that FMT-treated calves’ alpha-diversity (indicating microbiota richness) had increased. It also suggested that the success of FMT will improve with proper criteria for donor selection. This offers scope for further investigation for market players to develop such targeted therapies.

Expanding through complementary products

Players can grow their FMT business by building a range of products to complement FMT therapies, such as specialized probiotics or microbiome health supplements.

A 2015 study published in BMJ Open, an open-access medical journal, has indicated that the gut microbiome can be strengthened and balanced in humans with the help of proper diet, probiotics, prebiotics, and FMT. Researchers are now looking into the positive impact of probiotics on animal health, such as improvement in digestion, lowered risk of gastrointestinal diseases, etc. With support from such research studies, players can work to offer comprehensive treatment and maintenance product lines.

Working on awareness through educational initiatives

Apart from immediate business opportunities, players might also have to get involved in activities that inform, educate, and help build the FMT market. Though it is a promising emerging therapy, very little information is available on veterinary FMT. In order to reap long-term rewards, businesses should spotlight and promote FMT and its positive effects on animal health to the vet community and the public by launching educational drives, conferences, and other similar initiatives. Existing players already recognize this need. For instance, Amend Pet, a major company in the veterinary FMT segment, has free educational courses in the form of RACE (Registry of Approved Continuing Education)-approved videos for veterinarians.

Increasing adoption through collaborations

Further, players in the FMT space should collaborate with veterinary hospitals and other organizations dealing with animal health to work with them and increase FMT adoption.

An example of this is the strategic collaboration between Amend Pet and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians (ASV) that started in May 2023. With this partnership, Amend Pet plans to offer easy-to-use and affordable FMT treatments to shelter dogs. The ASV has over 2000 veterinary professionals and 23 student chapters worldwide. Partnerships such as this can be expected to raise awareness about FMT among the public and veterinary sector, leading to improved adoption rates.

EOS Perspective

While veterinary FMT still has a long way to go before becoming a mainstream therapy, it is already an exciting field with many expected developments.

The spectrum of animal health conditions that can be treated or managed with FMT will continue to expand to include immune system disorders, metabolic conditions, and behavioral issues. Progress in the animal FMT space will likely be linked to research done in human FMT, as these studies can be extended to animal healthcare or at least be a starting point for animal FMT-specific research, revolutionizing veterinary treatments.

Improvements in donor selection processes, such as more stringent and advanced inspection of the donor’s gut microbial diversity and behavior evaluation, can be expected as many studies are now being done to understand the connection between behavior and gut microbes.

Rapid technological development, especially in AI, is expected to influence veterinary FMT as well. AI-powered equipment might be used for guided rectal FMT treatments to improve the procedures’ accuracy. This is likely to be safer for the animal and can prompt pet owners to choose FMT to treat their pet’s gastrointestinal issues. Companies investing in research can expect growth in this field.

All these developments, if accompanied by simultaneous partnerships between industry players and veterinary clinics, offer a promising future for the animal health FMT. The return on investment in this sector might not be immediate. For now, the industry needs to prioritize driving adoption, educating and disseminating knowledge, and gathering scientific data and empirical evidence to build a sound understanding of FMT in veterinarians, pet owners, and regulatory bodies. Nonetheless, the industry prospects are promising, and the players can expect the long-term benefits to be substantial.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Digital Therapeutics: The Future of Healthcare?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be done with its rampage, many people still opt to access all kinds of services, including healthcare, from the comfort of their homes. As this trend is expected to continue, the global digital therapeutics market, with its projected growth at a 20% CAGR from 2022 to 2035, is one important sector healthcare firms should focus on right now.

Digital therapeutics (DTx) are digital health interventions or software applications that are clinically validated and designed to treat or manage medical conditions. They can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional medical treatments.

The Digital Therapeutics Alliance categorizes DTx products into three types: disease treatment, disease management, and health improvement.

Examples of DTx include a solution to manage chronic musculoskeletal pain developed by Kaia Health, a biotechnology company in New York. This motion analysis tool assesses and guides patients’ progress during physical therapy and tailors treatment to individual requirements.

Similarly, Clickotine from Click Therapeutics, a company also based in New York, uses AI to help people with nicotine addiction. This solution offers a personalized plan fully integrated with eight weeks of nicotine replacement therapy, including options such as gum, patches, or lozenges. It tracks critical aspects such as daily cigarette counts, craving triggers, craving times, etc. A trial study conducted by the company in 2016 claimed that 45% of Clickotine users were able to quit smoking.

Adoption of DTx is taking off amid increased investments

The commercial development of DTx started around 2015 and, since then, has grown into a global market of considerable size. The total value of global DTx start-ups was estimated at a whopping US$31 billion in 2022, according to a 2022 report published by Dealroom, an Amsterdam-based firm offering data and insights about start-ups and tech ecosystems, in partnership with MTIP (a Swiss-based private equity firm), Inkef (an Amsterdam-based early-stage venture investment firm), and Speedinvest (an Austrian early-stage investor).

The number of people using DTx solutions is expected to increase over the next few years, according to a 2022 report by Juniper Research, a UK-based research firm. The study found that there were 7 million DTx users in the USA in 2020, a number expected to rise to around 40 million in 2026.

This increase can be attributed to the fact that DTx solutions are highly accessible and distributable due to an increase in the use of smartphones. A 2021 report published by Pew Research Center, a US-based think tank, found that 87% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2021, compared to 35% in 2011. With this, more people will be able to access medical care without having to spend more on hospital visits.

DTx applications have also been attracting numerous investors owing to the applications’ cost-effectiveness, ease of distribution, and better accessibility. According to the same 2022 report published by Dealroom, global venture capital funding in DTx witnessed a fourfold increase in 2022 compared to 2017.

All these studies reveal that, despite certain challenges, the DTx applications hold the promise of developing into a practical and affordable means of treating illnesses and conditions that impact large numbers of people.

Regulatory pitfalls present a major roadblock to DTx adoption

One main challenge DTx companies face is the regulatory environment. All DTx products must comply with the regulations of regional agencies such as the FDA, HIPAA, HITECH, etc.

Many US firms initially faced regulatory obstacles and payer resistance around product reimbursement. Before 2017, the US FDA classified DTx solutions as a SaMD (Software as a Medical Device) and, therefore, made them subject to risk assessment (low, medium, or high). Due to this, DTx solutions needed premarket approval and rigorous clinical trial results to get approval.

This has improved with the introduction of the Digital Health Innovation Action Plan by the FDA in 2017. According to the new plan, the FDA will first consider the company producing the solution. If the producer has demonstrated quality and excellence, it can market lower-risk devices with a streamlined premarket review. Post-market surveillance and data collection are also done to evaluate product efficiency.

Similarly, in the EU, DTx is controlled by national competent authorities and governed by the European Regulation on Medical Devices 2017/745 (MDR). However, no specific framework indicates the evidence required for assessing the performance or quality of DTx solutions or their production standards. This means that the member states may interpret the dossier requirements differently, leading to a fractured regulatory environment.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided companies with some regulatory flexibility, leading to an increase in venture capital funding. In 2020, the federal government in the USA issued a new rule allowing healthcare practitioners to treat patients across state lines, including the use of digital medicine. This can increase access to healthcare, especially in rural areas, and physicians will be able to offer timely care to their patients traveling in a different state.

The FDA has also loosened regulations during COVID-19, particularly for mental health products, with the Digital Health Innovation Action Plan. This was to ensure that patients received timely care even from their homes while reducing the burden on hospitals. It waived certain regulatory obligations, such as the need to file a 510(k) premarket notification during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 510(k) is a submission indicating that a new medical device is similar to something already approved by the FDA (a predicate device) to ensure safety and efficiency. However, finding suitable comparables can be highly challenging in the case of DTx, which is dynamically evolving. This can result in misunderstandings or overlooking of critical aspects of these solutions, leading to uncertainty and delays in the approval process. The waiver of this regulation offers DTx companies some relief in the future.

Digital Therapeutics - The Future of Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

Digital Therapeutics – The Future of Healthcare by EOS Intelligence

Patient health literacy is a hurdle in the adoption of DTx solutions

A survey by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) in 2003 has shown that only 12% of Americans possess proficient health literacy skills, making them able to find and understand information related to their health. This lack of awareness among patients can also impede the ease of applying DTx products.

Patient experience is also crucial for the acceleration of DTx adoption. Older patients unfamiliar with using technological gadgets can find it difficult to adopt DTx solutions. However, a 2022 AMA survey has shown that 90% of people over the age of 50 in the USA recognize some benefit from digital health tools.

Similarly, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2021 indicated an increase in the use of smartphones and the internet among older people in the USA, driven by the pandemic. Older adults are using technological applications for activities such as entertainment, banking, shopping, etc., even after the pandemic, a 2021 survey by AARP Research, a US-based NPO, shows. This indicates that there is scope for an increase in adoption.

Many companies are now trying to increase patient involvement by using gamification, aiming at patient groups for whom DTx use is likely to be more challenging (e.g., older population, children). DTx developers include game-like elements or mechanics into a DTx solution, such as tasks, rewards, badges, points, and leaderboards. An example is US-based Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx, a prescription DTx aimed at enhancing attention function in children with ADHD aged 8 to 12. It uses an interactive mobile video game to assist children in improving their attention skills and adjusting to their performance levels. The game’s sensory stimuli and motor challenges also help kids multitask and tune out distractions.

Payer reluctance affects many DTx products

Although the number of DTX products on the market increases, payers’ reluctance to cover their costs to the patient can also slow down adoption. The coverage of DTx solutions is limited, even when they are FDA-approved. Only 25% of payers are currently willing to cover prescription DTx solutions, according to a 2022 survey by MMIT, a Pennsylvania-based market data provider, which involved 16 payers.

Akili Interactive’s EndeavorRx is one such solution facing insurance coverage issues. Elevance Health (previously Anthem) denied coverage for EndeavorRx, deeming it medically unnecessary, while Aetna, another insurance provider, considers it experimental and investigational.

A study released by Health Affairs, a health policy research journal, in November 2023 has shown that only two of the twenty FDA-approved prescription DTx solutions on the market have undergone rigorous evidence-based evaluation. This means that no authoritative results indicating the benefits of these solutions for various population demographics are available, making many payers skeptical of their medical claims.

DTx offers solutions for managing multiple conditions

Over the past few years, several prominent players have emerged in the DTx landscape. Around 59% of the DTx market is concentrated in the North American region and 28% in Europe.

Top players, such as Akili Interactive and Big Health, both US-based firms, focus on offering products for managing mental health illnesses, mostly management of anxiety, depression, and stress, according to a report published in 2023 (based on data until September 2022) by Roots Analysis, an India-based pharma/biotech market research firm. With about 970 million people suffering from mental health conditions globally (according to the WHO), the potential user pool is enormous, offering growth opportunities for DTx solutions developed to address mental illnesses and, over time, driving the growth of the DTx market as a whole.

Many top companies also focus on solutions offering pain management and treatment for chronic conditions such as diabetes, obstructive pulmonary disease, and musculoskeletal disorders. An example is US-based Omada’s pain management solution, Omada MSK. This application guides patients through various customized exercises and records their movements, which are then assessed by a licensed physical therapist (PT), who can make recommendations for improvement. It also has a tool that utilizes computer vision technology to help PTs virtually assess a patient’s movement and range of motion, allowing them to make necessary changes in the therapy.

Similarly, several DTx solutions on the market now focus specifically on diabetes, which affects around 537 million adults globally. Some top companies focus on the previously unmet needs of conventional methods, such as weight management or preventing prediabetes, to help with overall diabetes treatment. US-based Omada’s solution, Omada Prediabetes, comes with a weight scale pre-connected to the app, and the weight is added to the app as soon as the patient steps on the scale. A dedicated health coach assesses the patient’s weight, creates a customized plan, and monitors the patient’s progress. In other similar DTx solutions for diabetes, an app can also give insulin dose recommendations based on the patient’s blood glucose levels.

DTx can serve in a range of other conditions, including major depressive disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.

The DTx landscape is rife with development

The DTx business landscape has recently seen many developments, from acquisitions to product launches. One of them was Big Health’s acquisition of Limbix, a California-based DTx firm, in July 2023 to bolster its portfolio, including SparkRx, a treatment for adolescents dealing with depression and anxiety. Similarly, in June 2023, Kaia Health launched Angela, a HIPAA-compliant, AI-powered voice-based digital care assistant, to serve as a companion and guide, enhancing the physical therapy experience for patients.

In another development, BehaVR, a DTx company headquartered in Kentucky, and Fern Health, a digital chronic pain management program, merged their companies in November 2023 to create a novel pain management DTx solution that addresses both pain and fear caused by chronic diseases. With this merger, they launched RealizedCare, an app designed to offer a comprehensive solution that collaborates with health plans, employers, and value-based providers to treat a range of behavioral and mental health conditions. This solution provides clinicians with immersive programs specifically designed for in-clinic use. It is initially focusing on chronic pain.

Bankruptcy of Pear and lessons for the industry

However, the most shocking development in the DTx market was the bankruptcy of Pear Therapeutics in 2023. The remains of this once-prominent company were purchased by four other companies for a total of US$6.05 million at an auction. Pear was a big name in the industry since its inception in 2013. It introduced numerous products such as reSET, reSET-O, and Somryst for treating substance use disorder, opioid use disorder, and chronic insomnia, respectively. It was also the first company to receive FDA approval for a mobile app aimed at treating substance use disorders.

Though the company announced layoffs of nearly 20% of its workforce in November 2022, its management expressed optimism about the company’s growth and reduced operating expenses in the third quarter. But in April 2023, the company filed for bankruptcy.

The demise of Pear has opened the eyes of industry experts to the challenges faced by DTx players. Certain issues were unique to Pear itself, such as the comparatively higher prices of its products and the focus on treating challenging conditions such as substance use disorders. However, the bankruptcy of Pear also brings attention to the obstacles that can be faced by any other DTx company. One crucial roadblock is that physicians and payers still approach these products with caution. Additionally, achieving profitability for DTx might be challenging for all types of players, particularly for small start-ups lacking substantial market influence. The bankruptcy of Pear and the challenges it faced can be used by budding DTx companies as a road map as they navigate this complex sector.

EOS Perspective

DTx is all set to revolutionize the medical industry, with a 2020 McKinsey report suggesting it could potentially alleviate the global disease burden by up to 10% by 2040. Given the impact of emerging treatments on stakeholders, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies should consider expanding their portfolio to include DTx solutions.

With telehealth companies seeing good growth in the pandemic and post-pandemic years, an increase in investment can be expected as they are uniquely placed to support prescription DTx. With the growth of the digital health industry, prominent telehealth providers may also choose to acquire DTx businesses or create their own in-house DTx solutions.

Read our related Perspective:
 COVID-19 Outbreak Boosts the Use of Telehealth Services

An increase in industry M&A activities can be expected in the next few years, with growing incidences of chronic illnesses, improved technology penetration across all age groups, and a maturing market. Big names such as Bayer, Novartis, and Sanofi are also entering into partnerships with DTx companies, indicating a bright future for the sector.

Mental health and behavioral therapy are great fields to branch out for companies starting in the DTx landscape, especially in this post-pandemic era. Demand for such services is likely to be sustained, considering the National Institute of Mental Health Disorders estimates that one in four adults in the USA suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, with many suffering from multiple conditions.

Similarly, diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart, and respiratory ailments are on the rise. Healthcare companies can effectively address these medical areas through the use of DTx applications, providing personalized care for patients. This approach has the potential to manage not only chronic conditions such as diabetes but also terminal illnesses such as cancer.

Many DTx players will likely focus on areas with unmet needs, including pediatrics and metabolic disorders. With seven DTx-based diabetic management solutions already receiving 510(k) clearance as of December 2022, it can be expected that more products addressing the treatment gaps might flood the market.

The DTx industry is gradually maturing and has been receiving significant investments in recent years (US$8 billion in 2022). While experts view it as a profitable market, hesitation remains, particularly following the bankruptcy of Pear Therapeutics.

Nevertheless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures, technology adoption among older adults has increased significantly. Hence, strategic investments in DTx by pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, taking into account market conditions, can expect to establish a stronger presence in this industry in the future.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Lithium Discovery in Iran: A Geopolitical Tool to Enhance Economic Prospects?


Iran possesses significant mineral reserves, but its mining industry grapples with issues, including machinery shortages and international sanctions. The recent lithium discovery in Iran holds the potential to boost its mining sector and economy, depending on the viability of lithium extraction and processing, as well as geopolitical factors. It can serve as a bargaining chip to lift sanctions imposed by the Western world. China is poised to benefit the most from Iran’s lithium discovery due to its strategic partnership and expertise in lithium refining and extraction technologies. However, despite Iran’s strong mining potential, high infrastructure costs, technological limitations, and sanctions hinder its mining industry development.

Lithium discovery to help drive mining industry and economic upliftment in Iran

Iran is home to more than 7% of the world’s total mineral reserves and is rich in minerals, including zinc, copper, iron ore, coal, and gypsum. However, Iran’s mining industry is still nascent and barely contributes to economic growth due to a lack of necessary machinery and equipment as well as international sanctions.

In the past, Iran exported various minerals, such as iron ore, zinc, and copper, to Western countries. However, prolonged international sanctions, initially imposed in 2006 to restrain Iran’s nuclear development program, resulted in insufficient investment in the mining sector.

Lithium Discovery in Iran A Geopolitical Tool to Enhance Economic Prospects by EOS Intelligence

Lithium Discovery in Iran, a Geopolitical Tool to Enhance Economic Prospects by EOS Intelligence

Announced in March 2023, the discovery of lithium deposits holding up to 8.5 million tons of lithium in Iran, if proven accurate, is expected to strengthen the country’s mining sector and overall economic growth. Iran is the first country in the Middle East to discover lithium deposits.

Lithium is a crucial component of lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and electric vehicles. The increasing adoption of electric vehicles is fueling the demand for lithium at a significant rate globally. There is a great need to scale up lithium mining and processing to meet the demand, particularly for the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

International Energy Agency (IEA), in its global EV outlook for 2022, indicated that about 50 new average-sized mines need to be built to fulfill the rising lithium demand for electric vehicles and meet international carbon emission goals. There are already signs of lithium shortage as demand for lithium increases globally. The lithium reserve found in Iran holds the potential to reverse the lithium supply shortage into surplus in the coming years.

Read our related Perspective:
Electric Vehicle Industry Jittery over Looming Lithium Supply Shortage

Hope for the lifting of sanctions and reestablishment of diplomatic relations

The lithium discovery in Iran is expected to redirect focus toward mining activities in the Middle East. Iran can leverage this discovery to persuade Western nations, such as the USA and the EU countries, to lift sanctions imposed for its nuclear program, support for terrorism, and human rights violations. These sanctions include restrictions on Iran’s access to the global financial system, travel bans on targeted individuals and entities involved in concerning activities, and limitations on trade in certain goods and technologies.

In August 2023, Iran and the USA reached an agreement wherein Iran intended to release detained Americans in exchange for the release of several imprisoned Iranians and access to frozen financial assets. Fulfillment of commitments demonstrates mutual trust among the countries, which could pave the way for improved relations, reduced tensions, and future diplomatic initiatives. The US government also permitted Iran to enrich uranium up to 60%. This can be interpreted as allowing Iran to meet their nuclear aspirations, which could encourage Iran to comply with the agreement signed with the USA. As cooperation and trust between the nations strengthen, this agreement could ease sanctions. Moreover, if relations continue to improve, Iran could potentially seek assistance from the USA for its lithium venture.

Also, in March 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the help of China, reached an agreement to resume their diplomatic relations, re-open embassies, and implement agreements covering economy, investment, trade, and security. With the reestablishment of cordial relations, Saudi Arabia is likely to engage in joint ventures within Iran’s mining sector, providing mutual benefits for both nations.

It can also be expected that India will seek to strengthen its ties with Iran by building strong collaborations to ensure a regular lithium supply, considering that India is one of the largest importers of lithium-ion batteries. Iran and India share strong and multifaceted relations across various areas, such as trade, energy, connectivity, culture, and strategic cooperation. As India strives to transition to renewable energy sources and reduce its carbon footprint, access to lithium reserves from Iran could facilitate the development and deployment of energy storage solutions, such as grid-scale batteries and off-grid systems.

Potential to disrupt the global lithium race and geopolitical relations

The announcement of lithium deposits in Iran is likely to impact the global competition for lithium resources significantly. It holds the power to disrupt the existing power dynamics in the global lithium race, as it is estimated to be the second-largest lithium reserve in the world after Chile.

Many countries compete to control lithium supply chains due to its strategic importance, particularly in the EV industry. A few countries dominate the global lithium production, including Australia, Chile, and China. The emergence of Iran as a significant lithium producer could diversify the global supply chain. China, the largest importer and processor of lithium and manufacturer of lithium batteries, holds a substantial share of the lithium market. China is particularly reliant on foreign lithium suppliers, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, and Zimbabwe, accounting for around 70% of its total lithium imports.

With China’s well-established economic and political relations with Iran, there is potential for collaborative ventures in the clean energy transition supply chain. In addition, China’s expertise in technological advancements in lithium-related technologies, particularly lithium-ion battery manufacturing, purification and refinement of lithium, battery management systems, and development of battery materials, will likely play a crucial role in gaining access to Iranian lithium. Increased access to lithium will reduce its dependence on the current lithium suppliers and gain dominance in the lithium supply, impacting the trade balance and economic growth of countries supplying lithium to China.

At the same time, Australia, which stands out as China’s current primary source of lithium, exporting around 90% of its lithium to China, might encounter political and economic challenges. Australia, being a close ally of the USA, is likely to face pressure to curb its lithium exports to China, aiming to limit China’s access to sources of lithium. Chile, also being the key supplier of lithium to China, may face similar pressure from the USA. The USA is likely to exert such pressures, as China’s strong position could undermine the USA’s technological competitiveness and leadership in the EV market, accelerating the existing tensions and disrupting power dynamics in the global lithium race.

Major influencing countries such as the USA, Canada, France, Japan, Australia, the UK, and Germany also formed the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance in 2022. The alliance aims to secure supply chains of critical minerals, including lithium, nickel, and cobalt, from countries with more robust environmental and labor standards to reduce dependency on China. Such initiatives are expected to impact China’s dominant global lithium supply chain position.

Inevitably, Iran’s lithium discovery and China’s potential involvement in securing access to the resource can influence international relations, particularly between China and the USA, and China and Australia.

China to deepen ties with Iran

China and Iran have established an extensive partnership focused on China’s energy needs and Iran’s abundant resources. China has remained Iran’s primary trading partner for more than a decade. Their relationship grew stronger, specifically after the USA pulled out of the nuclear agreement and reintroduced sanctions on Tehran in 2018. Both China and Iran are confronted with sanctions from the USA, which is expected to strengthen collaboration between the two to mitigate the impact of sanctions and to counterbalance US influence in the Middle East and Asia.

In March 2021, China and Iran signed a 25-year strategic collaborative agreement to reinforce the countries’ economic and political alliance, particularly focusing on investment in Iran’s energy and infrastructure industry and assuring regular oil and gas supply to China. This is expected to further strengthen the relations between Iran and China.

China, the most trusted strategic ally of Iran and a significant lithium producer will likely act as a critical partner in building up Iran’s lithium industry. As the global leader in electric vehicle adoption (in absolute terms), the demand for lithium in China has increased dramatically in recent years. Also, China stands out as the only trade partner capable of accessing and refining lithium on a large scale. This will strengthen the Iran-China relations further.

High infrastructure costs and lack of FDI to challenge the Iranian mining sector

Despite the presence of a vast mining potential in the country, certain factors such as inadequate access to essential machinery and equipment, lack of exploration facilities, lack of sufficient infrastructure and investment, absence of advanced technologies, and shortage of financial resources limit the growth of the mining sector in Iran.

Lack of access to new cutting-edge production technologies, exacerbated by international sanctions, results in inefficient utilization of resources, particularly water, fuel, and electricity in mining operations. In addition, high production costs, mandatory pricing, and lack of skilled labor further pose obstacles in mining operations. This, together with the fact that the lithium extraction process is generally expensive and time-consuming, has led to various small and medium-sized mines opting to cease their operations.

The absence of foreign investment due to international sanctions poses challenges in conducting mining operations in the country. The government seeks to attract foreign investment in the mining sector, a difficult task amid structural challenges, human rights abuse accusations, and international sanctions.

Exploitation of lithium reserves discovered in the country will be difficult due to the lack of advanced technologies required for extraction, processing, and refining. The assessment of lithium grade and its economic feasibility will play a crucial role in determining whether to exploit the reserve.

EOS Perspective

The scale of lithium reserves discovered in Iran is significant, but the exploitation of the mineral is not likely to happen in the near future. Its viability, economic feasibility, actual quantity, and grade are yet to be ascertained. Also, the country does not have access to the necessary technologies required to process and refine lithium, so it has to rely on foreign investors.

Foreign investment in Iran is hindered by the sanctions imposed by the USA and the EU against Iran’s nuclear development program. Back in 2015, Iran agreed to scale down its nuclear program and allow broader access to international inspections to its facilities in return for billions of dollars in sanctions relief. But that ended in 2018 when the USA withdrew from the deal. With the recent agreement signed in 2023, there is hope that it could pave the way for the relaxation of sanctions on Iran.

Additionally, considering lithium’s pivotal role in multiple industries and concerns about China’s dominant power in the lithium supply chain, the US government might consider easing sanctions. EU is not likely to ease or lift sanctions and invest in Iran immediately due to uncertainties about the viability of the reserve, its impact on the environment during extraction, and lack of energy investments in the country. However, the EU may consider easing sanctions in the future if the USA moves in that direction.

Russia and China, having economic and diplomatic ties with Iran, are more likely to show interest in Iran’s lithium discovery. Russia is focusing on expanding its presence in the lithium market to meet the increasing demand for lithium in vehicles and energy storage systems. As a step in this direction, in December 2023, Rosatom, a Russian state corporation, signed a deal to invest US$450 million in Bolivia to construct a pilot lithium plant. Russia is also likely to explore investment opportunities in Iran’s lithium sector.

China is expected to benefit the most from the lithium discovery in Iran, considering its longstanding relations with Iran. At the same time, Iran is also more likely to be eager to collaborate with China, considering China’s strength in the lithium industry and international sanctions.

However, Iran should not solely rely on China, considering China’s track record of engaging in debt-trap diplomacy to exert influence and dependence, particularly over low-income countries. For instance, in 2013, China launched its infamous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), under which it started funding and executing several infrastructure projects in developing and underdeveloped countries across the globe. However, over the years, the BRI initiative has been criticized for resulting in an increased dependence and trapping of the partner countries in heavy debt through expansive projects, non-payment of which may lead to a significant economic and political burden on them. A collaborative agreement spanning 25 years was also signed by China with Iran, primarily focusing on investing in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors, facilitating Iran’s involvement in the BRI. Iran could also fall into a similar debt trap, having no viable alternative partner, a fact that China can take advantage of.

Read our related Perspective:
China’s BRI Hits a Road Bump as Global Economies Partner to Challenge It

Many countries are likely to be interested in investing and building strong collaboration with Iran if the reserves’ viability is confirmed and the grade and quality of lithium are suitable for use. This could change the entire dynamics of the lithium supply chain and also lead to a decrease in lithium prices, which have been skyrocketing due to a significant surge in global lithium demand.

by EOS Intelligence EOS Intelligence No Comments

Is ChatGPT Just Another Tech Innovation or A Game Changer?


ChatGPT, a revolutionary AI-based conversational chatbot, has been making headlines around the world. The AI-based tool can answer user queries and generate new content in a human-like way. By automating tasks such as customer support and content creation, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize many industries, resulting in a more efficient digital landscape and an enhanced user experience. However, the technology is not without its risks and poses a number of issues, such as creating malicious content, copyright infringement, and other moral issues. Despite these challenges, the possibilities for ChatGPT are infinite, and with the advancement of technology, the opportunities it presents will only continue to expand.

ChatGPT is an AI-based question-and-answer chatbot that responds to user queries in a conversational way, just like how humans respond. OpenAI, a US-based research and development company, launched ChatGPT in November 2022. Since then, ChatGPT has garnered increased attention and popularity worldwide. The tool surpassed over 1 million users within five days and 100 million users within two months of launch.

ChatGPT has become popular due to its capability to answer queries in a simple and conversational manner. The tool can perform various functions, such as generating content for marketing campaigns, writing emails, blogs, and essays, debugging code, and even solving mathematics questions.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT works on the concept of generative AI and uses a language model called GPT3 – a third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer. The AI chatbot has been fed with about 45 terabytes of text data on a diverse range of topics from sources such as books, websites, and articles and has been trained on a set of algorithms to understand relationships between words and phrases and how it is used in context. This way, the model is able to develop an understanding of languages and generate answers. ChatGPT uses a dialog format, asks follow-up questions for clarification, admits mistakes, and is capable of dismissing inappropriate or dangerous requests.

ChatGPT also has a simple user interface, allowing communication through a plain textbox just like a messaging app, thus making it easy to use. Currently, ChatGPT is in beta testing, and users can use it for free to try and provide feedback. However, the free version is often inaccessible and out of capacity due to the increasing traffic.

In February 2023, OpenAI launched a pilot subscription plan named ChatGPT Plus, starting at US$20 per month, which is available to its customers in the USA. The subscription plan provides access to ChatGPT even during peak times and provides prior access to any new features. OpenAI is also testing ChatGPT to generate videos and pictures using its DALLE image-generating software, which is another AI tool developed by OpenAI to create art and images from text prompts. OpenAI also plans to launch a ChatGPT mobile app soon.

How could ChatGPT help businesses?

One of the most impactful areas where ChatGPT can make a difference is customer support. The AI tool can handle a large volume of consumer queries within a short time frame and give accurate responses, which can boost work efficiency and reduce employees’ workload.

In addition, the tool can also be employed to answer sales-related queries. By training ChatGPT to understand product information, pricing, and other details, businesses can provide a seamless sales experience for customers. ChatGPT can also analyze user data and behavior and can assist customers to find the products they are looking for, and give product recommendations leading to a more tailored and enjoyable shopping experience. ChatGPT can be incorporated into websites to engage visitors and help them find the information they need, which can help in lead generation.

Another potential benefit of ChatGPT is its ability to automate content generation. ChatGPT can generate unique and original content quickly, making it an effective tool for creating marketing materials such as email campaigns, blogs, newsletters, etc.

ChatGPT could be used in a number of industries, such as travel, education, real estate, healthcare, information technology, etc. For instance, in the tech industry, ChatGPT can write programs in specific programming languages such as JavaScript, Python, and React, and can be very helpful to developers in generating code snippets and for code debugging.

In healthcare, the tool can be used in scheduling appointments, summarizing patient’s health information based on previous history, assisting in diagnostics, and for telemedicine services.

In the education sector, ChatGPT can be used to prepare teaching materials and lessons and to provide personalized tutoring classes.

These are just a few applications of ChatGPT. As generative technology continues to evolve, there may be many other potential applications that can help businesses achieve their goals more efficiently and effectively.

Is ChatGPT Just Another Tech Innovation or A Game Changer by EOS Intelligence

ChatGPT’s output may not be always accurate

While ChatGPT offers several benefits and advantages, the tool is not without limitations. ChatGPT works on pre-trained data that cannot handle nuances or other ambiguities and thus may generate answers that are incorrect, biased, or inappropriate.

Moreover, ChatGPT is not connected to the internet and cannot refer to an external link to respond to queries that are not part of its training. It also does not cover the news and events after 2021 and cannot provide real-time information.

Another major limitation is that the tool is often out of capacity due to the high traffic, which makes it inaccessible. There are also other potential risks associated with these generative AI tools. Some of the threats include writing phishing emails, copyright infringement, generating abusive content or malicious software, plagiarism, and much more.

ChatGPT is not the first or only AI chatbot

While ChatGPT has garnered most of the attention in the last few months, it is neither the first nor the only AI-based chatbot in the market. There are many AI-based writers and AI chatbots in the market. These tools vary in their applications and have their own strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, ChatSonic, first released in 2020, is an AI writing assistant touted as the top ChatGPT alternative. This AI chatbot is supported by Google, has voice dictation capabilities, can generate up-to-date content, and can also generate images based on text prompts. However, ChatSonic has word limits in its free as well as paid versions, which makes it difficult for users who need to generate large pieces of text.

Similarly, Jasper is another AI tool launched in 2021, which works based on the language model (GPT-3) similar to ChatGPT. Jasper can write and generate content for blogs, videos, Twitter threads, etc., in over 50 language templates and can also check for grammar and plagiarism. Jasper AI is specifically built for dealing with business use cases and is also faster and more efficient and generates more accurate results than ChatGPT.

YouChat is another example, developed in 2022 by You.com, and running on OpenAI GPT-3. It performs similar functions as ChatGPT – responding to queries, solving math equations, coding, translating, and writing content. This chatbot cites source links of the information and acts more like an AI-powered search engine. However, YouChat lacks an aesthetic appeal and may generate results that are outdated at times.

ChatGPT-styled chatbots to power search engines

While a lot of buzz has been created about this technology, the impact of AI-based conversational chatbots is yet to be seen on a large scale. Many proclaim that tools such as ChatGPT will replace the traditional search method of using Google to obtain information.

However, experts argue that it is highly unlikely. While AI chatbots can mimic human-like conversation, they need to be trained on massive amounts of data to generate any kind of answers. These tools work on pre-trained models that were fed with large amounts of data sourced from books, articles, websites, and many more resources to generate content. Hence, real-time learning and answering would be cost-intensive in the long run.

Moreover, ChatGPT’s answers may not always be comprehensive or accurate, requiring human supervision. ChatGPT may also not be very good at solving logical questions. For instance, when asked to solve a simple problem – “RQP, ONM, _, IHG, FED, find the missing letters”, ChatGPT answered incorrectly as “LKI”. Similarly, when provided a text prompt, “The odd numbers in the group 17, 32, 3, 15, 82, 9, 1 add up to an even number”, the chatbot affirmed it, which is false. Moreover, the AI chatbot does not cover news after 2021, and when asked, “Who won the 2022 World Cup?” ChatGPT said the event has not taken place.

On the other hand, Google uses several algorithms to rank web pages and gives the most relevant web results and comprehensive information. Google has access to a much larger pool of data and the ability to analyze it in real time. Additionally, Google’s ranking algorithms have been developed over years of research and refinement, making them incredibly efficient and effective at delivering high-quality results. Therefore, while AI chatbots can be useful in certain contexts, they are unlikely to replace traditional search methods, such as Google.

However, leading search engines are looking to incorporate ChatGPT into their search tools. For instance, Microsoft is planning to incorporate ChatGPT 4, a faster version of the current ChatGPT version, into its Bing Search engine. Since 2019, the company has invested about US$13 billion in OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT.

In February 2023, Microsoft also incorporated ChatGPT into its popular office software Teams. With this, users with Teams premium accounts will able to generate meeting notes, access recommended tasks, and would be able to see personalized highlights of the meeting using ChatGPT. These add immense value to the user.

In February 2023, China-based e-commerce company Alibaba also announced its plan to launch its own AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT. Similarly, Baidu, a China-based internet service provider, launched a chatbot named “Ernie” in its search engine in March 2023.

Amidst the increasing popularity of ChatGPT, Google has also started working on a chatbot named “Bard” based on its own language model, Lambda. The company is planning to launch more than 20 new AI-based products in 2023. In February 2023, Google invested about US$400 million in Anthropic AI, a US-based artificial intelligence startup, which is testing a new chatbot named Claude. Thus, the race to build an effective AI-enabled search engine has just begun, and things have to unfold a bit to learn more about how chatbots can modify web searches.

On the other hand, AI technologies such as ChatGPT are sure to leave an impact on how businesses operate. With the global economy slowing down, resulting in low business margins, many businesses are looking to cut down costs to increase profitability.

ChatGPT could be extremely beneficial to companies looking to automate various business tasks, such as customer support and content generation. The tool can be integrated into channels, including websites and voice assistants. While this sounds beneficial, there is also a likelihood of the technology displacing some jobs such as customer service representatives, copywriters, research analysts, etc.

However, ChatGPT will not be replacing the human workforce completely since many business tasks require creative and critical thinking skills and other traits such as empathy and emotional intelligence that only humans have. This technology is expected to pave the way for new opportunities in various fields, such as software engineering and data analysis, and allow employees to focus on more value-added tasks instead of routine, mundane tasks, ultimately boosting productivity.

EOS Perspective

With their remarkable ability to generate human-like conversations and high-quality content, generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are sure to be touted as a game-changer for many businesses. The advancements in generative AI are expected to have a significant impact on various business tasks such as customer support, content creation, data analysis, marketing and sales, and even decision-making.

Investors are slowly taking note of the immense potential the technology holds. It is estimated that generative AI start-ups received equity funding totaling about US$2.6 billion across 110 deals in 2022, which echoes an increasing interest in the technology.

The adoption of generative AI technologies is poised to increase, especially in business processes where a human-like conversation is desirable. Industries such as e-commerce, retail, and travel are likely to embrace this technology to automate customer service tasks, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. In addition, generative AI is likely to become an indispensable part of industries such as finance and logistics, where high levels of accuracy and precision are required. Media and entertainment companies can also benefit from this technology to quickly generate content such as articles, videos, and audio.

That being said, generative AI is not without its risks, and the technology could be used to create fake and other discriminatory information. Hence, there is an inevitable need to ensure that generative AI models are trained and deployed in an ethical and responsible manner. Despite these challenges, there is increased research and significant activity going on in the field of generative AI, especially with regard to combining the capabilities of chatbots and traditional search engines.

The current chatbots will continue to evolve and will lead to the creation of even more advanced and sophisticated models. The popularity of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT is unlikely to wane, and the technology is here to stay, with the potential to create better prospects for business and a brighter future for society.