UBS Asset Management

Impedimed (IPD) is an Australian small company that is an emerging global leader in the medical device space with a focus on the accurate measurement of internal bodily fluid and tissue. It is one of the top five holdings for the UBS Australian Small Companies Fund and has been owned for around 18 months. The company has unique BioImpedance Spectroscopy (BIS) technology that uses multiple electrical frequencies to significantly improve the accuracy of its measurements. The technology can provide immediate and very accurate measurements of extracellular (internal) fluids, levels of body fat and muscle and other body composition and wellness measures. The technology’s first application is in the field of lymphedema, where protein rich bodily fluid is retained and builds up in limbs causing irreversible swelling and disfigurement (greatly impacts post-breast cancer patients who experience some lymph node damage or removal). Keep reading for more on Impedimed.

Early detection of this fluid retention (using BIS) can avoid the irreversible damage. Early intervention simply requires patients to wear a compression sleeve for a couple of weeks.

Before BIS, the standard medical practice for the measurement of lymphedema required doctors to undertake a physical and visual examination with the aid of either a bucket of water or a tape measure so as to ascertain if any early limb swelling had occurred. Unfortunately, these crude techniques are only able to detect large fluid build-ups (often more than 200ml meaning some irreversible visual disfigurement has already occurred). BIS, on the other hand, can detect much smaller changes in extracellular fluid retention (well before it is visually measurable). BIS tests are also fast and less invasive compared to existing methods.

Beyond lymphedema, a much bigger market for this technology exists in monitoring chronic or congestive heart failure (CHF) patients – the next application being targeted. Medical trials using BIS to monitor CHF patients are well underway with US FDA approval for this application expected within 12 months.

The CHF patient population in the US is big and growing, driven by lifestyle (poor diet, little exercise) and demographic factors (aging population). There are more than 5m people in the US with this disease and around 1.5m of these have the most severe and costly forms, designated class III & IV CHF patients. These patients alone account for about half of the more than US$30b p.a. cost of managing this disease in the US. Current treatment methods are either ineffective (scales to measure weight as a crude proxy for fluid retention near the heart – precursor to hospitalisation) or otherwise are very expensive. The CardioMEMS implant device costs US$18,000 (plus additional hospital costs) yet is commonly used because of it helps minimise hospital admissions – very high cost. IPD has this week launched its new prototype device, SOZO, to address this very large market.

The long-term prospects for Impedimed remain very bright as it launches its unique device into more large and poorly served disease indication markets.

Article written by Victor Gomes and contributed by UBS Australia: (VIEW LINK)


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