The medical industry as-a-whole has galvanized its entire workforce toward developing a cure and relief for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One facet of the industry now experiencing an uptick in attention and recognition due to the growing shortage of required raw materials/components for the production of medical equipment is the medical materials industry. When it comes to the manufacturing of medical devices itself, this is a very complicated production process due to the many parts and components involved.

At Virtual Engineering Week, taking place November 30–December 4, this all-new digital event brings the best-in-class education and premier virtual exhibition hall directly to medical device professionals looking to expand their knowledge from today’s leading industry experts as well as source directly from leading medtech, automation, design, packaging, plastics, and quality companies to explore the latest innovations, schedule 1:1 meetings, and see live demos.

At the event, Asmita Khanolkdar, senior director, Cambridge Pharma, SMC, talks about, “Material Selection for Medical Devices,” focusing on the surprising and novel uses for new medical materials, why thinking about materials should not be an afterthought, to what she sees for the future of the medical materials industry moving forward, post-COVID. A full-length version of this Q&A appears in the January 2021 issue of Medical Design Briefs.

MDB: Asmita, you are speaking at Virtual Engineering Week on the topic of material selection for medical devices. Can you share what attendees will learn from your presentation?

Asmita Khanolkdar

Asmita Khanolkar: Today’s medical devices are complex and span over multiple emerging technologies. Selecting the right materials and developing a robust material strategy is not only crucial to the device design and function but can also help streamline and accelerate the development process. The talk explored the industry trends, factors driving innovation in materials, and selection criteria considerations for various market sectors including medical devices, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals.

This is the era of convergence of technologies, collaboration of sciences and combination of drug-device. Some of the trends driving innovation in materials can be discussed under five major categories, hospital to home, smart devices, personalized medicine, nanotechnology, and regenerative medicine. Strengthened by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital-to-home trends have further reinforced the focus on patient use drug-delivery devices, home diagnostics, mobile imaging, telehealth, and remote monitoring.

The material selection matrix comprises three major areas of focus starting first with understanding the device classification, regulatory, and stipulatory requirements. This encompasses evaluating materials based on patient contact, biochemistry, biological, and toxicology evaluation. The second area focuses on functional requirements and service use over time. Finally, the third area of focus is on manufacturing and costs. This systematic tiered approach promotes a robust selection strategy.

MDB: The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many industries, notably medical devices. Can selecting the right materials help combat this ongoing crisis?

AK: COVID-19 is a brutal reminder of the disruption that can affect any product life cycle management and the need for risk planning and contingency strategies. In terms of material selection and strategy is often an afterthought, and yet it is the most important consideration that makes the difference between completing a product design versus converting it into a commercially viable medical product. A systematic material selection approach along with considerations for manufacturing and assembly can reduce threats to the product launch.

MDB: What excites you most about your field?

AK: In my current role at SMC Ltd., my responsibilities include device and pharmaceutical services strategy and commercialization of innovative technology platforms for drug delivery and fill finish combination products. As science and technology continue to advance bringing many novel therapies to the forefront, I see material selection play an increasingly important role. The drug-delivery industry is seeing tremendous growth in new formulations, delivery technologies, and delivery platforms.