How COVID-19 is accelerating healthcare projects and BioMEMS device integration

Each new crisis, whether economic, ecological or – as currently – health, sees emerging and accelerating development of new products adapted to the situation. Urgency creates needs and needs foster the emergence of new projects. In this article based on Yole Développement’s update of our “BioMEMS Market and Technology 2020”, we analyze the MEMS market related to microfluidic chips intended for health and life sciences applications. This short- and medium-term analysis highlights market and technological trends, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the BioMEMS device market.

Indeed, the international health crisis has impacted many sectors since the beginning of 2020. While the automotive, commercial aviation and consumer sectors have suffered large losses in revenues in the second quarter of 2020, healthcare sector impacts depend on the application, influencing the demand for BioMEMS devices.

First, emergency management: Due to respiratory symptoms linked to the coronavirus, a strong demand for ventilators has emerged. They need pressure sensors and flowmeters, essential for managing gas exchanges and controlling the air pressure blown out and into the patient’s lungs. Companies such as Medtronic or Philips Healthcare have announced production volumes double or even quadruple usual demand.

We estimate that shipments of pressure sensors for this application will more than double in 2020 despite negative impact for other medical products, leading to an overall shipment increase by 7.3% compared to 2019. The same is occurring for MEMS flowmeter sensors, with higher production required, as indicated by the Swiss company Sensirion, which will increase its production capacity by a factor of 8-10. These needs are therefore linked to a sudden, urgent but short-term request. The actors involved anticipate a return to a normal market situation by 2021. The need to develop diagnostic tests has also enabled Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – and similar authorizations by other regulatory organizations – of microfluidic platforms, studied in this report. The main players in this area include Abbott, Mesa Biotech, Cepheid, BioMérieux and several others. Mainly used as Point of Care (PoC) devices, these tests make it possible to identify the presence of the virus, enabling rapid triage of patients.

COVID-19 Different growth rate for different BioMEMS devices in 2019-2020

But most of these short-term needs cover interventional applications for hospitalized patients. On the other hand, a slow transformation of the healthcare organization has been underway to allow better care for patients with chronic diseases, with preventive, predictive and personalized approaches for patients at risk while controlling healthcare costs. For more than 10 years MEMS technologies have been serving the health sector to provide disruptive solutions such as wearables or monitoring at home. With a Compound Annual Growth Rate for the period 2019-2025 (CAGR19-25) of 9.2% estimated by Yole Développement, the revenues generated by BioMEMS should reach $6.3B in 2025. The global pandemic is accelerating certain initiatives by necessity and due to increasing demand expressed by patients. Indeed, the high infection rate of the coronavirus and the need for social distancing have favored the use of telehealth and connected health. Monitoring out-patients and the need to prevent any signs of infection have largely foster the adoption of wearable devices and PoC medical devices used by GPs or nurses, avoiding the movement of patients to hospitals or any other crowded locations.

Medical device use cases - From hospital to anywhere care - Yole Developpement

Furthermore, some wearable companies targeting consumer wellness applications have won opportunities with industrial firms wishing to implement tracking of the first signs of infection of their employees in order to avoid any shutdown of production. Many systems use non-contact thermopiles for temperature measurement. With a little over 90% growth in volume estimated in 2020 compared to 2019, thermopiles represent the most requested component in the context of this health crisis. We estimate that a return to normal in 2021 will be accompanied by greater demand than we previously estimated for thermopiles. Another flagship component of this edition of the BioMEMS 2020 report is the Micromachined Ultrasound Transducer (MUT), and primarily its capacitive version (CMUT), which is now integrated into Butterfly Network’s PoC ultrasound imaging systems. This type of PoC imaging system was already of great interest, and the COVID-19 pandemic increased that tenfold. At $2,000, the low cost of this probe system allows multi-application uses across applications including lungs, heart, and obstetrics was made possible thanks to microtechnologies and particularly the integrated CMUT chip developed by Butterfly. It is worth noting that the Butterfly CMUT is the first MEMS chip mass produced on a 300mm wafer. More information on the Butterfly iQ probe is available in the recently released report “Butterfly Network iQ CMUT Sensor” from System Plus Consulting.

The pandemic is still present today and poses several uncertainties. On the other hand, it is clear that it will have an impact on the health sector, accelerating remote monitoring projects and diagnostics at the PoC. Certain players in the consumer sector, such as FitBit or Oura, have received orders for devices to diagnose COVID-19 symptoms early. These devices are not approved by the FDA or any other health organization, but the question is: Could we be confident in unregulated systems? Are these devices accurate enough for early diagnostics? Will these initiatives be sustainable and transferable to other diseases? Will companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft be ready to work on health projects whose product life cycles are not the same as consumer ones?
This crisis reshuffles the cards of globalization. Major players in microelectronics have factories and key partners in the United States or Europe for production, and in Asia for assembly and testing. Priorities for certain medical devices and first-aid medical products have been made despite a shutdown of other products by allocating maximum resources for the fight against COVID-19. Questions remain about the continuing health crisis, particularly over new factory closures and lasting logistics issues. However, microtechnologies and BioMEMS devices particularly will remain the best in class for miniaturization and low power consumption requirements of next generation of connected medical devices that will even more be the focus of patients and healthcare organizations.


Jérôme Mouly - Yole Développement

Jérôme Mouly serves as a Senior Technology & Market Analyst & Business Developer specialized in microtechnologies within the Photonics & Sensing team at Yole Développement (Yole). Jérôme actively assists and supports the development of strategic projects, working with leading customers of the company.
Since 2000, he has also been engaged in more than 100 marketing and technological analyses for industrial groups, start-ups and institutes in the field of MEMS, BioMEMS, wearable & connected medical devices. Through the group’s numerous activities at Yole, Jérôme covers the whole microelectronic supply chain including manufacturing processes and device development.
Jérôme is also regularly involved in international conferences, giving presentations and delivering keynotes.
Jérôme Mouly holds a Master of Physics from the University of Lyon (France).

Related reports

BioMEMS 2020

BioMEMS Market and Technology 2020
Pressure, inertial, MEMS ultrasound, microfluidic chips and other sensors are driving the growth of the life sciences and healthcare market.

Butterfly Network iQ - System Plus Consulting

Butterfly Network iQ CMUT Sensor
First CMUT on silicon bonded with an ASIC die for medical ultrasound.


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