Digital twins help accelerate medical device launches

digital twin
Sheila Zabeu -

May 10, 2023

Accenture, through Accenture Ventures, has made a strategic investment in Virtonomy, a provider of simulation solutions that use patient data and digital twin technology to accelerate medical devices to market.

Virtonomy’s digital twins simulation solution enables medical device manufacturers to create virtual patient environments for testing at a reduced cost and with less regulatory complexity. The solution relies on a growing base of real clinical data that reflects factors such as anatomical variability, demographic diversity and pathological conditions.

“Digital twin technology, along with data, analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI), is opening doors to endless new possibilities to reinvent the life sciences sector. However, there must always be a solid database to make accurate simulations. We will work with Virtonomy to define a strategy for real-time data collection that includes high-quality historical data, as well as continuous data monitoring and validation of new sources,” says Tom Lounibos, Managing Director at Accenture Ventures.

For example, Virtonomy’s solution can use clinical trial data to create virtual environments in which medical devices can be easily configured, adjusted and validated. Potential impacts can be seen immediately. This approach saves time while still meeting regulatory and ethical requirements, the companies point out.

Headquartered in Munich, Germany, Virtonomy has an interdisciplinary team of experts in medical engineering, image and data processing, visualisation and clinical practice.

In the view of Petra Jantzer, senior managing director and global practice leader Accenture Life Sciences, so-called medtechs are prioritising digital health by investing in R&D, technologies, digital transformation and creating new business models. “Virtonomy’s digital twins technology can help enhance the design of medical equipment in a virtual environment, accelerating development cycles and reducing costs, risks and regulatory barriers. Virtonomy is reinventing the way medical devices are being brought to patients safely and quickly,” she said.

“The medical device industry is facing increasing complexity in development processes, generating risks and costs and increasing the time needed before launching them on the market. Digital twin technology can help overcome these challenges. Accenture’s expertise in strategy and data management will help Virtonomy expand existing clinical databases with essential information and insights that can optimise the medical device manufacturing process,” says Simon J. Sonntag, co-founder and CEO of Virtonomy.

This investment is part of Accenture Venture’s  Spotlight Project, which targets emerging software companies that can help fill strategic innovation gaps. In addition to capital, the project provides access to the technology expertise of Accenture and its enterprise clients.

How do digital twins shorten the development cycle?

Just like in any other industry, the medical field needs to follow certain steps in the development cycle of new products and equipment, requiring a lot of time and money to perform the necessary tests for regulatory approval. Often, the approval process also includes animal and human trials that eventually need to be repeated because of unsatisfactory results.

Source: Virtonomy

Could these tests be abolished in some way? Animal tests should not only be questioned from an ethical point of view, but also approached under criteria of duration and costs that are often underestimated. According to Virtonomy, for certain products, regulatory approval can take up to 10 years and the costs incurred during that period can exceed €100 million or more. Moreover, this cycle of trials may even have to be repeated a few times until regulatory approval is achieved.

With this in mind, Virtonomy’s solution proposed the use of virtual patients, from the creation phase of the prototype of the medical product to be developed. Virtual patients describe interactive simulations in health that can be made to evaluate and establish diagnoses or therapeutic decisions.

Developers will be able to validate the design even before creating a prototype and then make any necessary changes to ensure that the final design fits the target patient group. In addition, it is possible to test on a larger number of patients, for example, people of both genders with various ethnic backgrounds, ages and body types.

Source: Virtonomy

By using animal models, animal testing can be significantly reduced, says Virtonomy. A practical example of how effective virtual animal models really are comes from the Swedish manufacturer of a fully artificial heart, RealHeart. The initial design of the device was adjusted using virtual patients to fit the anatomy of the desired animal species and breed. In addition, using a 3D visualiser, it was possible to define the implantation procedure, resulting in a series of successful animal tests.