Andrew Thompson’s visiting card is distinctly different. A circular cut with a plastic encasing next to the company’s name has a small granular chip enclosed and the back of the card reads, “Say hello to our ingestible sensor”. It’s this chip that encompasses the story of Proteus Digital Health, the Redwood City-based health-tech company. A Brit by birth, Thompson is spearheading a revolutionary technology that will arguably redefine the way medicines are consumed and prescribed.
But medicine is not what Thompson, initially started out with. With an engineering background, he began his career with Metal Box Plc and later, as a management consultant with Booz Allen & Hamilton, before switching over to venture capital as a member of Mayfield Fund’s Life Sciences Group in 1989. Building on his experience here, Thompson co-founded two medical technology companies with his Harvard Business School roommate George Savage: CardioRhythm (1991), which was acquired by Medtronic in 1994 and FemRx, which was later acquired by Johnson & Johnson in 1999. “The two medical device companies were really focused on making what were proven medical procedures much less invasive, and that was a whole set of opportunities that happened particularly in the mid-1990s,” explains Thompson, who went on to found Proteus in 2001. But this was different.
The idea for Proteus germinated when Thompson was attending a meeting at the American Heart Association. “I listened to doctors talking about the use of medicine and felt a majority of them were uncertain about how drugs worked, what they did, and whether patients used them,” recalls Thompson. At the same function, there were medical device companies which were showcasing products that were using a computer interface by using data from patients to personalise therapies and on the opposite, were pharmaceutical companies displaying their products but with no computer interface.
Thompson got talking with Savage on what if they could tie the use of medicines to computing. The premise being an estimated one-half of all patients do not take their medication