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Hewlett-Packard Unveils 'Microneedle' Drug Patch

The PC maker gets more mileage from its printer technology.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Inkjet printers and intravenous drugs don't mix.



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thinks it has the goods to play in both markets.

H-P said Tuesday that it has developed a product that can simultaneously release various types of medication into a person's bloodstream through a skin patch containing 1,000 "microneedles" per square inch.

The microneedles, which are based on H-P's printer technology, barely penetrate the surface of the skin, causing significantly less pain than traditional hyperemic needles, according to H-P.

And the massive amount of microneedles, combined with a microprocessor, mean the patch can be used to electronically deliver multiple drugs, with different dosage and timing settings.

"We really think it will open up a wide range of new applications in the drug delivery arena," says Joe Beyers, vice president of H-P's intellectual property licensing division.

The product is a bit of a departure for Palo Alto, Calif.-based H-P, which is best known for its PCs and printers.

H-P will not sell the patch itself but will license the technology to a newly-formed Irish company. That firm,


, is focused on the monitoring and treatment of diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disorder and recently announced 2.3 million euros ($3.1 million) in seed financing.

H-P does not have a stake in Crospon, but Beyers says the deal includes some upfront payments, ongoing royalties and other forms of compensation that will allow H-P to share in any upside.

"You will see in the future more companies being created to take advantage of H-P technology," notes Beyers.

H-P owns almost 30,000 patents and spends some

$3.6 billion a year on research and development. The four-year-old IP licensing group seeks to maximize that investment by coming up with novel uses for H-P technology that can then be licensed to other firms.

The microneedles in the skin patch, for instance, are made using the same technology that H-P uses to create the tiny printer nozzles that spray ink on paper. And the heating element used on an inkjet's printhead is also incorporated into the patch.

H-P does not disclose financial data for its IP licensing group, although Beyers said the group has surpassed its objectives every year since its inception and currently has about 150 projects under way.

According to Beyers, the skin patch is one of several projects that parlay H-P's technology into the life sciences industry, although the patch is the first one to be made public.


IP deals with other technology companies, H-P's plans to license a medical product expose it to a market that has different rules and that is subject to unpredictable factors such as regulatory approval.

Beyers says Crospon still needs to put the patch through additional testing and go through the approval process, which means the product's commercial availability is still probably a few years out.

Shares of H-P closed Monday up 23 cents to $49.