Earlier this summer, we saw the first ďsmart pillĒ from Proteus Digital Health receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance, a huge step in connecting drug delivery with mobile technologies. So what comes next?

It would be years before we see it on the market, but the next generation of smart medicine just may lie in an even smarter method of drug delivery ó a tiny chip thatís implanted inside the body and programmed wirelessly to release doses of drugs at the right time ó being developed and tested by an MIT spinout.

Initially, MicroCHIPS sees its technology treating conditions that require consistent, long-term regimens of injected drugs. One of the most critical needs the technology addresses, according to President and CEO Robert Farra, is compliance. People generally donít enjoy getting injections, and when left to do it themselves, will find ways to avoid it. Plus, sometimes injectable medications need to be refrigerated, which isnít convenient for people on the go.

First developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by professors Robert Langer and Michael Cima, the technology starts with a microchip that measures three-quarters of an inch by three-quarters of an inch. On that microchip are 200 microreservoirs, tiny dips that house concentrated dosages of drugs and are hermetically sealed using metallic bonds so the drug canít leak out and no moisture or air can get into the reservoirs.

The chip is also designed with a path for an electrical current to pass through in order to melt the bonds when itís time for a dose of the drug to be released. Itís implanted under the skin, usually below the waistline or in the arm, in an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia, a small incision and a few sutures.

Using a small device about the size of a calculator thatís hooked up to a computer and connects wirelessly to the chip, a physician can program the chip to release doses on a regular schedule, or to release a dose on demand. The chip can be reprogrammed at any time, as long as the patient is in the same room as the physician with the device.

In the meantime, itís also working on a second-generation implant thatís one-fifth the size of the device used in the clinical trial and has 10 times the doses. Itís also looking for partners to continue developing its glucose sensor, which uses similar technology.