Archive for October, 2011

#TEDMED Day Two: The Reinvention Continues

October 28th, 2011
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The second day of TEDMED took off full swing, with an agenda packed with speakers and discussions. While there were many presenters of new inventions as well as a certain “gee-whiz” quality to some discussions, all sessions made one thing clear: resolving our biggest health challenges requires something other than the latest widget. We’re going to need more collaboration among a wider diversity of disciplines. Furthermore, the patient, more and more seen as a consumer, will play a central role.
Michael Graves, a renowned architect who also is wheelchair bound, talked less about designing a hospital and more about designing a physical environment in which health care is delivered. Like many speakers here whose personal experience drove their ideas, Michael spent a lot of time in in his “target” institutions – rehabilitation and physical therapy centers. His conclusion? Most hospitals aren’t designed to contribute to making you feel better, or getting you better. They’re not created from a patient perspective. He has since been known for coming up with designs that have positive effects on the health of patients.

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Notes From Afield—#TEDMED, Day One

October 27th, 2011
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TEDMED, that health-focused meeting of the minds, is underway in San Diego, and I wanted to share some impressions of the ideas proposed at the conference. This week, there are a lot of very interesting exhibits, thoughtful presentations, and a bright, energetic audience here. And if there was a central theme to this year’s TEDMED, I’d say it was “redefinition;” rephrasing our questions to reflect what we’ve learned about how the natural, social, and physical worlds actually work.  I’d like you to chime in; share your thoughts with me on these ideas, or any others!
Here are some of my initial takeaways:


  1. Dr. David Agus of USC observed that the power of sophisticated diagnostics is needed to produce truly targeted personalized medicine, but wonders if we need to not only redefine diseases such as cancer, but also to find different, more useful definitions of health. In other words, should we focus on defining health, or instead focus on what is meant by disease?
  2. Ger Brophy of General Electric Healthcare focused on the theme of cancer on a personal basis, rather than on the geography of where the cancer is. As we’ve discussed via this blog, cancer’s traditional definitions based on anatomical location are not keeping up with what we know about the disease – and its many forms – today. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are You Up for the “Grand Challenge” Challenge?

October 24th, 2011
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Grand Challenges—the call to identify and resolve the biggest barriers to resolving global problems—have been around awhile. They started in 1900 with the German mathematician David Hilbert, who identified 23 major mathematics problems for his colleagues to solve (some were handled quickly, while quite a few have resisted resolution). The U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Administration (DARPA) has regularly held Grand Challenges, which sparked innovation in unmanned vehicles and other technologies. And in the biomedical field, the 2003 Gates Foundation Grand Challenge posed 14 issues in global health; more than 1,000 proposals were submitted within three months of the foundation’s announcement, and the program is still going strong.
Today, there’s a new Grand Challenge and those of us in the life science community have an opportunity – if not an outright obligation – to respond. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) wants to hear from us. It is the White House’s second grand challenge; the first was a sweeping quest for technological innovations. But this time, the OSTP wants input from the biomedical, biotech and research communities for its National Bioeconomy Blueprint. The White House asks a wide array of questions from “Identify one or more grand challenges for the bioeconomy…and suggest concrete steps that would need to be taken by the Federal government, companies, non-profit organizations, foundations and other stake holders to achieve this goal?” to possible new solutions for funding and venture capital to finding new ways of predicting protein function from genes.
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Seeking Holy Grail: Quest for Stem Cells from Embryos Continues

October 20th, 2011
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In a recent paper that spawned news articles and blogs worldwide, researchers announced the generation of human embryos that could produce stem cells. The announcement marks another step in the use of stem cells to treat a number of disorders, including diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease. But while this research, conducted by Dieter Egli, Scott Noggle, and their colleagues at the New York Stem Cell Foundation, holds much promise, it also demonstrates the daunting obstacles that block the path to stem cell therapy.
The biggest technical obstacle to stem cell therapy has been generating and isolating enough early-stage stem cells. It is these cells that have the greatest developmental potential because they can most readily differentiate into a mature cell that, in turn, could be used for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
The discovery that adult cells could be “reprogrammed” into inducible pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) offered promises of stem cell therapy while sidestepping ethical issues arising from embryonic stem cell therapies. However, iPSCs presented technical issues that so far preclude their therapeutic potential. Bone marrow, cord blood, and adipose tissue also produce stem cells, but on an extremely limited basis.
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The Heart of Innovation – Themes and Challenges Ahead

October 17th, 2011
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This year, the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit focused on Cardiovascular Technologies, State of the Heart. The summit consisted of three days of stimulating presentations and panel discussions moderated by television anchors such as Maria Bartiromo and Bob Woodruff.  The summit highlighted breakthrough technologies in the cardiac space, which could transform how medicine is currently practiced.
Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer for the Cleveland Clinic, moderated one of the highlights of the Summit, which was the session on the top 10 health care innovations. These innovations, most of which are not in the cardiovascular space in spite of the summit’s focus, follow:
10. Genetically modified mosquitos to reduce mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus: Manipulating the DNA of insects may help wipe-out populations that are not effectively controlled currently with insecticides and other measures.
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Can We Take the Excitement out of the FDA? Agency Could be Turning a Corner

October 10th, 2011
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The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) likes to trot out the statistic that claims it regulates about $100 billion in biomedical R&D each year: investments made by industry (and government) to create new innovations to treat today’s health challenges. But the agency has been hesitant to address another facet of investments: that they should be predictable. As the late, great economist Paul Samuelson said, “Investments should be like watching paint dry. If you want excitement, take $800 and go to Las Vegas.”
Anybody who’s watched the stock market the last few years knows we would rather live without this kind of excitement. However, the latest documents issued by the FDA – from Research Use Only/Investigational Use Only (RUO/IUO) guidance to LDT to the latest strategy document on boosting innovation (read coverage from Xconomy) – are inconsistent enough to make drug development resemble a Roulette wheel, rather than a science-based, multi-year, multibillion-dollar strategy to develop therapeutics and diagnostics. Even venture capitalists, not known for their risk-averseness, have gone to Congress to demand more predictable responses from the FDA.
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Has Online Medicine’s Big Day Finally Come? Rite Aid Takes on Telemedicine

October 6th, 2011
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There’s a definite romance developing between pharmacy outlets and medical organizations when it comes to consumer-driven opportunities in health care delivery.  We’ve continued to watch Medco’s foray into genetic testing, which lingers on with all of the predictability of a clumsy first date. Then last May came the relationship between Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walgreens. And recently, we learn of Rite Aid’s Partnership with OptumHealth to provide straight-to-the-doctor online video consultations at its Detroit locations.
Of all of these relationships parading around the consumer dance floor, it may be the Rite Aid deal that makes a real impact, especially on how medical institutions compete in the marketplace. Rite Aid intends to use telemedicine—which is not a new concept but one whose technology has certainly come of age—to have consumers interact in real-time with physicians and nurses. This brings up a host of questions concerning how primary care physicians may need to re-examine future business models. And what about ERs and walk-in clinics? Will this be the final test whereby online services trump the hassle of a noisy waiting room?
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#AdvaMed2011: Where the Key MedTech Players Met

October 4th, 2011
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If you read Ken Walz’s recent post based upon his interview with AdvaMed Conference Producer Ray Briscuso, you already know that AdvaMed 2011 – bringing together more than 1,500 key MedTech executives from companies in every sector of the industry – promised to be an important conference, exhibition and partnering event for medical device, diagnostic and health information companies. Ken attended the conference – as did I – with the intent of absorbing all we could, sharing highlights, and reporting back via this blog.
From Ken’s perspective, one of the major themes permeating the remarks of many AdvaMed 2011 presenters was UNCERTAINTY. “While speakers referred to various causes for the uncertainty facing the MedTech industry, most of them tied it back to federal laws impacting health care and the potential for federal budget cutting to constrain the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s ability to rapidly approve new devices and diagnostic tools,” he said.
For more on what some presenters and attendees had to say during and about the conference, read on:
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