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.
  3. Juan Enriquez, CEO of Excel Medical Ventures, proposed redefining the U.S. FDA’s role into an entity that facilitates bringing products to market, rather than keeping products from market. That may sound like a stereotypical response to shed all regulations and regulators, but it’s not. Our current FDA is charged with evaluating the risks that are associated with bringing a product to market. But it doesn’t measure what risks are associated with not having a particular product available on the market.
  4. Eythor Bender proposed a redefinition of paraplegic, using his company’s exoskeleton or “wearable robot” to allow paralysis patients to walk and use their limbs.

An exciting start. And I look forward to reporting more in the days ahead. Please share your thoughts on these ideas, or even what you think TEDMED should be talking about! We look forward to hearing from you.

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About the Author:

I founded Popper and Company with Ken Walz more than ten years ago to address inefficiencies in health care by helping life science companies develop and commercialize new technology. Today, the members of our growing team leverage their extensive knowledge of the tools and trends shaping all aspects of health care and its participants. Send me an email.