We’re at FutureMed for the second time in 2013 and admittedly are feeling a touch of déjà vu. However, as Executive Director Dr. Daniel Kraft promised us a few weeks ago, there are enough changes to keep things fresh. This version – taking place at San Diego’s historic Hotel Del Coronado – is (exponentially) bigger and grander, and a welcome upgrade from the NASA Ames facility that is home to Singularity University.
The day began with one of Kraft’s characteristically rapid-fire and exciting overviews of the technologies that are changing medicine, ranging from 3D tissue printing to Google Glass applications in health care. Given that nine months have passed, there were a number of new examples including a sensor-laden diaper that sends Tweets to an augmented-reality car windshield that doubles as your behavioral health advisor by telling you to “turn right to the gym, instead of left to McDonald’s.”
Daniel Kraft was followed by Singularity University and X-Prize co-founder, Dr. Peter Diamandis, who gave an overview of SU’s various programs as well as the concept of exponential thinking. He repeated the “local and linear” and 6-Ds concept as well as the Kodak example that we heard at FutureMed earlier this year. Interestingly, he announced a rebranding of FutureMed and SU conferences as “Exponential Conferences”. Thus, FutureMed will be “Exponential Medicine” and they will also be launching two other conferences: “Exponential Finance” and “Exponential Manufacturing.”
At the end he took a few questions, and mentioned that a future X-Prize will be on the topic of learning. Specifically, the challenge will be to develop a software program that can help any child become both literate and familiar with coding.
Next up was Salim Ismail, the Global Ambassador and Founding Executive Director of Singularity University, who gave a talk about the increasing digitization of industries and subsequent disruption that follows. After Ismail was artificial intelligence expert, Dr. Neil Jacobstein, who expanded upon his talk from February with additional examples of how AI is impacting health care.
Jacobstein was followed by CEO of Singularity University Robert Nail, who made his career by founding a company that created automation equipment and robotics for cancer research and drug discovery. As with the other speakers he went through a series of examples of new robotic platforms that can directly or indirectly affect health care.
After a quick break, the session on exponential technologies resumed with a talk about 3D printing by Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems. He began by discussing applications for aerospace and automotive engineering, and then transitioned into health care, providing the example of Invisalign which shipped 17.2 million custom 3D-printed dental braces last year. Reichental argued that the question is not if 3D printing will be incorporated in the home, but rather in which room people will first put 3D printers in.
The next speaker was Raymond McCauley, PhD, who gave another great presentation on the future of genomics, including the DIY bio movement. Before launching into the last session of the day, we were treated with an early evening performance from Irish singer, songwriter Eoin Harrington. A frequent participant of TED and TEDx events, Eoin ended his two-song set with a charge to the FutureMed attendees to participate in the FutureMed Crowd Sourced Song. Before the conference ends, we can expect Eoin back onstage to perform a song based on our creative input.
The following presentation was by Scanadu’s founder Walter de Brouwer, who promised they would be shipping the Scout, a device often compared to Star Trek’s medical tricorder, in March 2014 and offered a series of predictions for the next two decades, such as:
- 2018 – The tricorder replaces the thermometer
- 2021 – Underwearables, meaning wearable tricorders, become implantables, digestibles, subdermals, injectables, and even tattooables
- 2024 – “The 4th Screen” is the human body, meaning that devices read us, music listens to us, movies watch us, and walls spy on us (for a fee)
- 2028 – The medical reverse Turing test is won
Dr. Eric Topol closed out the evening with his talk on the Creative Destruction of Medicine. In addition to making familiar points about smartphone-based medical devices and nanotechnology sensors within the body, he spent much of his talk on individualized genomic medicine “from pre-womb to tomb.” He posed the question of why couples don’t use the existing relatively inexpensive tests, e.g. GenePeeks and 23andMe, to plan ahead to see if they are carriers for recessive disorders. At the fetal stage, there are at least four companies that can do prenatal genomic testing which are highly accurate and can replace amniocentesis. Next, once the baby is born its DNA can be fully sequenced, which can help identify disorders like phenylketonuria much earlier than existing procedures are able to. He then delved into specific use cases, such as identifying mystery disorders with patient and family sequencing, infectious disease diagnosis, and cancer sequencing.
That wrapped up the first day of FutureMed sessions, and we’re looking forward to much more to come tomorrow!
Editor’s note: Reporting contributed by Michael Batista, Ph.D. Candidate at Johns Hopkins University
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