Medgadget is live in San Diego, CA where we’ll be spending the next four days covering the amazing discussions taking place at Exponential Medicine. Formerly known as FutureMed, which took place here one year ago, the Exponential brand from Singularity University (SU) is expanding from medicine to also encompass Finance and Manufacturing with first events beginning in 2015. Exponential Medicine is slated to include enlightening dialogues from Singularity University faculty and invited guests, exciting technologies in the Innovation Lab with over fifty companies and start-ups focused on improving medicine, and focused workshops to allow a deeper dive and intimate discussion on specific topics. As a special treat this year, the winner of the $2.5M Nokia Sensing XPrize Challenge will be announced tomorrow as part of the event.
Will Weisman, SU’s Executive Director of Conferences, and Rob Nail, CEO and Associate Founder of SU, kicked off the introductory session, “Reinventing Health and Medicine”. Will set the stage for the coming four days with an analogy. The event, Will claimed, is a blank canvas. The faculty, invited guests, and attendees are the elements that will come together on that canvas to create a beautiful and inspiring work. This year, those elements are composed of 550 individuals attending from across the globe, as well as the hundreds of individuals live streaming the event remotely. Rob encouraged us to see the event as not only a way to become educated about new trends in healthcare but as an opportunity to catalyze and inspire great ideas through connections with fellow attendees. Rob closed with an overview of SU and its many programs which cater to both new graduate talent and executives at the top of their fields.
Next, Founding Executive Director and Conference Chair for Exponential Medicine, and Faculty track chair for Medicine & Neuroscience at SU, Dr. Daniel Kraft took the stage to give a whirlwind overview of the many different discussions to look forward to from health and prevention, to diagnosis, to therapies. Topics to look out for this year include factors affected by the transition in fee for service to outcome-based medicine, the concept of sick care versus health care, and the rise of the e-Patient as an individual who owns his or her own data and makes decisions to share it as they see fit. Daniel also motivated attendees to think about solutions outside medicine that can and are starting to be applied to healthcare such as the use of drones to carry medicine or the next Uber for healthcare. Did you know you can already use Uber to have a flu shot delivered right to you?
As we’ve seen before, the first keynote of the day, Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder and Chairman of the XPrize competition and Co-Founder of SU, described the concept of exponential thinking and how the gaps between linear and exponential trends represent the opportunity for innovation. Peter’s discussion touched on much of his tested content from previous events including the 6 D’s of exponential thinking (digitized, deceptive, disruptive, dematerializing, demonetizing, and democratizing), the 3 billion new minds entering the digital world through expansion of the internet, and the Kodak example of exponential innovation. Peter referenced the rapid speed of innovation with the fact that the average lifespan of a company on the S&P has decreased from 67 to 15 years. As a result, he posits that 40% of current Fortune 500 will no longer exist in 10 years.
Diving into the second session, “Introduction to Exponential Thinking”, Brad Templeton, Networking and Computing Chair for SU, divulged the secret ingredients that made the internet a foundation for innovation: (1) the existence of early adopters who were willing to pay for something completely new, (2) an open platform that was not placed behind barriers, (3) a new financial model for how the service was paid for, and (4) a network so simple that innovation was not restricted to a dominant business, like the phone companies, anyone could improve on it. Similar to how the internet let anyone play with communications, Brad believes in open, “hackable” platforms where people do not need permissions to try new ideas. The second half of Brad’s talk focused on the opportunity presented by robocars. For Brad, it’s a no brainer: 40% of crashes are caused by drinking impairing human judgement, over 50% of the land in populated areas is devoted to cars, 25% of energy is used for driving. Cars are inefficient. Currently, the car industry is based on what you need for your life, not what you need today. While you might need a sedan for your yearly ski trip, most days out of the year a small, fuel-efficient smart car could do the job. When efficiency improves, other industries get a break with a reduced need for imported oil and reduced fuel emissions. Already, many companies, including Google, have or are producing functioning smart cars. Unfortunately, Brad claimed, among other challenges, the concept of robots controlling something as common, yet complex as driving is still off-putting to many individuals. People are still more comfortable getting killed by a drunk human than a robot.
Following Brad was Dr. Dan Barry, a former astronaut and Founder of Denbar Robotics, who spoke more about how far we’ve come in robotics and the current state of the art. Pulling on his own personal experiences, Dan discussed how the shuttle was one of the first robots which functioned completely on its own for the first few minutes after liftoff. Dan brought a small robotic helicopter that he flew around on stage while making the point that the remote helicopter represented the same essential components and goals as the shuttle while being one million times smaller, less powerful, and cheaper. Dan explored some more functional robots including Boston Dynamic’s BigDog and SandFlea. Dan concluded with a thoughtful discussion of robotic versus human decision making. He used the example of US Airways Flight 1549 that, by the merit of human decision making and despite what computers recommended, landed safely in the Hudson river after a double engine failure in 2009. When do we trust the robot versus the human? Dan’s talk was followed by a brief demo of a couple large drones currently used for bridge maintenance surveillance.
Andy Christensen, VP of Personalized Surgery and Medical Devices 3D Systems, broadly discussed new areas of digitized medical imaging, modeling, virtual surgical planning, haptic-based design, 3D printing, and simulation. Andy focused in on how 3D printing is changing the way medical tools are manufactured. From scoliosis braces to total knee replacements, medical hardware is already being rapidly designed and produced to specifically fit a patient’s unique anatomy. A new application of 3D printing is the creation of cutting guides created based on digital image reconstructions. These guides can be used to both outline the cuts to be made in deconstructing a skull’s cranium and provide a template to reconstruct bone fragments right on a patient. The same process can be used to cut up bones used for craniofacial reconstructions.
After a quick break, Raymond McCauley, Biotech Chair at SU, took a deep dive into the future of genetic engineering and discussed how the building blocks of this space, many of which exist today, will change medicine over the next twenty years. In particular, Raymond believes IVF/PGD represents the gateway drug of genetic engineering.
Jeremy Howard, Founder and CEO of Enlitic and previous Chief Scientist at Kaggle, closed the session with a look at big data and a discussion on machine learning and deep learning. Medical applications of these tools include analyzing pathology images and neuron segmentation. The power of machine learning is prevalent in the fact that these machine algorithms, which outclassed comparable human effort in time and accuracy, were developed by individuals without any knowledge of healthcare. Jeremy shared a demonstration of a new deep learning algorithm his company just completed this past weekend. The example given used the algorithm to organize images of cars with no information provided besides the images. After an initial organization, Jeremy began to teach the system what he was interested by identifying images with similar features. Beginning with one million images, the algorithm was able to organize and label one third of the images within about five minutes and three iterations. The entire process required no programming. Returning to the pathology example, it is not a far step to now apply the same algorithm to pathology images and help identify and categorize patients into groupings based on differences too subtle for the human eye to capture.
Dr. Laura Esserman, Director of the UCSF Carol Franc Buck Breast Cancer Center, was the second keynote speaker of the day and a proponent of applying innovation to decrease costs and improve efficiency in clinical trial design and execution. Esserman motivated her work by pointing out that increasing the volume of diagnostics and treatments does not lead to better clinical outcomes. Currently, 70% of clinical trials fail. Additionally, the expense and time required to bring clinical solutions to market hampers medical advancement. In response to these challenges, Esserman helped to create I-SPY 2, the first standing clinical trial for cancer treatment based on adaptive design. Within the trial, individual biomarkers are used to identify successful treatments in specific types of patients with information about early patients used to affect the treatment plans of later patients. I-SPY 2 breaks away from the mindset that each individual drug needs an independent clinical trial. Instead, multiple companies have agreed to put their drugs into the same trial at the same time to find the best solution. The FDA, NIH, and FNIH are all involved in the ongoing project. Recognizing that designing clinical trials that focus on the patient require awareness and engagement of the patients themselves, Esserman also spoke about her efforts launching the Athena Breast Network, a community of female patients in the screening, treatment, and outcomes phases of clinical trials.
The afternoon’s entertainment was provided by Alice Phoebe Lou, a South African busker (street performer) and songwriter currently based in Berlin.
Next up was David Bolinsky, Founder and Creative Director, e*Mersion Learning Company. David produced and directed the now famous “The Inner Life of the Cell” video showing the detailed machinations of cellular machinery through vivid animations. David showed us some of his work with the Frank H. Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University to develop interactive apps and tools for education medical students in complex biological and medical concepts.
A special set of patient speakers presenting at Exponential Medicine this year will be talking about their personal experiences dealing with specific medical challenges. Today’s patient was Brett Bullington, Advisor for Outfit 7 and former Executive VP of Excite. While on a cross-country bike ride for charity, Brett had a crash resulting in significant head trauma and brain damage. Brett and his wife Diana discussed how their use of social tools such as a blog, Facebook, and wearable devices allowed them to stay connected and develop an important support network of family and friends as Brett went through recovery and rehabilitation.
Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Cognitive Neuroscientist at UCSF closed the day with a session on brain science and gaming. Adam has set out to develop a new approach to examining and treating neural conditions. His strategy involves understanding how neural networks underly higher order behavior and where the vulnerabilities lie, taking advantage of neuroplasticity to impact how the brain functions, and enhancing the effects of beneficial treatments. The application of this strategy has led Adam to the development of video gaming solutions to neurological conditions. Based on his initial work on a driving game called Neuroracer, developed with the help of his friends working at LucasArts, Adam’s work in the Neuroscape Lab at UCSF is bridging technology and neuroscience with new games for clinical applications. While not on the commercial market, projects to look forward to from Adam and his team include Body-Brain Trainer, Rhythmicity, and Meditrain.
Stay tuned for more coverage of Exponential Medicine 2014. Tomorrow we get our first look at technologies in the Innovation Lab.