Welcome to Medgadget’s overview of this year’s Exponential Medicine (ExMed) conference by Singularity University (SU), which took place, for its fifth year in a row, in San Diego, CA at the Hotel Del Coronado last month. This year ExMed brought together innovators from nearly 40 countries to discuss the technologies and trends reinventing the future of health and medicine. For those of your who were not able to tune into the live stream, this conference report, broken up into two segments, will provide an overview of the conference talks and topics, including additional details from a few select sessions we were able to tune into.
As described by Jessica Damassa, host of the Insights Lounge, where attendees and speakers engaged in smaller, intimate conversations throughout the week, Day 1 at ExMed is designed to be a cursory overview of the exponential technologies impacting health and medicine that would be covered at the conference. Shawna Butler, Head of Partnerships and Outreach for ExMed, identified artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, robotics, and human performance as examples of the technologies converging within the texture of the event this year.
On the main stage, the conference began with a video which added neuroscience, nanotechnology, and energy to Shawna’s list of topic areas that would not only form the core of this year’s conversation, but also have the potential to change the way humanity lives, governs, and does business. Will Weisman, Executive Director of Conferences at SU, and Dr. Dan Kraft, Founding Executive Director and Chairman of ExMed, kicked off the event with a broad overview of the technologies this year’s speakers would be covering and what is exciting them about where we are today in healthcare. Will accurately encapsulated the optimistic, impassioned character of the ExMed event stating, “We think big. We’re thinking about moonshots… We have so much more power today to positively impact the world than we’ve ever had before.”
The next two sessions, both titled Intro to Exponentials, brought speakers to the ExMed stage to take a deeper dive into the topics highlighted during the introduction. For part one, Neil Jacobstein, Chair of AI and Robotics at SU, covered artificial intelligence. Dr. Catherine Mohr, VP of Strategy at Intuitive Surgical, spoke about robotics. Dr. John Mattison, CMIO of Kaiser Permanente, dove into blockchain. And A. Dara Dotz, Co-Founder of Field Ready, expounded on 3D printing.
Raymond McCauley, Chair at SU, began part two by discussing his SU faculty focus, digital biology. Raymond was followed by some new faces to the ExMed stage. Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, imparted her thoughts on longevity and human performance. Dr. John S. Brownstein, CIO of Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor of Harvard Medical School, engaged the audience on big data. John Werner, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Meta, followed with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), while Naveen Jain closed the session by speaking about exponential entrepreneurship, something Naveen knows well as founder of Moon Express, BlueDot, Viome, Intelius, Talent Wise, and InfoSpace.
— SingularityU (@singularityu) November 7, 2017
The final session of the opening half day, Empowered Patients, Collaborations, and Disparities, began with an opera performance by the impressive Charity Sunshine Tillemann-Dick. Despite going through not one, but two double lung transplants at the Cleveland Clinic after the original transplant ran into complication from rejection, Charity was still able to continue pursing a successful career as a renowned soprano opera singer.
Segueing from Charity’s patient perspective, Dr. Mohr returned to the stage with another patient, Dr. Larry Smarr, Director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and his surgeon, Dr. Sonia Ramamoorthy, Chief of Colon and Rectal Surgery at the Rebecca and John Moores Cancer Center. The trio shared a story which highlighted the important collision of ideas and opportunities that takes place at ExMed. One year ago at ExMed 2016, Dr. Smarr, a huge quantified self advocate, had confirmed that he needed a colon surgery due to inflammatory bowel disease, a condition he initially self identified after years of tracking blood measurements and stool samples. At that event, Dr. Mohr was presenting on the latest Da Vinci system, the leading technology for robotic, minimally-invasive surgical procedures. Dr. Marr engaged with Dr. Mohr and brought in Dr. Ramamoorthy who was slated to perform the surgery. As part of his quantified self exploration, Dr. Smarr had also been working on 3D as well as virtual reality simulations of his colon with help from Dr. Jurgen Schulze from UCSD. Dr. Ramamoorthy was able to leverage these advanced visualizations pre-operatively as inputs for the two cuts that would ultimately resect a piece of Dr. Smarr’s colon. The result was a milestone procedure marrying robotics and imaging innovation to directly impact a patient in the operating room.
A second trio including Dr. Lee Sanders, Chief of General Pediatrics at Stanford, Josh Lee, Principal at Deloitte Monitor, and Dr. Gloria Wilder, CEO of Core Health, followed to discuss both global and domestic Disparities & Determinants in healthcare.
Day 1 was closed by a motivational keynote from Michael Gleb, a pioneer of creative thinking and innovation leadership who has authored fourteen books including How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci: 7 Steps to Genius Every Day.
Following an evening of games designed to engender collaboration and innovation, as well as a late night gadget bar, attendees reconvened to kickoff Day 2 of ExMed with a session titled Omics to Action. The session highlighted how to understand and apply the explosion of genomics, proteomics, microbiomics, and metabalomics across the healthcare spectrum from health and optimization to disease detection. Presenters included Dr. Moira Gunn, Host of NPR’s Biotech Nation, Dr Larry Smarr, returning to speak more about his research, Dr. Rob Knight, Professor of Pediatrics and Computer Science & Engineering at UCSD, Dr. Iya Khalil, CCO and Co-founder of GNS Healthcare, and Helen Messier, CMO of Viome.
While Viome founder Naveen Jain touched on the company on Day 1, Helen provided a deeper dive. Viome’s mission is to empower people to live without chronic conditions. For Viome, working towards that vision begins by addressing the microbiome, a complex collection of microorganisms that many modern drugs and processed foods are now known to disrupt. Going a step beyond genomics, which focuses on DNA’s potential functions, Viome is in the business of transcriptomics, an evaluation of RNA’s active functions. Viome makes inexpensive, high throughput analysis of RNA transcripts available to consumers for the first time. Given the volume of data each individual generates, the company leverages artificial intelligence to answer important questions, like how an individual’s microbes are doing and what they are doing, based on this data.
Dr. Dan Kraft next took the stage to lead a session on Digital, Mobile, and Connected Health. Speakers included Jeroen Das, Executive Vice President of Philips, Dr. Amir Lerman from the Mayo Clinic, Yuval Mor, CEO of Beyond Verbal, and Jeffrey Brewer, CEO of Bigfoot Biomedical.
Dr. Lerman and Yuval spoke about their drive to standardize and normalize access to care around the world. Their message and technology focuses on how verbal communication is returning to the frontline of healthcare with recent advances in natural language processing. In addition to better connecting patients to clinical resources, verbal communication is also core to the clinical collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and Beyond Verbal, a 2015 MEDy award winner. Beyond Verbal’s technology uses the tone of the patient’s voice alone, without consideration for the content or meaning, to extract as many insights as possible for indications about emotion, wellbeing, and health. One compelling case study the duo shared looked at voice characteristics and coronary artery disease (CAD). They hypothesized that since atherosclerosis may involve anatomical components associated with voice production, it could therefore be identified solely by a patient’s voice. The result of the study found a 2.6-fold increase in the likelihood of CAD in patients with certain distinct voice features. A follow-up to the study also showed how changes in the voice signal could be identified post-intervention, suggesting the possibility of using voice analysis after angiography and intervention to identify the success of the intervention for CAD.
After a short break to recharge and explore the innovation lab, attendees returned to hear about AI and Intelligence Augmentation from Mark Michalski, Executive Director of the MGH & BWH Center for Clinical Data Science and Eyal Gura, Founder and Chairman of Zebra Medical Vision.
A familiar face from the healthcare innovation convention circuit, Bkul Patel, Associate Director of Digital Health for the FDA, along with Asif Dhar from Deloitte, spoke about their work envisioning a new regulatory paradigm. The two began this endeavor a year ago at ExMed 2016, another success story of the ExMed crucible, and have since continued the conversation culminating in a white paper that will be released soon: Reimagining Regulation: An Agile and Data-Driven Model for Digital Health. Bakul dove into the framework described in the white paper in more detail, a component of which includes benchmarking the excellence of the companies developing digital health technologies. This is characterized by five excellence principles: Patient Safety, Product Quality, Clinical Responsibility, Cybersecurity Responsibility, and Proactive Culture. The recently announced nine companies participating in the FDA’s Software Precertification Pilot Program, Apple, Pear Therapeutics, Samsung, FitBit, Phosphorus, Tidepool, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and Verily, will all provide valuable feedback into both these excellence principles and all aspects of an evolving framework for FDA digital health regulation. Before ending the session, Bakul was asked whether the process he shared would mean less regulatory scrutiny? His response was that the question should not be if regulation will end up requiring more or less scrutiny, but what the right amount of scrutiny should be.
Ahead of lunch and a series of breakout sessions, Dr. Ken Dychtwald, Founder and CEO of AgeWave, gave an afternoon keynote on how his company is transforming health, longevity, and medicine.
Breakout session topics ranged from integrating creative arts in healthcare to a case study on enhancing care management from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. The first round of the annual MEDy Startup Pitches also took place during the breakout sessions.
Back on the main stage, the afternoon sessions began with a series of technology demos starting with Dmitriy Starson, CEO of Passio, and his company’s food digitization platform. Passio’s technology allows a user to take a picture of food, send the picture to an API for real-time analysis, and receive immediate information about the food as well as clarifying questions, similar to how Yelp might ask you about a restaurant, that aid in building a comprehensive food and nutrition database. Robert Kaul, CEO of CloudDX and winner of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE Competition, was on next to show the wearable, continuous vital sign monitor component of their winning tricorder. Robert also showed a demo of an augmented reality product CloudDX has been working on with Microsoft and Sheridan College to create live 3D holographic displays of patients’ vital signs in a Microsoft HoloLens headset.
After some information from Carin Watson, Executive Vice President of Learning and Innovation at Singularity University, about how attendees could get more involved with programs from SU, Dr. Kraft began Session 11 by introducing Dr. Peter Diamandis, Founder of both XPRIZE and Singularity University. Dr. Diamandis shared his thoughts on the session topic, Regenerative Medicine & Human 2.0, before engaging in a discussion with Dr. Robert Hariri, Founder and CEO of Celularity.
The session continued with patient advocate Roman Reed, President of the Roman Reed Foundation. Roman shared his story as a star athlete who experienced a traumatic spinal injury leading to paralysis. His passion led to policy change first in the form of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act that provided funding to work towards a cure for paralysis. Roman went on to be the catalyst behind additional policies for better support of healthcare research both in California and other states. Inspiringly, he has now regained function in parts of his body he was told he would never use again as a result of the research funded by these policies. Roman followed his personal story by introducing one of the researchers funded by the laws Roman helped create, Dr. Hans Keirstead, a stem cell biologist and candidate for US Congress. Other presenters for the session included Dr. Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon at the Stone Clinic, David Ewing Duncan, Co-founder & CEO of Arc, and Jamie Metal, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and author of Genesis Code.
Reimagining Cancer was the topic of the next session featuring Dr. Stephen Hunt, an interventional radiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Mark Bonyhadi, Head of Research at Juno Therapeutics, Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, Founder of the End Well Project, and Dr. Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society (ACS). Dr. Wender highlighted 8 big opportunities his organization is focusing on today:
- Increase colorectal cancer screening rates to 80%
- Eliminate HPV-related cancers
- Ensure no one dies of cancer because they can’t get the care they need
- Equalize outcomes for all facing breast cancer
- Eliminate all combustible tobacco
- Reduce lung cancer age-adjusted mortality by 50%
- Ensure all cancer survivors can access recommended care
- Enable communities to fight cancer by addressing the true determinants of health
Dr. Wender ended his talk with the exciting announcement that the ACS will be the founding sponsor of the Global Cancer XPRIZE Competition in partnership with XPRIZE, Deloitte, and Singularity University. ACS’s commitment includes a short-term investment of $500,000 to fully form and launch the competition, as well as a $25 million commitment once the competition is launched. The current challenge of the competition is to “develop solutions to rapidly, accurately, and affordably screen for and detect early cancers where intervention can reduce human suffering.” Teams are motivated to strive for a solution that can screen patients in 24 hours for under $24.
Frank Fitzpatrick presaged a musical experience by the Brothers Koren with a discussion of the value of music to patient health. Frank spoke about how music has the capacity to humanize different aspects of human health and treatment, and qualified his opinion with examples of where music is already showing promise improving patient outcomes from cancer to Alzheimer’s. After Frank, Dr. Diamandis returned to the stage to close Day 2 of ExMed with a rallying cry to motivate attendees to take action, as Dr. Diamandis states, “…in a time when we can do anything.”
With that, Day 2 on ExMed’s main stage came to a close. A screening of the documentary film Unrest with Director Jennifer Brea took place ahead of the annual late night UnConference.
Stay tuned for part two of Medgadget’s report covering Days 3 and 4.
Link: Exponential Medicine…