Category Archives: Life Sciences

Bionics: Beyond the “Six Million Dollar Man”

A Brazilian paraplegic made the first kick during the opening of the World Cup, assisted by a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton

Steve Austin’s bionic-powered character captured the imagination of television audiences throughout the 70s. The promise of better…stronger…faster…is here, even if the results look a little different and aren’t accompanied by sound effects.

Today’s bionics are focused on augmentation and assistance—less superpower and more support. Read more »

Blood Test Could Provide Rapid, Accurate Method of Detecting Solid Cancers, Study Finds

From Stanford School of Medicine News
BY Krista Conger

description of photo

Maximilian Diehn shares senior authorship of a paper describing a technique that is sensitive enough to detect just one molecule of tumor DNA in a sea of 10,000 healthy DNA molecules in the blood. Photo by: Norbert von der Groeben

A blood sample could one day be enough to diagnose many types of solid cancers, or to monitor the amount of cancer in a patient’s body and responses to treatment. Previous versions of the approach, which relies on monitoring levels of tumor DNA circulating in the blood, have required cumbersome and time-consuming steps to customize it to each patient or have not been sufficiently sensitive.

Now, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a way to quickly bring the technique to the clinic. Their approach, which should be broadly applicable to many types of cancers, is highly sensitive and specific. With it they were able to accurately identify about 50 percent of people in the study with stage-1 lung cancer and all patients whose cancers were more advanced.

Read more »

Class Action Law Suit Filed Against 23andMe

Be its product (Personal Genome Services “PGS”) an information service, or a healthcare device; be the FDA’s regulatory jurisdiction crystal clear or murky debatable, 23andMe has been short of responsible by not communicating with the agency for 6 months.

From Forbes

By Dan Munro

That didn’t take long. Quite literally about 5 days from the date of the FDA’s warning letter to 23andMe (11/22 – here) and the filing of a class action law suit in the Southern District Court of California (11/27 – here).

While the merits of the legal case are best suited for legal interpretation and debate, the damage to the marketing of general purpose Personal Genome Services (by 23andMe or any other company) could be significant. As stated in the filing:

“NATURE OF THE ACTION”

1. This proposed class action alleges that 23andMe, Inc. (“Defendant”) falsely and misleadingly advertises their Saliva Collection Kit/Personal Genome Service (“PGS”) as providing “health reports on 240+ conditions and traits”, “drug response”, “carrier status”, among other things, when there is no analytical or clinical validation for the PGS for its advertised uses.

2. In addition, Defendant uses the information it collects from the DNA tests consumers pay to take to generate databases and statistical information that it then markets to other sources and the scientific community in general, even though the test results are meaningless. Read more »

Beyond Technology: The Role of Innovation in Global Health

From Nextrends by Emina Reissinger

Technological innovation has always been a driving force behind better healthcare. Yet despite an explosion in digital and consumer health solutions, when it comes to global health real innovation needs to happen at the edge and trickle inwards and upwards rather than from the top down.

In a nutshell: technology, healthcare, and the quality of life

In OECD countries, 20th century medical advances and technological innovations have dramatically improved life expectancy and quality of life. Examples of widespread infectious disease or death at childbirth are virtually unheard of here in the United States. Many early innovations, such as the use of antibiotics, are already being applied in global health. Yet a lack of funds and infrastructure prohibits the level of access to basic healthcare required to eradicate or reduce certain health problems around the world.

In Rwanda, a staggering 63 percent of deaths in 2010 were caused by communicable, maternal, perinatal, or nutritional conditions. In comparison, only six percent of deaths in the US were attributed to these often easily preventable conditions. In Switzerland, the number was four percent.

Health 2.0 illustration

Image courtesy of California Health Information Technology

Now that we have entered an age of data-driven digital health, technology is quickly lowering barriers to entry for consumer health solutions. Citizens of countries like the US can manage diabetes in the cloud, track heart rate with a wearable sensor, or even perform an EKG using a smartphone app. Sequencing a human genome, which takes just a couple of days and offers incredible insight into disease prevention and targeted therapies, costs less than $5,000. And 23andme’s DIY DNA kit is just $99. We have mind-controlled artificial limbs, after all, and are on the cusp of 3D printing human organs.

But with so much technological enthusiasm focused on digital and consumer healthcare solutions and tech-enabled medical breakthroughs, especially here in the Silicon Valley, the question is can these solutions be translated or even transported to global health?

What Will It Take To Fully Understand The Brain? Scientists Debate @ Swissnex


Swissnex San Francisco recently hosted a discussion between top scientists from the University of Geneva and Stanford on how neuroscience is changing the understanding of the mind and cognition, and the impact in other fields. The debate is part of an ongoing World Economic Forum series exploring the link between neuroscience, economics and policy.

Like every other science, neuroscience has its fashions. Two enormous theoretical projects have just been introduced–the EU’s Human Brain Project aiming to “simulate a complete human brain in a supercomputer” and the NIH’s $3B Brain Activity Map. Read more »

Webinar – How Equity Crowdfunding Can Help Life Science Companies

The past five years have been one of the more challenging periods for raising capital in the biotechnology industry, especially for early-stage companies. Numerous factors, including a challenging FDA environment upon NDA submission, long timelines to approval and the high rate of drug failure, have contributed to a dim venture capitalist view of the sector’s prospects. As a result, emerging growth biotechnology companies are increasingly pursuing alternative financing vehicles, including Equity Crowdfunding, to advance their drug development programs. Read more »

California’s Unprecedented Role in New Treatments

From BayBio

Life sciences companies in California developed nine of the 39 novel medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012, according to the annual California Biomedical Industry Report, published today by BayBio, California Healthcare Institute (CHI) and PwC US. The pace of product approvals and pipeline productivity of California-based biomedical companies reinforces the state’s position as the nation’s leading source of biomedical innovation. Read more »

Health Innovation Challenge Winners: Simplicity Carries The Day

Technology doesn’t have to be complicated.  That’s the message from Health Innovation Challenge winners profiled at the recent Health 2.0 conference.

Winners included IN-R-FOOD, an iPhone/Android app that allows users to scan barcodes on foods to see their nutritional value, and Sqord, an incentive-based game sparking kids’ exercise using wrist-worn accelerometers. Read more »

Two American Scientists Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

New York Times

By

Two Americans shared this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for deciphering the communication system that the human body uses to sense the outside world and send messages to cells — for example, speeding the heart when danger approaches. The understanding is aiding the development of new drugs.

The winners, Dr. Robert J. Lefkowitz, 69, a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, and Dr. Brian K. Kobilka, 57, a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, will split eight million Swedish kronor, or about $1.2 million. Read more »

Gurdon and Yamanaka Share Nobel Prize for Stem Cell Work

BBC News

By James Gallagher, Health and science reporter

 

Two pioneers of stem cell research have shared the Nobel prize for medicine or physiology.

John Gurdon from the UK and Shinya Yamanaka from Japan were awarded the prize for changing adult cells into stem cells, which can become any other type of cell in the body. Read more »

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