IBM’s View: Personalized Healthcare 2010

Ok Baek, Theresa Gaffney, Kris Joshi, Dr. Barry Robson, David Rosen, Dr. Cathi Stahlbaum, Ruth Taylor, Pnina Vortman. Executive Brief: Personalized Healthcare 2010. IBM Business Consulting Services. Jan 2004.

"During the past decade, life sciences and information technology began to converge, resulting in significant and life-impacting research – the result with perhaps the highest impact to date being the sequencing of the human genome and its influence on how clinical researchers now investigate methods and molecules that could improve the human condition. Knowledge gained through human genome sequencing is driving recent achievements in genomic, proteomic, molecular biology and bioinformatics. As this decade progresses, next generation medical science technology and capabilities, enabled by increasingly "smarter" information technology, will change the discovery, development and delivery of new treatments even more dramatically. For example, bio-pharmaceutical research will continue to shift from a small, molecule-centered approach to one of stronger biomedical emphasis. This shift will focus on moving from the molecular actions of small molecule compounds toward delivering biologic-based diagnostics and therapeutics. Thus, healthcare will become increasingly personalized as these biologic-based diagnostics and treatments become standard practice."

Read the whole brief (pdf).


$1000 genome grants

"The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is now soliciting proposals for funding to work toward the much-vaunted $1000 genome. Earlier this month (February 12), the NIH published a request for applications (RFA) for grants to develop low-cost genome-sequencing technologies [see my post here].  Sequencing an entire mammalian-sized genome currently costs between $10 million and $50 million, but NIH hopes that this number can be reduced by four orders of magnitude over the next 10 years, with the ultimate goal being a $1000 genome."

"…While the NIH grants are substantial, [Washington University geneticist Elaine] Mardis questions how helpful they will be, considering the enormous expense involved in technology development. “Wouldn’t it be better [for companies] to go out and get venture capital funding?” she said. “Isn’t there already a commercial incentive here, if they have the technology?” Instead, she sees the NIH funding as a catalyst: “The real intent [of these grants] is to drive the work on this type of project.”

Maria Anderson, NIH offers $1000 genome grant. The Scientist. Feb 23 2004.


Personal Digital Doctor

"Ideally, a patient with an incurable, life-threatening disease such as diabetes would take critical medical measurements at home each day, and immediately get advice from his or her doctor. While that remains impractical, new hope is on the horizon for digital monitoring systems that will help to fill this yawning gap—and to provide clues to each patient’s treatment that no doctor could ever gather manually. This summer, Joslin will partner with Boston startup InterMed Advisors on a trial of one such alternative—a soup-to-nuts home monitoring system for diabetes patients. The InterMed project will combine patient education, daily in-home monitoring of blood glucose levels, and advanced analysis of the wealth of resulting data. It will also alert clinical staff as needed, and provide patients with daily, individualized feedback."

Eric Bender, Your Daily Digital Doctor, Technology Review, Feb 20 2004.


"Barcodes of Life…Championed by Professor Paul Hebert at the University of Guelph in Canada, Mark Stoeckle at Rockefeller University, and others, this approach would identify short strands of DNA which uniquely identify a specific species, much like UPC codes on consumer products. Importantly, it would take human judgement completely out of the picture - these researchers envision a system where a field biologist could pick a leaf, clip a tuft of fur, or otherwise collect a small DNA sample from a single organism, put it into an Internet-enabled gene sequencer wirelessly connected to a "Google for Lifeforms", and identify the organism instantaneously." (Thanks to Andrew Zolli over at Z + Partners)

Consumer health info in less than an hour

“I look forward to such an organization of the literary records of medicine that a puzzled worker in any part of the civilized world shall in an hour be able to gain the knowledge pertaining to a subject of the experience of every other man in the world.” —George Gould, first president of the Association of Medical Librarians (now the Medical Library Association), May 1898.

The Medical Library Association has developed two websites for health consumers looking for quality health information on the web.  See here and here.

Medical Future

"Richard A. Young imagines a health-care system in which, shortly after a baby is born, doctors take a tiny piece of tissue and test its genes to predict the baby’s future.  "We could explain to you the probability that you’ll have breast cancer in your 40s…or that you’ll have heart disease in your 50s, and–here’s the good part–that before you get there, we can develop therapies to prevent that." "

Carlene Hempel, Scientist hopes to see medical future — and improve it. Boston Globe, Feb 17 2004.

Medical Tourism

"Many people from the developed world come to India for the rejuvenation promised by yoga and ayurvedic massage, but few consider it a destination for hip replacements or brain surgery.  Yet that’s exactly what the government in the Indian state of Maharashtra hopes will happen soon."

Ben Wright, Maharashtra woos medical tourists, BBC Feb 10 2004.

Abandonware in Bioinformatics

‘In the field of bioinformatics, this process, which results in programs known as abandonware, has a debilitating impact. Postdocs and graduate students write code, release it into cyberspace under an open-source license, and then move on to the next innovation. Meanwhile, new grad students and postdocs don’t want to work on a project that already has a solution, even if that solution has nobody fixing bugs and providing service. The discipline cherishes innovation and creativity, not sound technical support…Moreover, no private company wants to offer a commercial version of a free program floating around…The problem stems from biology’s dependence on the free flow of information and the sharing of lab equipment, reagents, and protocols. The very concept of creating a proprietary program whose source code is kept secret and which is sold for profits is anathema to the entire academic biocomputing community…Don Gilbert, a bioinformatist at the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Indiana, Bloomington…says that biology’s addiction to no-cost software is killing the industry, because it squelches the ability of small startups to launch new bioinformatics projects.  Another reason for all the abandonware has to do with the very nature of bioinformatics: It’s geared towards solving specific problems rather than providing a permanent solution to general problems. "Solving a computational challenge is a career, servicing a preexisting program is just an engineering task," Gilbert says.’

Sam Jaffe, Scientists Abandon their Software: Good biology programs abound in universities, but academia offers little incentive to keep them current. The Scientist, Feb 16 2004. (free registration required) Thanks to Snowdeal for the pointer.

Profile: U.S. Genomics


Zachary Zimmerman, an analyst with Life Sciences Insights, pegs the genome sequencing market at about $800 million annually, with Applied Biosystems owning at least 80 percent of it. Zimmerman says startups like U.S. Genomics must still prove their technology, but he expects pharmaceuticals to swoon once they believe high-speed sequencing works.

By the way, Life Sciences Insights is a research and advisory practice launched this month by IDC.


The PolyPill

"The case for the polypill is straightforward as presented by Nicholas Wald, head of the Department of Environmental and Preventive Medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, and his associate Malcolm Law in a recent article in the British Medical Journal.  Heart attacks and strokes kill 2.5 million people in the United States and Western Europe every year, and they diminish the quality of life for many more who survive them. Reduce those numbers, and you can both extend and improve many people’s lives. Based on an analysis of 750 clinical trials and cohort studies involving 400,000 patients, the authors reckon that a combination of six drugs would do it.

Dr. Wald and Dr. Law’s polypill’s ingredients are all well known and available generically: aspirin, folic acid, a cholesterol-lowering statin, and three blood pressure drugs at half doses…If everyone started to take it at the age of 55, says Dr. Wald, the polypill would “have a greater impact on the prevention of disease in the Western world than any other single intervention."

Jeff Miller, A Preventive Cocktail: Take one a week and call back when you’re 90. Acumen Journal of Life Sciences, Jan-Feb 2004. (full text for subscribers only).  Be sure to check out the rapid responses and letters regarding Wald’s original article in the BMJ.

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