Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Economist Speaks on Consumer Created Health

It looks like the argument that consumer created health is "Unsafe" isn't holding water with patients, or less stodgy doctors. Indeed, according to the Economist, mistakes posted online are typically corrected within two hours as a result of the number of people reviewing them. Loyal readers will recognize this principle as Linus' Law named after the man behind the Linux open source movement. The economist also notes that patients today frequently know more about their conditions than their doctor. I would argue that this evidence is quite damning for medical schools, such as Stanford, that STILL teach young med students that fully informing their patients of risks and alternatives is unnecessary and a waste of their time. Indeed, one has to wonder how long before consumer created health care brings the unsoundness of many clinical practices into full public consciousness. The Economist article can be found here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three Great Blogs on Consumer Health

Here are three great places to go if you want to hear the future of patient-empowerment. Clearly, accountability for the AMA, pharmaceutical companies, and individual Dr.'s is on its way. With the rise of Google Health and MS Health Vault, it is clear that consumers will finally begin to get the info that they need to demand accountability. The question in my mind is what the backlash will look like once Americans come to see just how corrupt our current medical system actually is. Much of the abuse that hospitals and Dr.'s commit will not stand up to the coming public scrutiny. I think that many currently smug and elitist Dr.s and insiders are about to feel very uncomfortable with the public outrage coming their way.




Saturday, March 15, 2008

Great number quantifying Big Pharm's problems

This article from the Chicago Tribune has lots of good stats for the revenue issues facing Big Pharma as a result of patent expirations. One has to wonder why Big Pharma is slow to embrace Systems and Information Theory, given all the incentive to come up with something new in order to increase top line.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great reference for the future of Nanotech

Wow, I've sure been a bum! Actually, I've been busy as heck networking and researching. I met a great guy over at SRI in Menlo Park who is deeply interested in molecular manufacturing. He even got to paper-signing stage for a strat-up, but the VC backed out at the last minute. His point echoes the newsletter author in my last post. Apparently, the VCs were circling around looking for their next kill after the tech bust. Most of them jumped on the Web 2.0 bandwagon and left nanotech. My contact told me that most of the VCs he met had no basis for evaluating technology whatsoever. He said the few very notable exceptions recognized the investment in basic research that remained. My two cents worth: Because there is so much money on Sand Hill Rd, the smart and established money with institutional clients will move into nanotech where the entrepreneurs are eager and the competition is scarce. Why not move out to a five year time horizon given the potential of the innovations and the fact that institutions would have to re-invest the money anyways.

For a great and comprehensive view of the coming Nano-revolution: check out this comprehensive Road Map over at the Foresight Institute.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I got this newsletter today, and thought I would pass it along. More confirmation that everything nano is coming. The obvious question is when will it arrive. This author says be patient. I think things will move faster than anyone realizes.

What's Bugging Nano?
By Yiannis G. Mostrous and GS Early

A couple weeks ago in my investment letter The Real Nanotech Investor, my colleague--nanotech scientist and consultant Tim Harper--reflected on a keynote address he gave at a nanotech conference six years ago. He was at the same conference this year and realized that the reason there’s consternation in the nanotech sector right now isn’t that the companies aren’t doing the work; it’s that the venture capitalists (VC) are using an outmoded method for funding, promoting and developing nanotechs.

The model came from working with the dot-coms, and the VCs are using the methodology with nanotech. The problem is nanotech doesn’t fit as neatly into that paradigm, much to the current chagrin of the overzealous VCs.

I’ve been mulling over that concept and Tim’s view that nanotech takes about seven to 10 years to get out of the lab and into a product phase. That doesn’t mean we have another decade to wait for companies to start making money from their research; that’s already begun.

We’re at about the point of inflection where many technologies are taking wing in the marketplace. The problems the VCs face is that these technologies don’t always “plug in” like dot-coms did.

Then, last week, my product manager Josh asked me about Tim’s article and about nanotech in computers. It was then that this edition of Nanotech Investing News was born. Well, that and the following news story.

It was this confluence of stories and ideas that clarified the point Tim was making, the question Josh wanted answered and the reality of nanotech in 2008.

Unlike the familiar dot-com tech run, more often than not, nanotech has to build a medium or industry as well as a product to inhabit the medium, as is the case with a recent story regarding one of my favorite big nano companies, Toshiba. There isn’t a nanotech Internet to hook apps into; there isn’t an equivalent major spending boom for fiber-optic networks and a wide, open telecom environment. There’s just the unsexy scientific and strategic work of innovating and adapting technologies for existing and future markets.

For example, there’s been great theoretical promise for carbon nanotubes in developing smaller, faster silicon processors. As the lithography on semiconductors gets more intricate, copper becomes a less-efficient conductor and will soon reach its limits of advantage.

Nanotubes, organic conductors and other next generation options have been less than ideal because, as mentioned earlier, you have to move away from the complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) computing world that now occupies the planet. That means you have to start building niche equipment for niche applications until the world decides all the CMOS stuff we’ve accumulated is passé, and it’s time to go quantum, nano or organic.

Since that day is a long way into the future, the other option is to find a way to make nano go old school, and plug it into CMOS technology. Sure, it’s kind of unexciting evolutionary instead of revolutionary stuff, but that’s the way the world works for the most part. And after building this cutting-edge carbon nanotube and placing it in a CMOS chip, what kind of speed do we get from this new performer? One gigahertz. Yep, one.

But don’t get too upset; this is actually very good news. This is a proof of concept: You can use nanotubes where you once used copper wires. This is a big deal. Now Stanford University and Toshiba researchers will have to expand their efforts and juice these processors up and see what they can do with more nanotube wires, purer nanotubes, etc.

So now we’re here in the nanotech era, and yet we’re looking at years of research and development (R&D) before we likely see nanotubes running in CMOS equipment.

On the other side of the coin, there’s a story today about the work Nokia Oy and the University of Cambridge are doing on the next generation of mobile phones using nanotechnologies. There’s even a Morph exhibit at the New York City Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

I see both stories as linked because it’s human nature, especially for investors, to look for the next hot thing. And these two stories link the hope to the reality.

The fact is nanotech is already beginning to change the way we build, fly, ski, ride and dress. Soon our medicines, computers and most of our daily lives will be influenced by various nanotechnologies. But that time isn’t here yet.

It’s coming, but it’s not going to slam down like the dot-com revolution; it’s going to be a tidal shift that happens over time. And although the results will be dramatic, they won’t necessarily be perceptible on a quarterly basis.

Investors should certainly get involved—but responsibly and patiently.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wow, things are moving!

I've been following the advice of a wise man lately, "Seek first to understand before you seek to be understood." As such, I've met a bunch of smart people and dove into a bunch of research. I'm terribly behind in all my reading, but eager to keep plowing through it. Also, I'm behind in creating my first discussion tools. I guess I better start burning some midnight oil!

First, any serious student of the changes going on in Life Sciences should read "Information Theory and Evolution" by John Avery. This man has great perspective. Second, I found some great work from the annals of the history of IT management. My thesis is that we can understand and predict the disruption to traditional Life Sciences organizations by understanding the history of the disruption caused by Object Oriented programming.

Alan Kay, the godfather of OO technology (and also its greatest critic) was a mathematician and molecular biologist:

  • "I thought of objects being like biological cells and/or individual computers on a network, only able to communicate with messages..."

  • "In computer terms, Smalltalk is a recursion on the notion of computer itself. Instead of dividing "computer stuff" into things each less strong than the whole--like data structures, procedures, and functions which are the usual paraphernalia of programming languages--each Smalltalk object is a recursion on the entire possibilities of the computer. Thus its semantics are a bit like having thousands and thousands of computer all hooked together by a very fast network."

  • "Object-oriented design is a successful attempt to qualitatively improve the efficiency of modeling the ever more complex dynamic systems and user relationships made possible by the silicon explosion."

  • "I invented the term Object-Oriented, and I can tell you I did not have C++ in mind."

Check out this article on the Lessons learned from an early, large OO development effort at IBM. The team size was about 150, a number thrown around as a common size for teams working on commercial Life Sciences research projects. On the one hand, some of the lessons learned provide insight into why mother nature manages her IT projects the way that she does to eliminate complexity. On the other hand, other lessons apply to the management issues that a Life Sciences CEO might face in managing an early, large scale Systems-based project.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Too Cool Example of Biology Advancing Altenergy

Moth eyes may hold key to more efficient solar cells from PhysOrg.com

One of the difficulties with solar power is that solar cells are notoriously inefficient. Some of that inefficiency, says Peng Jiang, is due to the fact that silicon is reflective. Jiang, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, tells PhysOrg.com that there are “disadvantages to the anti-reflective coating currently used in solar cells.”

Think of the disruptive power of these efficient, yet cheap to produce solar cells. It's like printing money. In remote locations or the developing world, technology like this could have its greatest impact. Half of all hospital beds today are occupied with a patient that contracted a water-borne illness. Imagine the improvement in world health if water could be boiled and sterilized with energy from this technology.

Future preview of upcoming attractions at the NBB: I just got a great book by John Avery called "Information Theory and Evolution". Also, I've got some great articles from the Santa Fe Institute that can inform our understanding of ADD. I hope to get a post together over the weekend.

Check out this movie of an electron filmed by researchers in Sweden. Does that look a Torus?