Maude Tessier, PhD, is assistant director of business development and strategic initiatives in the Technology and Innovation Development Office at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her role is to initiate, develop and realize alliances between Boston Children’s and industry partners. She tweets from @maude_tessier.)
I log on to the Web portal with excitement and set up my profile. I browse for potential matches, reading though all their interests to see if they match my own. I send out requests to meet face to face. I wait. Have I received favorable responses? Were my short email invite and profile enticing enough? Is my dance card getting full?
It’s not a dating website, but rather the prelude to a biotech business partnering conference. In my role as a leader of business development and marketing efforts at Boston Children’s Technology and Innovation Development Office, my objective is to quickly and effectively pitch our most promising work to industry contacts, in hopes of continuing conversations after the conference is over. Attending these conferences is a great way to “break the ice”—and it is key to my success in building relationships and developing partnerships and alliances with life sciences companies.
I liken it to speed and online dating combined. Full story »
A technology from a small research institute, originally developed as a safer way to make embryonic-like stem cells, just hooked a very large fish. As The New York Timesreported yesterday, pharma giant AstraZeneca is betting at least $240 million that this technology could be the source of a variety of new drugs—drugs that spur the body itself to make what it needs.
In 2010, the lab of Derrick Rossi at the Immune Disease Institute, which is now the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital, reported that they could reprogram ordinary cells into pluripotent stem cells by simply injecting them with messenger RNAs. The mRNAs reprogrammed the cells up to 100 percent more efficiently than other techniques, and did so without becoming part of the cell’s genome, greatly reducing concerns about cancer associated with other methods.
Key to the discovery were the chemical modifications made to the mRNAs so that cells wouldn’t “see” them as viruses and attack them. This video and this article describe the modified mRNA technique, also described in Cell Stem Cell:
I recently took my 6-year-old son to a Family Science Day, hosted by the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Boston. He was most excited by a model airplane made out of parts that had been generated with a 3D printer. The scientist, from MIT, explained to us how this technology works: Instead of generating 2D printouts by spraying ink onto paper, 3D printing technologies assemble 3D objects layer by layer from a digital model, generally using molten plastics or metals.
3D printing is quickly being adopted by many professions, from architects and jewelers who want to build mock-ups for clients, to manufacturers of products like bikes, cars or airplanes. Soon we might all have 3D printers in our homes: The kids could design and print their own toys, while the grownups might use the technology to generate replacement parts for minor home improvement jobs (our broken shower faucet knob comes to mind). Full story »
Yechiel Engelhard, MD, MBA, is founder and CEO of Gecko Health Innovations, a health care mobile technology company that recently unveiled the GeckoCap, a smart button for inhalers that allows families and doctors to monitor a child’s asthma.
Asthma affects nearly one in 10 children and is the cause of more than 700,000 emergency department visits and 14 million missed school days each year. A big concern is that children often don’t realize the importance of their asthma inhalers and don’t use them properly. That’s why we saw the need to make asthma easy to understand and inhalers fun for children to use.
The inhaler lets parents know when their child uses it or when medication is running low.
Our team came up with the concept of a “smart” cap that would fit onto an asthma inhaler and turn medication adherence into a game. The cap would send notifications to parents and give them a dashboard on their smartphone, showing them when inhalers are used improperly and helping them identify troublesome patterns. The cap would also generate reports for doctors, showing medication usage and helping them to educate parents about the correlation between medications, adherence and asthma triggers.
We moved forward to make this cap a reality, but quickly realized that like many start-ups we needed a strategic partner for the next development phase. Full story »
Just about any measurable molecule that changes with health and disease could be a biomarker. (David Guo's Master/Flickr)
Your doctor has a lot of tools to detect, diagnose and monitor disease: x-rays, MRIs, angiography, blood tests, biopsies…the list goes on.
What would be great would be the ability to test for disease in a way where there’s no or low pain (not invasive) and lots of gain (actionable data about the disease process itself, its progression and the success of treatment).
Vector has been deliberating about its predictions for 2013, consulting its many informants. Here’s where we’re putting our money this year; if you have other ideas, scroll to the bottom and let us know.
Genome sequencing scaling up at health care institutions
Last year we predicted genome sequencing’s entry into the clinic; this could be the year it goes viral. Technology companies with ever-faster sequencers and academic medical centers are teaming up at a brisk pace to offer genomic tests to patients. Just in the past two weeks, a deal was announced between The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and BGI-Shenzhen to sequence pediatric brain tumors; Partners HealthCare and Illumina Inc. announced a network of genomic testing laboratories; Full story »
A new spinoff business will make large-scale genomic diagnostics a reality in medical practice (Image: Rosendahl)
Genomic sequencing and molecular diagnostics are becoming a global business. At the recent American Society of Human Genetics meeting, dazzling technologies for reading genetic code were on display—promising faster, cheaper, sleeker.
Nevertheless, it’s become clear that the ability to determine someone’s DNA or RNA sequence doesn’t automatically translate into useful diagnostics or even actionable information. In fact, the findings are often confusing and hard to interpret, even by physicians.
That’s where academic-industry partnerships can flourish—tapping the deep expertise of medical research centers to bring clinical meaning to sequencing findings. Yesterday, Boston Children’s Hospital and Life Technologies Corp. announced a new venture with a great list of ingredients: fast, accurate, scalable sequencing technology—Life’s Ion Proton® Sequencer—but also research and clinical experience in rare and genetic diseases, bioinformatics expertise to handle the big data, and the medical and counseling expertise to create meaning from the results. Full story »
Inventions need a little extra incubating to make them attractive to health care.
Jenna Rose is director of Healthbox, a platform that brings together entrepreneurs, strategic partners, industry experts and investors to accelerate innovative healthcare solutions. She spoke recently at Boston Children’s Hospital at a forum sponsored by the Innovation Acceleration Program. She welcomes inquiries from entrepreneurs and others at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When we think about the future of health, it’s generally medical science that captures our imagination—the source of groundbreaking pharmaceuticals, medical devices and diagnostics. But what about the business of health care? With the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the widespread adoption of mobile technologies, there has never been a better time to be a health tech entrepreneur. One recent report suggests that the healthcare IT sector could receive more than $1B in venture capital in 2012.
But change won’t be easy. As they seek to disrupt this $2.7 trillion industry, health tech entrepreneurs face a unique set of challenges. Full story »
My first encounter with a children’s hospital was as a first grader in 1980, when my 5-year-old cousin was diagnosed with cancer. Although her family was challenged to afford her cancer treatments, St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis welcomed her and treated her cancer into remission. I remember my parents saying, “Everybody in that hospital loves children. No child is turned away.”
In 1997, walking into the Children’s Hospital of Alabama as a medical student, I felt the same sense of hope and courage. Everyone on the staff believed that they could make a difference in the lives of the children and families, despite the horrific illnesses that many of the children endured. I knew, immediately, that I wanted to become a pediatrician and to learn how to care for sick children. Full story »
It’s been more than a decade since the Human Genome Project cracked our genetic code. DNA sequencing is getting cheaper and cheaper. So why isn’t it being used every day in medicine?
The truth is that while we have the technology to blow apart a patient’s DNA and piece it back together, letter by letter, and compare it with normal “reference” DNA, doctors don’t really know what to do with this information. How much of it is really relevant or useful? Should they be giving it back to patients and their families, and how?
Handled badly, the information could do more harm than good. “We don’t want to scare patients for no reason, or for the wrong reason,” says Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, who chairs the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program.