Something big is being cooked up…

You realize that the world is changing when the prestigious MIT offers a course on “How to build a tricorder” (a portable, handheld, wireless device to monitor and diagnose your health anywhere, anytime), Google launches a new venture to help us live longer and the FDA lays out its long awaited regulations for mobile, medical apps. All in the same week.

The convergence of medical technology, consumer wellness devices and rapid prototyping technologies for medical devices represents an opportunity to reinvent delivery of health and wellness. Advances in fields such as wireless sensing, imaging diagnostics, lab-on-a-chip, and molecular biology are enabling a more convenient, affordable, and accessible healthcare.

In January 2012, the XPRIZE Foundation announced the Qualcomm Tricorder 10 billion dollar global competition to bring the Tricorder —Star Trek’s legendary piece of medical technology— to life. The mission is to stimulate innovation in personal healthcare and to create a wireless, handheld device capable of monitoring a patient’s vital signs and diagnosing 15 diseases ranging from sleep apnea to atrial fibrillation.

Hand_holding_new_tricorder_2

The contest closes in 2015. On Monday, September 23, the MIT announced a new course, “Engineering Health: How to Build a Tricorder“, inspired by the prize and starting this fall, that could help succeed to some of the teams that participate in the competition. In the program, Students will learn to fabricate, remix, and design detection and monitoring devices for health following the core focus of the Tricorder. Moreover, teams will have the opportunity to travel to Bangalore, India or Detroit, Michigan to test their devices in clinical settings.

MIT’s course it is not the only innovation initiative, relevant to global societal needs and challenges, that has been made public in the last few days. On Wednesday, September 18, Google Chief Executive Larry Page announced the launch of Calico, a venture that will focus on health and well-being. In particular, in tackling the challenge of extending human life and founding cures for aging related diseases.

google.cover.indd

Everyone would have described the idea as completely crazy if it weren´t Google. But what exactly will the company do? Google is keeping its plans secret but it is likely to use its data-processing to shed new light on age-related maladies. Sources close to the project suggested to TIME magazine that Calico will start with a small number of employees and focus initially on researching new technology. Thanks to its investment in 23andMe genetics company and having former Genentech CEO and biotech pioneer Arthur D. Levinson as Calico’s Head, Google already has access to a fast-growing genomic database but finding a cure for an intractable disease requires time, enormous amounts of human and financial capital, cooperation and research. This is what makes Google’s announcement exciting as well as mysterious.

How Calico could impact, even transform, healthcare only time will tell.

Meantime, yesterday, September 23, the U.S. FDA finally issued its final guidelines for developers of mobile medical devices. Not all smartphone and tablet apps for health, such as a program reminding patients about an appointment and fitness apps, will be regulated medical devices.

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 4.00.35 PM

The FDA will focus only in those apps used in diagnosis or care, apps that turn mobile phones and tablets into de facto medical devices. For example, an application that turns a smartphone into an electrocardiography machine to detect abnormal heart rhythms or determine if a patient is experiencing a heart attack.

The guidance takes effect on September 25. The FDA will also host a Twitter chat on Sept. 26 and set up an email account to answer developers’ questions.

Advertisements

Who has the flu today in the world?

Image

Launched in 2008 in the US by Google.org, Google Flu Trends is more powerful than ever. In case you are not familiar with this web service, Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to provide up-to-date estimates of influenza activity for more than 25 countries. The method was proven, as estimates based on Google search queries very closely match traditional flu activity indicators, such as the data provided by the US Centers for Disease Control. 

So who has the flu today in the the world? As you can see, the Southern Hemisphere is more affected than the Northern one – not so surprisingly, as it is winter there – with highest rates in Chile and South Africa. While the flu might not seem of high concern to developed countries anymore, thanks to vaccination and effective medication, the “swine flu” pandemic of 2009 proved us all wrong. It is also true that in the globalised world we live in, pandemics can now develop faster than ever, and this is where Google Flu Trends comes handy: according to an article by The New York Times, Google Flu Trends can predict regional outbreaks of the flu up to 10 days before they are reported by traditional flu surveillance. No need to mention that this makes the web service a powerful tool to identify disease activity early on and respond faster, so to reduce the impact of both seasonal and pandemic influenza.

Note that Google now also provides estimations for Dengue trends around the world.  

How will Google Glass change healthcare?

Google glasses are a perfect addition to the current “Quantified Self” trend. Lots of startups are working on new products in the healthcare sector, so there certainly are a lot of apps focussing on monitoring and improving wellbeing lined up for Google Glass as well. This became even more obvious when Google asked for ideas via the “If I Had Glass” campaign on their Google+ page, as a lot of the users who participated came up with health care solutions.

Reading food labels and tracking your diet and exercise are consumer-oriented use cases. But what about medical applications? EPGL Medical, a company producing medical hand-held-devices, recently announced that it will be working on ways to integrate their technologies into the Google device. “Physicians using our devices will be able to use technology such as Google Glass while performing procedures, using our devices and viewing feedback data in real-time”, explains their representative David T. Markus.

As Google embraces developers working on Glass applications, we definitely will see more medical companies jump on the bandwagon.

Read full article.​

Image