Written by Terry Nicholas, MEDS Technology Correspondent, as retrieved 07/02/12
As part of the recently concluded 7th Annual Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance (WLSA) Convergence Summit, held in San Diego May 23-24, I attended a timely panel entitled “Eyes on the Prize: Incentivizing Innovation in Wireless Health”. For this the WLSA put together an all-star group of industry leaders who shared their unique vision for rapidly generating healthcare solutions and how they see these developments impacting healthcare and all of us. I’d like to share some of the key insights discussed. First, I’ve reposted the panel as it was listed in the WSLA conference agenda.
Moderator: Robert B. McCray – Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, WLSA.
- Dr. Peter H. Diamandis, MD – Chairman and CEO, X PRIZE Foundation
- Dr. Paul Jacobs, PhD – Chairman and CEO, Qualcomm Inc.
- Eugene ‘Rod’ Roddenberry – Founder and Director, The Roddenberry Foundation
- Dr. Henry Tirri – Executive Vice President and CTO of Nokia
With a panel featuring the son of Gene Roddenberry and discussion centering on Tricorders, this could easily have been mistaken for a Star Trek movie pitch session, but rather it indicated the state of the industry. As Rod stated, “I don’t think Star Trek is the product of the 23rd century, but rather the 21st century.” So, is wireless health boldly going where no man has gone before? It would be quite logical to assume so.
Do we really need more incentive? It’s no secret that the business of creating medical or CE devices is often driven by the desire for profit and/or contributing to the public good. Well, Qualcomm, Nokia and the X PRIZE Foundation want to exponentially accelerate the pace of development, and are doing so through incentivized global X PRIZE competitions. Their aim is to focus and inspire new and established healthcare R&D teams in ways that will transform the industry and society. The Qualcomm Foundation kicked it off earlier this January at CES by launching their $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder X PRIZE competition, and Nokia just followed that up by announcing the Foundation’s latest competition—the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing X Challenge.
So what does this mean? Qualcomm’s Tricorder X PRIZE sets out to inspire “a set of handheld mobile consumer devices that will utilize a whole range of technologies: lab-on-a-chip, digital imaging, cloud computing and AI,” stated Dr. Peter Diamandis. Bringing these together they aim to empower consumers to diagnose themselves better than even a board-certified doctor, “effectively putting healthcare in the palm of your hands.” Currently, there are over 185 teams from 25 countries registered with hopes of creating the first Tricorder capable of diagnosing 15 different disease states. Achieving this lofty goal will surely require game changing innovation and a wide range of advanced, yet-to-be-developed biosensors—and that is precisely the reasoning behind the launch of the Nokia Sensing X Challenge. The goal is to develop and bring together the most powerful biometric sensors available, which will ultimately become part of the various Tricorder devices.
When asked if a Tricorder was necessary, Dr. Paul Jacobs responded, “I think this will be an important device. If you look at the situation right now, healthcare around the globe is bankrupting the developed world and it is inaccessible or inadequate in the developing world.” He sees the Tricorder as a catalyst, both technologically and inspirationally, providing a vision of what is possible, bringing people together to do something incredible.
As for Nokia’s interest, Dr. Tirri emphasized how important healthcare is to both he and Nokia. Looking forward, he expects the competition to drive various chemical and physiological sensors, both embedded into the devices and perhaps even built into the surface of the device itself via nano-nodes. He also predicted we would see novel repurposing or “piggybacking” on top of current sensors to great success. He then cautioned, “Technology by itself doesn’t do too much. I mean if you don’t find the ways that people use it, it becomes just a gimmick.”
So what about form factor? Generally, all agreed that for the foreseeable future we can expect to see smartphone-like devices, supported by other integrated peripherals including wearables, and eventually embedded devices continuously interacting with our environment. As we move towards continuous interaction and monitoring, our daily activities will become the input of health data.
As for a roadmap of what is to come Dr. Diamandis projected, “The doctor in your pocket that will become the doctor on a chip, which will soon become the doctor embedded in your body.”
Can it really be done? Well, as Rod Roddenberry aptly said, “We’re a lot further ahead than many of us realize.” It just wouldn’t be logical to think otherwise.