Category Archives: Emerging Medical Advances

I Want a Chemputer for Christmas

I’ve been reading about 3D printing.  It’s possible to manufacture stuff right on your desktop.  But I can’t get too excited about making my own paper clips.  To me that seems as silly as growing your own tomatoes.  The fact that 3D printing will someday gut the manufacturing sector of our nation is a topic for another time.  But think about that the next time you hear a politician say, “America must get back to what it does best – making things.”

Now I’ve learned of the “chemputer.”  It may be a next “big thing” in healthcare.  Put down the legos and never mind the paper clips.  With a chemputer you will be able to make your own pharmaceuticals.  No, not just meth or synthetic pot.  We’re talking real drugs. And combined with advances in genomics they could be specifically made for you and your unique biology.

The protagonist in this story is not some goofball sitting in his parent’s basement.  His name is Leroy Cronin.  He has a Ph.D. and is Gardner Professor of Chemistry, Head of Research, EPSRC Advanced Research Fellow, Royal Society/Wolfson Foundation Merit Award Holder, University of Glasgow (UK).  He is 39 years old, works with 45 research associates and believes that a good work day begins with a cup of coffee and a crazy idea.  Imagine having coffee with this fellow.  Now imagine what the world will be like when we can make our own drugs.

The Next Time I Smash Myself Up, I’ll Want This Medical Sensor

Fourteen years ago I went into a wall backwards in a Formula-style race car at over 100 mph.  I broke my back, broke my shoulder blade and bruised a lung.  Other than that, I was fine.

Something like that creates many memories but a rather unusual one is how scared I was when it was time to take the turtle shell off and, YIKES, stand up without it.  I was sure the rods and screws holding me together would result in my collapsing like a dynamited building.

That’s why I’m intrigued by a wireless sensor that is in the patent process by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  If it gets marketed, it will give surgeons better imaging of a patient’s condition after an operation than even x-rays and MRIs can produce.  This little sucker would be implanted into the surgical site by being fitted atop commonly used orthopedic musculoskeletal implants such as plates, prostheses or, in my case, stainless steel rods and screws.

Once in place the sensor would transmit data wirelessly to an external receptor device.  Surgeons who use it would gain streams of accurate measurements of the healing site’s strain, pressure, temperature, and other indicators.  This information would enable them to gauge more precisely whether a patient is healing properly.

As someone who systematically scans the horizon for innovation, I know this is one of thousands of medical products ready to burst out of the lab.  But this one has real meaning to me.  As I was recovering (successfully), I sure would have slept better if I could have known, in real time, if I was healing properly.  I hope that day is coming soon.

In the Future Your Portfolio May Be on Drugs

Some athletes take performance-enhancing drugs to be more successful.  I don’t do that.  I’m not an athlete and, even if I was, it’s illegal.  It’s also dangerous.

But what if I could take a drug that would enhance the chances of achieving a better return on my stocks? And it wasn’t illegal or dangerious.  Someday I may be able to.

A new field called “neurofinance” – which adds biology to the mix of economics and psychology – is working on it.  Claremont Graduate University is the first in the world to offer a Ph.D. specialization in neuroeconomics.  It’s called The Center for Neuroeconomic Studies.

Of course, much like a stock evaluation, half say buy and half say sell.  Brian Knutson, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Stanford, believes that neuroscientists may develop psychoactive drugs or neuroceuticals, that make people better, more profitable traders.  Zach Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights, believes such drugs may be just a few years away.  “The whole investment community will be scrambling to get these things,” Lynch says.

On the other hand, Alan Greenberg, the former chairman of the executive committee of Bear Sterns has said, “There’s smarts, there’s guts and there’s instincts.  The other stuff – behavioral, neuro, whatever they call it – is horseshit.”  (Note to self – Bear Sterns went belly-up in 2008).

For now, I don’t need Prozac.  Or Viagra.  But, looking at my portfolio, I sure could use some help in that area.