Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Innovation Democracy vs. the Design Elite

The NYTimes has a good article on user-developed innovations, like the ones on Instructables. It goes beyond just doing a field survey of the different project people are working tries to take a look to the future of tinkers and DIY.

Check it out here.

“Difficult questions are going unasked about who is participating in innovation and on what terms,” says James Wilsdon, director of the innovation program at Demos, a think tank in London.

In that scenario, needed innovations can be overlooked. For example, huge amounts of money are spent on improving Web search engines or MP3 players, while scant attention is given to alternative energy sources. Battling diseases like AIDS or Alzheimer’s — efforts that lobbying groups in wealthy countries help highlight — attract legions of well-financed innovators, while big global killers, like childhood diarrhea and sleeping sickness, are ignored.

Hat tip to Core77

Have Cell Phone, Will Operate

A team of surgeons doing a routine appendectomy in Argentina finished the operation using the glare from cell phone cameras. After a sudden power outage in the Villa Mercedes, the patient's family went around and collected all the cell phones they could find and shined the backlights into the operating area. These guys haven't heard about Freeplay. Still, thumbs up to the Macgyver skills of those Argentine physicians!

More at Reuters

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pharma's Entry into Ethnocentric Drugs Stumbles, or not?

Scientific American has a fabulous article on BiDil, a congestive heart failure drug aimed at African-American's. [I wonder if it works on people from Africa---they didn't mention that in the article].

The approval was widely declared to be a significant step toward a new era of personalized medicine, an era in which pharmaceuticals would be specifically designed to work with an individual’s particular genetic makeup. Known as pharmacogenomics, this approach to drug development promises to reduce the cost and increase the safety and efficacy of new therapies. BiDil was also hailed as a means to improve the health of African-Americans, a community woefully underserved by the U.S. medical establishment. Organizations such as the Association of Black Cardiologists and the Congressional Black Caucus strongly supported the drug’s approval.
The article goes on to cover other drugs such as AIDSVax, which worded its study to include Asian and Black Americans.

News Scan: Patients Sue to Get Into Clinical Trials

BusinessWeek is covering litigation being brought in front of the Supreme Court this year on behalf of patients who want to access pre-approval experimental drugs. The article covers the plight of a father who struggled to get his daughter into two distinct clinical trials (Erbitux and Iressa) and failed. She died at 21. In addition, it covers five examples:

ImClone's Erbitux—Lung cancer, Rejected in 2001, Approved in 2004

AstraZeneca's Iressa—Lung cancer, Approved in 2003, FDA stopped additional patients in 2005

Biogen Idec's Tysabri—MS, Approved in Dec 2004, pulled two months later, reintroduced in 2006 after patients lobbied FDA

Dendreon's Provenge—Prostate cancer (experimental vaccine), unapproved, FDA asked for additional trials this May

Genta's Genasese—melanoma and leukemia, FDA Rejection Letter, company appealing

The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs filed suit against the FDA in 2003 seeking expanded access to experimental drugs for terminally ill people. The nonprofit group was founded by Frank Burroughs in 2001 after his 21-year-old daughter and only child, Abigail, died of head and neck cancer. She had been turned down for clinical trials for ImClone Systems' (IMCL) Erbitux and AstraZeneca's (AZN) Iressa, both of which went on to win FDA approval. After a long legal battle, a three-judge panel from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the case could be heard in district court.

The FDA requested that the court's full, 10-judge panel consider the case, and its decision is widely expected this summer. Whichever side loses is sure to appeal to the Supreme Court. "This could be a landmark civil rights case," Burroughs says. That right, if the Abigail Alliance prevails, would let a terminally ill patient try any drug that has proven safe in early-stage human studies, even if there is no evidence of its efficacy.

More at BusinessWeek

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Neato Roundup

Monday, July 16, 2007

Next Generation PDA for the Blind

This thing sounds awesome. VoiceSense is a new type of PDA aimed at blind users that includes a pocketful of features including:
  • Voice navigation
  • MP3 player
  • MSN Messenger
  • FM Tuner
  • Daisy talking book player
Runs for 12 hours on a full charge and the button you see in the grey are a Perkins-style Braille keyboard. So the price is about the same as business laptop, $1,795, which puts it out of reach of many in developing countries. However, it definitely gives an underserved market much needed indepedence. Maybe they can trick out a version a la OLPC for less than $200.

More at Endgadget and Core77

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Medicine Mondiale

Medicine Mondiale is a New Zealand-based NGO dedicated to making quality medicines and medical technologies available to the poorest of the poor in developing countries. Rather than going down the familiar path of providing AID to countries in Africa and in other parts of the developing world, Medicine Mondiale is striving to create sustainable solutions. Some of the work that they are investing heavily in, includes (but is not limited to) cholera/diarrhoea treatment devices, affordable pediatric HIV/AIDS medication, cataract surgery for people who live in Nepal, and a pharma manufacturing plant in Eritrea.

We would like to applaud Ray Avery, inventor of the Acuset - an example of a device that is not very "sexy" but yet extremely useful in many healthcare settings. The Acuset is an IV dripset, but it has been designed to be re-usable, work with several different IV bags, is external, and provides the ability to easily monitor and control the flow from the pump. Mr. Avery is also the wizard behind humanitarian eye specialist Fred Hollows. One of my favorite Avery quotes "I see the world in terms of what $2 or $10 can do." Read more about Ray and Medicine Mondiale here

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Swarm Intelligence

National Geographic has an interesting article on swarm intelligence. We've covered previous attempts at open sourcing design and crowd sourcing. I remain a bit skeptical on the matter give that hard design is not like software. Nevertheless the article is superb.

"In biology, if you look at groups with large numbers, there are very few examples where you have a central agent," says Vijay Kumar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. "Everything is very distributed: They don't all talk to each other. They act on local information. And they're all anonymous. I don't care who moves the chair, as long as somebody moves the chair. To go from one robot to multiple robots, you need all three of those ideas."
More at National Geographic
Hat tip to Boing Boing

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sound like you're smart at the facultry BBQ with Seed's Science Cribsheets

An unruly encounter between Cliff Notes and a gifted graphic design team yields Seed Magazine's Cribsheets. Beautifully designed one-pagers that you can print out. Take along a wealth of condensed info on everything your cook out guests wanted to know about Avian Flu, String Theory, Hybrid Cars, and much more. Collect all. Someone should translate them into other languages!

More at Seed

Friday, July 6, 2007

Ponoko: Make your own furniture

I ran into this at the Core77 Blog.

You may be used to sending out your PowerPoint to Kinkos for printing, binding, and shipping. If you had furniture to design, you can now send it to Ponoko where you can
...take advantage of the online tool where designs are uploaded for a local Ponoko factory to churn out and send to you as an actual realization.

Great concept, even better blog

OLPC for fifty bucks in 2 years?

Engadget is reporting that the OLPC Foundation is focusing on a price of $50 once production ramps up for laptop. They are also considering WiMax connectivity, which would blend well with the wireless infrastructure of many of their target countries who have already sold WiMax licenses.