‘Get disruptive’ urge speakers at Singularity University’s FutureMed series

(Above image courtesy Singularity University. Original here)

By Lauren Wagner, Telefonica Ventures

Innovation was in the air at Singularity University’s FutureMed series (4-9 Feb 2013), which explored disruptive, fast-moving and convergent technologies that will revolutionize medicine and healthcare within the next decade.

I was a judge for the startup pitch competition, sitting on a panel expertly moderated by acclaimed tech entrepreneur, academic and writer Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa), and co-panellists the calibre of health tech angel investors Anne DeGheest and Esther Dyson.

Highlights? What stood out for me were mobile patient engagement platform Healthcrowd  (also the competition winner) and VidaPost, a communications tool for caregivers and providers). Winners from earlier sessions included Modern Meadow, a tissue engineering company that creates synthetic meat and leather, and Vecoy Nanomedicines, a ground-breaking technology for the treatment of viral infections. Inspiring stuff.

TED speakers filled the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, along with entrepreneurs, investors, and leading thinkers in healthcare. For a system traditionally described as “broken,” the application of new technology towards patient care is poised to deliver real returns in terms of improved outcomes, empowered patients and decreased costs. Entrepreneurs brought their expertise and products with them to prove it, and the range of knowledge and solutions was impressive.

Breakthrough developments anyone? We saw demos spanning organ/tissue regeneration, point-of-care, lab-on-a-chip diagnostics, large scale informatics, synthetic biology and new gene based therapies.

Sixty world class faculty and guest speakers, including Vinod Khosla (@vkhosla) and Ray Kurzweil (@raykurzweil2035), facilitated new relationships, business concepts and collaborations that can transform practice or companies.

The 6-day series culminated with a pitch competition and closing ceremony at California’s Computer History Museum. Attendees measured their brain waves, sampled Scanadu’s medical tricorder (see image below), and were taken through the integration of genetic data into standard clinical practice through big data.

The evening closed with a sample of what’s in store for the future. One example stood out in particular – paralyzed patients will be able to control robots with their thoughts, providing mobility and range of movement where it had been lost. A video of the experiments showed a heart attack victim using her thoughts to move a robotic arm and lift a cinnamon latte to her lips. This was the first time the woman had been able to “move” since her episode – now that’s something I will not forget for some time.

Singularity University is a research institute, startup accelerator, and “agent of change” that hosts graduate studies programs, an executive education program, and the FutureMed series. Corporate sponsors include Genentech, Google, Nokia, Cisco, Autodesk, the Kauffman Foundation, and ePlanet Capital.