As the coronavirus continues to hold us in its grip, our nation is required to social distance and children are expected to go back to school virtually, the Internet, more than ever, has become our bridge to the outside world. It is an economic lifeline to workers who are fortunate enough to do their jobs from home. It connects us to the news of the world. It helps sick patients hoping to chat with a doctor via a video appointment. It provides entertainment and critical education to our young people. But the harsh reality is that broadband isn’t available to everyone. According to the Federal Communications Commission, high-speed internet is unavailable to roughly 25 million Americans and more than 19 million of those Americans live in rural communities. Nearly one in five Americans only have access to the internet through smart phones. Although these numbers have improved in recent years, the gaps remain prevalent, despite the fact that internet service has become as critical as a phone or electricity in our homes.
This inability to build digital infrastructure has intensified the divide between urban and rural areas. This divide has become especially evident as 44 million students across the country have been affected by school closings due to the pandemic. Schools have asked families to switch their children to online learning, but, because of a lack of broadband accessibility, millions of children are being left behind. 18 percent of children in remote rural areas have no home broadband and according to the Pew Research Center, nearly one in five students between kindergarten and 12th grade do not have computers. This aspect of the digital divide is referred to as the “homework gap” and is an academic encumbrance for young people who lack access to digital technologies at home. Black teens, as well as those from lower-income households, are especially likely to face these school-related problems as a result.
Who will fix these problems? How fast? When? We are so very fortunate to have one of the world’s foremost experts on the challenges, scope, costs and intricacies of making broadband available to everyone with us today. Our guest on this episode, David McCourt is a “telecom revolutionary” according to The Economist, and his company, Granahan McCourt, is the largest independently owned designer and builder of telecom Public Private Partnerships in Europe and one of the most prominent investors in telecommunications globally. David has recently forged the largest Public Private Partnership in Europe to provide full-fiber to every home, farm and business in Ireland.
There are many incredible people working every day that share a passion for bringing innovative healthcare solutions to large populations of people. A new area of focus in the effort to do so is called Inclusion Health. Inclusion Health is a developing approach that aims to target extreme health and social inequities. Inclusion health focuses on target populations have common adverse life experiences and risk factors such as poverty, homelessness, imprisonment, drug addiction and childhood trauma that ultimately lead to social isolation. Subsequently, these populations have extremely poor health, multiple illnesses, and are likely to experience premature death. Likely, these people also face numerous barriers to actually accessing health services that they need.
Many times the people that become socially isolated are suffering from something called tri-morbidity: physical sickness, mental illness and addiction.
The Inclusion Health movement aims to highlight these issues and the magnitude and consequences of extreme health inequity in our society, the need for preventive and early intervention approaches, and find ways to improve access to essential health services for individuals harmed by social exclusion.
We are very fortunate to be joined on this episode by an individual that has dedicated his career to helping people that are suffering from social exclusion and all of the health issues that come with that. Stuart Fisk is a passionate and devoted healthcare provider that works to eliminate healthcare inequality.
Stuart Fisk is the Director of the Center for Inclusion Health of Allegheny Health Network and a nurse practitioner with the Positive Health Clinic at Allegheny General Hospital.
Fisk has been involved in HIV activism, research, nursing, and prevention since 1988, and has provided hospice, nursing and medical care for persons living with HIV disease since 1992. He has dedicated his career to helping socially and economically marginalized people and is often asked if his work can be disheartening. He says, that the work isn’t sad, the broken system aimed at serving people in need is disheartening.
After finishing nursing school, Stuart Fisk then worked as a hospice nurse in San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin district where single-room occupancy hotels served as housing for members of marginalized populations, many with HIV/AIDS who were not getting care. He credits those people for really teaching him not only how to be a nurse but more importantly how to be a human being. That dedication to people fuels his work to this day. Fisk moved to Pittsburgh, PA in 1996 and started to work with the then West Penn Allegheny Health System which is now the Allegheny Health Network. He started an HIV program in 1998.
The idea for the Center for Inclusion Health, formed in 2014, came from his desire to identify populations within the system facing significant barriers to care and change things throughout the system to better serve them.
In 2016, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum wrote that “like the revolutions that preceded it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution has the potential to raise global income levels and improve the quality of life for populations around the world.”
He continued: “In the future, technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. Transportation and communication costs will drop, logistics and global supply chains will become more effective, and the cost of trade will diminish, all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth.”
And so the term Fourth Revolution was coined as a way of describing a future based on the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. It’s a combination of developments in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, digital platforms and other technologies. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about more than just innovation-focused change. It is also an opportunity create an inclusive, human-focused future. According to Schwab, “the changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic is certainly putting this theory on change and the future of the world to the test. It has quickly forced all of us to become more reliant on technology and has put us in the position to be more open to experimenting with inventive solutions to the new problems that this global change has created.
Even before the pandemic, today’s guest believed that the world of innovation is in need of a refresh. Alexandre (Alex) Lazarow believes that this refresh comes from what he calls the “frontier” - - the growing constellation of startup ecosystems, outside of the Silicon Valley and other major economic centers, that now stretches across the globe. The frontier is a place where startups often must cope with political or economic instability and lack of infrastructure, and where there might be little or no access to traditional investors.
Alex has spent his career working at the intersection of investing, innovation, and economic development in the private, public, and social sectors. He is a venture capitalist with Cathay Innovation, a global firm that invests across Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Previously, Alex worked with Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm that has invested over a billion dollars in hundreds of startups around the world. He has served as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company, a financial regulator with the Bank of Canada, and an M&A investment banker with the Royal Bank of Canada.
His new book on innovation in the future, Out-Innovate, was published by Harvard Business Review Press. It was one of the three finalists for the best book proposals exploring emerging business themes, a competition co-hosted by McKinsey and The Financial Times, organizers of the Business Book of the Year Award. Out-Innovate was named a "Top Book To Inform Your Technology And Innovation Strategy” by Forbes, “The Hottest New Business Book” by Tech Collective and was the #1 Release in Venture Capital on Amazon.
As we continue to adjust to living with the uncertainty about the future and experiencing the reality that the Coronavirus pandemic is changing the world forever, we are also experiencing something else.
We are experiencing innovation.
Entrepreneurs, creative thinkers and change makers are jumping in to help. All around the world, people are shifting focus and pivoting efforts. Start-up companies began quickly using 3D printing technology to create lifesaving ventilator parts to meet unexpected, extraordinary demand. Gin distilleries shifted production to make hand sanitizer. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been quickly used to scan online articles all over the world, every day to gather and analyze public health information. Drones are delivering medical supplies to remote or quarantined areas and infectious hot zones. Video doctor appointments and telemedicine are helping patients get the care that they need, without leaving the house or putting doctors at risk of infection. Germ-killing robots are sanitizing high-traffic public areas allowing for the safety of workings while observing social distancing.
All of these technological answers have been created to solve problems…..and problem-solving is always at the heart of innovation. Although horrible and scary, a crisis presents innovators with an opportunity to think and create fast, impactful change. All while working in the service of people and organizations for the greater good and maybe even the bottom line. In the midst of a crisis, the ideal that “failure is not an option” aligns everyone’s energy toward clear purpose in resolving the crisis which prompts a groundswell of new ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.
Today we are fortunate to be joined by a world-recognized innovator that is known for inspiring out-of-the-box thinking, driving innovation, motivating engagement and generating energy toward the innovation goals of an organization. Not unlike a crisis, disruptive, innovative thinking in an organization forces change and intense effort – the speed of creative-thinking, decision making, and facilitation all surge intensely and forces an organization to quickly think differently, to fail or succeed fast, to learn, and to progress…..to innovate.
Alex Goryachev is an entrepreneurial go-getter. He takes risks, thinks ahead, and loves making way for new innovations. Over the past 20 years, he’s made it his business to turn disruptive concepts into emerging business models. In his new book, Fearless Innovation: Going Beyond the Buzzword to Continuously Drive Growth, Improve the Bottom Line, and Enact Change, Alex explores how, no matter their function, leaders and managers can cut through the noise to understand change and deliver real results.
For him, it’s all about a passion to create a strategy and then drive it home to “get things done.” And as Cisco’s Senior Director of Innovation Strategy and Programs, he has plenty of opportunities to put this passion to the test. He sparks internal innovation by providing employees at all levels the chance to share their big ideas, many of which make their way into the company’s innovation engine. Alex also carries the torch for co-innovation across Cisco’s ecosystem.
At Cisco, Alex spearheads several award-winning international programs and initiatives to accelerate innovation – whether that impacts operations, businesses processes, or technology. Alex is an award-winning Silicon Valley veteran whose resume reads like a brief history of tech disruption. He is a sought-after speaker on innovation and a regular contributor to Forbes, Chief Executive Magazine, Information Week, and other leading media outlets.
The complexities of disease require sophisticated approaches for understanding and treating them. On Innovation Unleashed, we often introduce listeners to the latest approaches and technology solutions for big global challenges. On today’s episode, we are going to explore Computational Healthcare, an emerging method of using computer models and sophisticated software to figure out how human disease develops - - - - and how to prevent it. Using digital tools, computational biologists leverage experimental and clinical data to build models that can unravel complex medical mysteries through quantitative approaches for understanding the mechanisms, diagnosis and treatment of human disease through applications of mathematics, engineering and computational science.
Central to the challenge of how to use computers to improve healthcare is to develop computational models of the molecular biology, physiology, and anatomy of disease. Computational Healthcare can provide insight into and across many areas of biology, including genetics, genomics, molecular networks, cellular and tissue physiology, organ systems, and whole body pharmacology.
Close your eyes for a moment (unless you are listening while you are driving) and think of your kitchen table…imagine a half made puzzle of a picture of a snowy landscape. Now complete the puzzle in your mind. You can see the whole picture, even though you only started with an idea and half the pieces in place. Computers can look into every aspect of biology and medicine…see how the pieces come together and tell us how to build the puzzle. Computational medicine gives us enough of the pieces to see a much clearer view of the big picture of what causes disease and how to treat it. Computers have changed every aspect of our lives…today we are going to have a chance to learn how they will change our health and wellbeing.
Today’s guest not only uses computational medicine to lead research to solve big healthcare problems, he also works to educate the next generation of scientists in this field. Dr. Chris Langmead is a Professor in the Carnegie Mellon University Computational Biology Department. He is a globally-recognized Computer Scientist with expertise in Machine Learning as well as modeling and simulating biological systems. His work stretches from drug and protein design … to clinical applications in acute and chronic illness. Dr. Langmead’s research is focused on the development and application of passive and active machine learning algorithms to address critical challenges in Medicine and Bioengineering.
Innovation demands trialing and attempts to change entire industries with novel approaches. By nature, innovation is immersed in unusual levels of risk and failure. Typically, we associate entrepreneurs with the ability and fearlessness of facing risk and failure to build innovative technology solutions and companies. But building and leading an innovative future-reaching healthcare organization within a system also requires a certain fearlessness and a similar spirit or an INTRApreneurial spirit. An intrapreneur is defined as “a person within a large organization who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.” But unlike an entrepreneur, an intrapreneur doesn’t own the product or service that they innovate; the system or organization owns the creative ideas and end products created by the individual(s). INTRApreneurs in healthcare organizations often do this work as part of a calling to help society, create solutions, change industries and impact humanity. This episode’s guest is an Intrapreneur working on the cutting edge of healthcare innovation and has spent her career matching her passion of caring for patients with a desire to implement novel technology solutions to create tools for better patient care at the right time and place.
Dr. Tufia Haddad is an Associate Professor of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, and a Consultant in the Department of Oncology. Her clinical practice and research program is dedicated to breast cancer. She currently serves as the Chair of Digital Health for the Department of Oncology and Chair of the Breast Medical Oncology Practice at Mayo Clinic Rochester. She is the Medical Director of Remote Patient Monitoring services for the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, and she is a member of the Mayo Clinic Advisory Board to the Office of Augmented Human Intelligence. As an oncologist and clinical investigator, she is an active member of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Women’s Cancer Research Program, and she has received federal funding in support of biomarker discovery and early phase clinical trials in drug-resistant breast cancer. In the field of digital health, her interest is in the transformation of healthcare delivery models and development of clinical decision support with novel connected health and artificial intelligence technology solutions. Dr. Haddad has authored over 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters, and editorials.
Dr. Haddad received her Bachelor of Sciences degree in Biology, magna cum laude, from Marquette University. She completed medical school at Creighton University and is an Alpha Omega Alpha honor society member. Her Internal Medicine residency was completed at the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota), and her fellowship in Hematology, Oncology, and Transplantation at the University of Minnesota. She received student humanitarian, individual excellence in medicine, and teaching awards throughout her training, as well as several educational excellence awards while on faculty at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
In everyday life, when we use the word Crisper we are likely referring to something that keeps produce fresh in the refrigerator…or something to do with the marketing of the beloved potato chip. But in the scientific and healthcare world, it is shorthand for "CRISPR-Cas9 and stands for "clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats." CRISPR is possibly the most impactful area of science to be invented since the discovery of DNA. We are going to learn more about CRISPR, but to do so we just need to remember that DNA is the molecule in all cells that codes for life … and sometimes death. Within many kinds of bacterial cells, some sequences have a unique feature…they read the same in one direction as they do in another. It turns out that there are some molecular scissors that have evolved to cut these sequences … and some remarkable scientists have learned how to take those enzymes and re-program them to cut and edit almost any piece of DNA. When you mistype a word on your phone, you or autocorrect and make things right…in the same way CRISPR technology can make things right when targeted to a specific genetic problem. Molecular biologists of my generation were brought up to think this was impossible…but today, through the work of pioneers that will surely win a Nobel Prize, Genome editing is much more than possible…it is central in how we think about solving some of the world’s most vexing problems.
CRISPR allows researchers to easily alter the DNA in ways that can correct genetic defects, treat and prevent diseases, help combat opioid addition and even improve the ways that we grow food.
With all this incredible promise, though, genome editing desperately needs proactive versus responsive ethical debate. As we have discussed before on Innovation Unleashed…where there is a light…there are shadows…CRISPR can do immense good…but will also do immeasurable harm when misused. Shifting the balance from shadows to light needs pioneers who understand how to harness the good without pretending that there could be bad.
We are fortunate to be able to talk about all of this with an emerging expert on all things Genome Editing. Dr. Samira Kiani is a Professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. Samira launched her own lab in 2016 after time at MIT where she worked on developing synthetic gene circuits to reprogram the function and behavior of mammalian cells using CRISPR. In addition to her research work, Samira is passionate about people and how science affects their quality of life. Since 2017, she has been working on a documentary film about what our future looks like in the eye of genomic revolution. In parallel with the documentary film, she is building a communication platform called, “Tomorrow Land,” where she invites people, whether they are scientists or artists or the general public, to submit their opinions about how CRISPR is shaping the future of humanity. She is archiving short video clips that can be arranged together with the help of artificial intelligence.
A remarkable team called BrainX comprised of physicians and technology innovation managers from Cleveland Clinic have partnered with machine learning experts from Carnegie Mellon University to explore and solve the puzzles of the human brain while also working to create the next generation of Artificial Intelligent applications for healthcare.
This team advanced through the prestigious IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a $5 million global competition challenging teams to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful Artificial Intelligence technologies to tackle the world’s grand challenges. This competition is designed to show all of us how far we can go in undertaking cancer, poverty, climate change and more – with the help of Artificial Intelligence.
We are so fortunate to have the Founder of BrainX with us today to talk about his work leading innovation efforts that integrate machine learning and artificial intelligence in healthcare. This team of experts is constantly working on the evolving issues that are most important to patient care and have added COVID-19 datasets and challenges to their important work.
The expert on this episode, Piyush Mathur MD, FCCM is the founder and team lead of BrainX. He is an Anesthesiologist, Intensivist and the quality improvement officer for Anesthesiology Institute, Cleveland Clinic. He is a leader in quality and patient safety who has innovated and successfully implemented many algorithms and tools in electronic health records such as difficult airway identification (EPIC),anesthesia awareness alert (DSS, Talis), antibiotic alert (ACG, Talis). Recipient of 3 innovation awards at Cleveland Clinic, he is leading innovation efforts integrating machine learning and artificial intelligence in healthcare. Current, projects include AIDE (Artificial Intelligence Diagnosis Engine), SALUS (robotic artificial intelligence patient safety system), BRAINS (Biologically Relational Artificial Intelligence Networking System).
Telemedicine is a big business; by 2025, it has been projected to exceed $64.1 billion in the U.S. alone. Televisits to doctors have increased at an extraordinary rate of 50% per year over the last decade and the current COVID-19 Shelter-at-Home requirements have changed everything. The Pandemic has forced primary care and specialty clinicians to adopt virtual care and telehealth so patients can still receive care while social distancing and medical resources can be redirected to the frontlines of treating COVID-19 patients. Because of this, the U.S. telehealth market is expected to reach around $10 billion by the end of 2020 with an 80 percent year-over-year growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent reports.
Video and other forms of technology are increasingly being used in hospitals. In 2017, three quarters of hospitals in the U.S. were connecting with patients and other practitioners in this way, more than double the percentage in 2010. The total Global number of televisits per year is approaching 10 million. But…is telemedicine cost effective, is it time saving…and most importantly is it as effective as an inpatient visit…and where do we place the boundaries around this emerging field. Some policy makers define telehealth as using technology so medical providers and patients can work together to improve health. Perhaps that is a little broader than saying “telehealth is the use of technology to deliver care to a patient without the physical presence of the treating physician”.
It makes sense that when doctors and patients are more connected in real-time and patients become more engaged in their healthcare decision-making process there can likely be better care outcomes, less return visits to the hospital, happier patients, and more profitable medical organizations. So…how do we separate the hype from the hope? Well obviously, we talk to a real expert, and not a virtual expert…we talk to Dr. Jay Sanders
Known to many as the “Father of Telemedicine”, our guest on this episode, Dr. Jay Sanders was responsible for developing the first State-wide telemedicine system, the first Correctional telemedicine program, the first Tele-homecare technology, called “The Electronic House Call”, and the first Telemedicine kiosk. His consulting activities have included NASA, DOD, HHS, the VA, the FCC, State Governments, the Southern Governors Association, WHO, academic institutions, investment firms, Fortune 500 companies, and International Governments. In 1994, he introduced telemedicine’s capability to the Assistant Secretary of Defense that culminated in the initiation of the use of this technology within DOD. He was subsequently asked to serve as the sole civilian representative on the DOD Telemedicine Board of Directors with the Surgeon Generals of the Army, Navy and Air Force. During the Clinton Administration he represented the USA to the G8 nations for telemedicine, and was appointed by former HHS Secretary Leavitt, to the Chronic Care Workgroup.
Dr. Jay H. Sanders, is the CEO of The Global Telemedicine Group and Professor of Medicine (Adjunct) at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
As the world holds it collective breath and faces the fear and uncertainty of a “silent enemy” that has turned the world upside down, companies have had no choice but to develop work-from-home structures to keep their organizations running and support employees as they follow social distancing guidelines. Over half of U.S. employees (75 million workers) hold jobs and have responsibilities that could be performed, at least in part, from home. Most of us would never have said we could function alone in our living room…but it turns out that we can. We keep hearing the phrase, “no one ever thought this could happen”…but of course people have been thinking of these things for a long time.
Before the pandemic and subsequent government requirements mandated us to be at home, only 4% of the workforce actually worked from home. And before the devastating pandemic, although 70% of employers would offer work at home options to some employees, only 7% offered it most of their employees. Likely, now that the world has been working from home in mass, things are going to change. We are not as convinced that we need to sit together to be effective. There is something incredibly scary about that realization…particularly if it is true!
Folks that have been thinking about whether working at home is functional are as shocked as we are that around the globe, within just a few months, over a billion people have functioned from home…running businesses, doing their jobs, ordering food…basically every facet of life, it turns out, is accessible from home… once the misery is over…will this be a tipping point? A new normal? Are the futurists who dreamed of these days ready for the reality?
The only way to successfully drag ourselves out of this disaster is with courage. The courage to lead when we know how, the courage to follow the right leaders and the courage to persevere. Courage will define whether we are successful. The new normal is also going to require us to become even more innovative. The only business culture that will have even a chance of survival shift will demand a commitment to creating a culture where individuals are more empowered to contribute to the overall mission of the organization by speaking up and being heard.
If ever someone skated to the puck and wrote about the tools and ideas for tomorrow’s challenge, without actually knowing that tomorrow would become today overnight, it is this episode’s guests. Karin Hurt and David Dye have written about their approach to organizational success: A Courageous Culture. According to Karin and David, there is a breakdown in organizations that stifles innovation. Employees have ideas and leadership is interested in these ideas but somehow, there is a disconnect. Karin and David believe that the collective effect of thousands of small opportunities missed because employees didn’t speak up when they realized something wasn’t working or didn’t share an idea because they worried that it might not be a good one, creates opportunities for failure. They believe that eliminating the safe silence that results from not speaking up and not contributing to the mission of the organization can help organizations thrive and innovate. Perhaps working from home will empower the silent innovators into active participation?
Just before the CIVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the world, Innovation Unleashed had the opportunity to sit down with Kristen Finne, the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, emPOWER Program in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. At that time, we were not yet talking about this specific disease outbreak but we were talking about Kristen’s work as one of the dedicated public servants who work around the clock to ensure that, for example, our health care system can respond to a sudden tidal wave of need. Preparing for how such events might impact the old, frail, and disabled communities. She is one of the people that we rely on in an emergency, but who we hope we never need.
The relevancy of what was discussed with Kristen, on that day, has certainly taken on new meaning and significance for all of us as we are sheltered at home deciding about the right timing for returning to work and life with COVID-19 as part of our new normal.
Health officials, health care providers, emergency managers, and first responders have always worried that they did not have access to enough accurate information that could help them respond to the needs of at-risk populations in their communities. So, just a few years ago in the US the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response was established by the Federal Government to make sure we were ready. The emPOWER Program was launched to get the data to the right people at the right time. And we are talking about a lot of data and the skills to understand what it means before and after a disaster. Public health stakeholders can now use the program’s national, data-driven tools to support targeted emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities for more than 4.1 million at-risk Medicare beneficiaries.
This kind of massive data mining and essential information delivery does not just happen. The need was urgent for a long time before the innovations necessary to respond effectively. What were the challenges in gathering the information? How did politics impact the data science? Where were the biggest gaps in knowledge? What can be learned from the barriers to progress to speed responses in the future? One of the best ways to get answers to those and other compelling questions would be to go right to the top.
In this episode, Kristen describes how she spends her days assessing disaster-induced stress on the health care system and develops interventions to mitigate health system surge and adverse health outcomes for at-risk populations. Kristen leverages federal health and innovation technologies to provide Medicare data, maps, tools, training and products to inform and support federal-to-community level emergency preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation activities for electricity and healthcare dependent beneficiaries that live independently and may be adversely impacted by a disaster.
With global population on track to reach 10 billion within a few decades, and with travel and trade steadily intensifying across the world, the spread of many types of infectious disease (like the Flu and worse) is a real and increasing threat to global health.
Rapidly detecting, reporting, and responding to infectious disease occurrence is required to contain small outbreaks before they have the opportunity to spread into a regional epidemic or become a global pandemic threat. The Flu is the most likely infectious disease to cause a severe pandemic. The chances of a devastating outbreak may seem slim, but the level of devastation if it occurred is almost unimaginable. Every year there is about a 1% chance that an influenza pandemic could emerge…and that if it did it would cause more than 6 million pneumonia and influenza deaths globally. Flu pandemics have happened before…we are just waiting for the next one to arrive. But fortunately, some innovators are solidly focused on how to detect the problem so that the impact could be controlled.
Our safety and the rapid detection of infectious disease depends on effective disease surveillance systems gathering data from multiple sources and places. Equally important is how fast a system can detect a threat of disease to prompt earlier response and the best chances for protecting all of us from the spread of illness and potential death.
On this episode, Kevin Hutchinson, will share how he has spent his career gathering and analyzing data and working alongside health organizations to monitor and identify possible health threats.
DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid, is perhaps the most well-known biological molecule. DNA is present in all forms of life on earth. Essentially, every cell in our bodies contains DNA or the genetic instructions - or code - that makes us what we are. DNA has a unique double helix shape, like a twisted ladder and carries these instructions or code for the development, growth, reproduction, functioning and health of all life. Remarkably, if all of the DNA in a human body was unraveled, it would reach to the sun and back more than 300 times.
The code in DNA is determined by the order of the four nucleotide bases that make up DNA, adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine and is the complete set of genes and is called a genome.
As the National Human Genome Research Institute works to unlock the secrets of the human genome, researchers continue learning that nearly all diseases that we face have a genetic component. Some diseases are caused by mutations that are inherited from parents and are present in an individual at birth, like sickle cell disease, for example. Other diseases are caused by acquired mutations in a gene or group of genes that occur during a person's life. Such mutations are not inherited from a parent, but occur either randomly or due to some environmental exposure like pollutants. Today’s guest is working tirelessly to create therapies to treat genetic diseases. Specifically, Monogenic diseases.
As defined by the World Health Organization, Monogenic diseases result from modifications in a single gene occurring in all cells of the body. Though relatively rare, they affect millions of people worldwide. Researchers estimate that over 10,000 of human diseases are known to be monogenic. Pure genetic diseases are caused by a single error in a single gene in the human DNA.
As you can gather from my brief description, working to treat genetic diseases is complicated, demanding work and requires the commitment and intellectual power of people who are dedicated to finding answers. Today’s guest Scott Sneddon is one of those people. Scott is the President & CEO of Sharp Edge Labs. He is an entrepreneur and scientist trained in chemistry and biology with an emphasis on computational methods. He holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry & Biophysics from Carnegie-Mellon University, a J.D. from Columbia University Law School and has over 20 years of experience in the drug discovery industry, having held leadership positions at Pfizer and Genzyme. At Pfizer Dr. Sneddon was a member of the New Leads Discovery group under innovator Fred Vinick. He then went to Genzyme with Fred to help establish Genzyme's small molecule drug discovery program. There he led the Assay Development and High Throughput Screening group and was a pioneer in implementing high-throughput functional cellular assays for primary drug screening (before such a thing was fashionable).
Accelerators, incubators, technology parks, consortiums, start-up ecosystems……..buzz words that those of us that work in technology development and talk about innovation for a living are used to saying as part of our entrepreneurial vernacular. All of these elements are an important part of developing innovation. But these elements must be built in an environment that supports them or they are futile. Regions that are successful at building innovation economies know that, most importantly, there must be community support for technology development and investment. There must be a culture in place to motivate a community to drive innovation. Building new innovation communities and entrepreneurial cultures is not easy. It requires commitment, investment, talent, knowledge, time and space. It also requires critical efforts to bring a group of different minds coming together to share ideas, obstacles, and assets in the spirit of collaboration. Innovation experts know that entrepreneurs assisting entrepreneurs in informal social networks is the “secret sauce” of what helps a region become a thriving entrepreneurial hub. According to a report by Compass, entrepreneurs’ connections with their peers are shown to be as important to start-up growth in some cities as the role of institutions.
The aphorism that "a rising tide lifts all boats" illustrates this idea that a connected community and improved culture will benefit every community member. The ideal that we all more likely to succeed together. This is especially true when building innovative technology companies. A successful innovation community must collaborate to build everything from education to research to business creation, start-up incubation, marketing, communication and sales.
Our guest on this episode knows all about entrepreneurs helping entrepreneurs. Kit Mueller is known as a Serial Tummler or a person who connects people and makes things happen. And that’s what Kit has been doing in Pittsburgh’s tech sector for years. Kit describes himself as an “Entrepreneurial Community Builder with a proven history of entrepreneurial success in the software and creative industries. Kit is an exuberant entrepreneur who advises startups, invests in them and organizes events to get entrepreneurs in the same room talking about what’s worked, what’s failed, and what’s ripe with potential. He built his first technology startup at just 21 years old and has been busy ever since creating ventures like Startup Boost Pittsburgh, StartUp Weekend, Built in Pittsburgh, Fygment Productions, Speak Freely, ShiftPgh, and RustBuilt.
People from all backgrounds - - campaigners and ordinary citizens alike - - frequently cite opinion polls as if they were the gospel truth. Sometimes the poll results predict the future (like what our favorite cereal may be), and other times not so much (like who will be the next President). We have all been accepting the results of opinion polls as an indicator of public opinion for a long time…and these polls either visibly or invisibly shape policy and thereby impact how our investments in science and technology are shaped.
Are opinion polls important? What is the science behind them? Are they sophisticated analyses or back of the envelope calculations? Should we trust what they say? Can they be manipulated and misused? Is the science behind collecting and aggregating people opinions developing and becoming more accurate or are opinion polls a developed area of social science? In these days where opinion polls seem inextricably linked to what we see in targeted advertising, these questions are important but not often explored by the technology community.
More than 80 years ago, George Gallup published his first official release of public opinion data. Gallup set out to provide scientific, impartial calculations that described America’s public opinions. But, even after 80 years, people are often deeply skeptical of polls, especially when opinion moves in the “incorrect” direction or is the opposite of what they hope for.
The 2016 US presidential election raised questions about the methodology and accuracy of polls in America, but the problems of confidence in election polling aren't limited to just the U.S.. Some high-profile errors include the final polls in the 2017 British general election, in which Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority, had the Conservatives ahead, though their margins differed significantly. These and other “misses” have led people to ask, do polls ask the right questions? Are they manipulating the wording of questions to get the responses they want? And who are the people actually answering the questions? Are polls being swayed by the political parties, marketers and media giants that pay for the polls? Where is the science?
In the ultimate irony, an opinion poll about opinion polls, The Hill-HarrisX poll found that the majority of people are doubtful about the survey results they hear about. Maybe more troubling, however, was that 15 percent of respondents said they "almost always" believed in polls they heard about in the press. So…rather than relying on opinion polls about opinion polls, on innovation unleashed we decided to get back to a source for the ground truth!
John Dick is the CEO of CivicScience. CivicScience provides strategic insight services to decision-makers at the largest brands, media companies, and investment firms in the world. In 2007, CivicScience emerged from John’s vision that market research and opinion-gathering needed a new solution. Perhaps before the rest of us, he understood that consumer and public-oriented businesses that had long relied on traditional polling and survey techniques found those methods were growing tired and less effective in reaching a representative audience. The emergence of social media sharing brought convenience and immediacy of the public’s voice to the table, but also inherent biases and untrustworthy information. His ambitious goal was to develop a revolutionary new way to connect the real-time opinions of consumers to the decision makers who need that information every day – but to do so with renewed depth, breadth, and reliability.
How do we continue to be disruptive innovators? How do we push to the future of innovation? Demographics are not likely the first place people look to when trying to understand innovation, but there is theory and discussion that tells us that much can be learned from looking at economics through the lens of demography. Expert Richard Florida believes that geographic proximity and cultural diversity—a place’s openness to different cultures, religions, sexual orientations—also play key roles in economic growth. Richard is a world-renowned writer and journalist, having penned several global best sellers, including the award winning The Rise of the Creative Class and his most recent book, The New Urban Crisis. A 2013 MIT study named him the world’s most influential thought leader and TIME magazine has recognized his Twitter feed as one of the 140 most influential in the world. Richard says, “Every single human being is creative. The biggest challenge of the creative age is to lift the bottom up and encourage a prosperous, vibrant and sustainable community for all.”
Richard points to the work of economists Quamrul Ashraf of Williams College and Oded Galor of Brown University as further support of his theories. Their work concludes that the interplay between cultural assimilation and cultural diffusion have played a significant role in giving rise to differential patterns of economic development across the globe." To put it simply: diversity spurs economic development and homogeneity slows it down.
So, basically, more people means more ideas. A larger population will produce more ideas to feed technological progress. And, simultaneously, population only increases if there is technological development.
Our guest, Audrey Russo, is an impassioned thought leader about technology and demographics being codependent drivers of the Pittsburgh economy and the success of the technologies that are developed here.
Since 2007, Audrey Russo has served the technology business sector for southwestern PA as President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council the oldest (1983) and largest technology trade association in North America. In her role as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, Audrey Russo oversees an organization of 1,400 member companies and 270,000 member employees. She works to position Pittsburgh as one of the nation’s leading centers for technology, health care, advanced materials, life sciences, homeland security and financial services.
Ten years ago, Audrey wrote about the importance of demographics and poised a challenge for Pittsburgh to add 5,000 people to the region each year — net positive. While also focusing on an effort to retain 20% of Pittsburgh’s college students here year over year. She asked all Pittsburghers to take a pact to make the region a place where regional citizenship means all students are part of the fabric of all companies.
Russo is committed to the complexity of Pittsburgh’s physical, literal and metaphorical terrain, and believes that vital cities are the moral imperative in achieving competitive, diverse and vibrant economies. Let’s talk to her about this innovation and population going hand in hand.
At the beginning of each episode, I remind listeners that innovation is a team sport. Our own Andrew Carnegie once said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
From the time that we are young, we are organized into teams for school, fun and friendship. We are taught to “play nice,” share, and get along with others. We are grouped into small teams for learning, we participate in team sports, join scouts and join together to cheer on our favorite competing footballers and soccer stars.
We all make the assumption that good teamwork is essential for good outcomes in life. We believe that people perform well when they work together in groups because it creates a medium through which people can discuss, debate and collaborate about various issues regarding the achievement of their group goals. Working together also creates mutual understanding and a sense of belonging, which further enables commitment to the success of the entire group.
Over the past 60 years, as technological, scientific and social challenges have become more complex and scientific understanding, research and methods have advanced, researchers have increasingly combined with colleagues in collaborative research referred to as team science. At places like Carnegie Mellon University, it is common practice to work not only across the campus with collaborators, but to also reach out all over the world to find scientists that are interested in working on teams to solve big problems. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 90 percent of all science and engineering publications are authored by two or more individuals and the size of authoring teams has grown as individual scientists, funders, and universities have sought to investigate multifaceted problems by engaging more individuals. Most articles are now written by between 6 and 10 individuals from more than one institution.
We are fortunate to be joined on this episode by a renowned expert in the study of teams and collective intelligence. Anita Woolley, is an Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Theory at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University. She has a PhD in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University, where she also earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
Her research and teaching interests include collaborative analysis and problem solving in teams; online collaboration and collective intelligence; and managing multiple team memberships. Her research has been published in Science, Organization Science, Academy of Management Review, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Small Group Research, and Research on Managing Groups and Teams, among others. Her research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army Research Office, and private corporations. She is a Senior Editor at Organization Science, Academy of Management Discoveries, and Small Group Research, and is a member of the Academy of Management, the Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research, and the Association for Psychological Science.
Carnegie Mellon University’s Manuela Veloso, the Herbert A. Simon University Professor describes Machine learning “as a fascinating field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and practice where scientists investigate how computer agents can improve their perception, cognition, and action with experience. Machine Learning is about machines improving from data, knowledge, experience, and interaction. Machine Learning utilizes a variety of techniques to intelligently handle large and complex amounts of information build upon foundations in many disciplines, including statistics, knowledge representation, planning and control, databases, causal inference, computer systems, machine vision, and natural language processing. AI agents with their core at Machine Learning aim at interacting with humans in a variety of ways, including providing estimates on phenomena, making recommendations for decisions, and being instructed and corrected. Machine Learning can impact many applications relying on all sorts of data, any data that is recorded in computers, such as health data, scientific data, financial data, location data, weather data, energy data, etc. As our society increasingly relies on digital data, Machine Learning is crucial for most of our current and future applications.”
The world is being reshaped by machine learning. Data collected through sensors and novel technologies at many scales is being leveraged to make decisions and infer relationships in every discipline and application. But it takes the right techniques and tools to do so effectively.
It is interesting that on this episode, we are joined by John Kitchin, a chemical engineering expert who is using machine learning to develop new tools to change the way that research is being conducted.
His work with machine learning focuses on creating tools such SCIMAX - - open source software that improves data sharing and efficiency in research and academia. The software uniquely integrates data processing and analysis into plain text. Dr. Kitchin is very interested in creating tools, augmenting research with data tools and teaching students about machine learning as an integrated part of the research process.
British poet W. H. Auden once noted, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”…I am not sure about his use of the number thousands…but I am sure he was right about the water.
Our Earth is sometimes compared to a magnificent blue marble, especially by those privileged few who have been lucky enough to gaze upon it from space. This is due to the predominance of water on the Earth’s surface. I’m sure that you know that the Earth is largely covered with water. Water covers about two thirds of the Earth’s surface. Interestingly, only about five percent of that water is fresh water versus salt water…and two thirds of that tiny percentage of fresh water, 69 exists as ice. But, if you melted all that ice, and the Earth’s surface was perfectly smooth, the sea levels would rise to an altitude of 2.7 km. With the water that brings us life as we know it in such dramatically short supply, you would think that we would protect it with an immeasurable passion…but instead we ignore it with unimaginable malaise. So here is some of the bad news in shocking statistics…
The challenge we now face as we head into the future is how to effectively conserve, purify, and distribute the water we have. And to make matters worse plastics are attacking our oceans. In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 320 million tons of plastic. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans. There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes. Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined. 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
And Every year, more people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war.
On this episode, we are joined by two pioneers who are working to use chemistry and technology to safely reduce/eliminate hazardous chemical contaminants and pathogens from water to protect life and make clean water more easily accessible for all humanity. Dr. Terry Collins is the Teresa Heinz Professor in Green Chemistry, Chemistry and Director, Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University and Professor Ryan Sullivan, working in both Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
Recently, INC. Magazine asked one of its contributing writers to explore the question, “what separates phenomenally successful serial entrepreneurs from the rest of us mere mortals, and what can we learn from their example?”
A few specific characteristics emerged as the underpinning to a serial entrepreneur’s mindset: optimism, a desire to keep innovating, self-reliance, an understanding that money isn’t everything, and a high pain threshold.
On this episode, our guest is a serial entrepreneur and a world-renowned inventor. He has been called a snake charmer……and has famously charmed snakes by the name of schmoopie, Uncle Sam, Betsy Ross, Pepperoni, and Monster Max - - - Mechanical robotic snakes that can explore tight spaces, swim, climb poles…. and solve big problems.
For more than 25 year’s Howie Choset has been bringing the precision of computer science and applied mathematics to the realities and uncertainties of mechanical systems. He has made globally impactful contributions in design, motion planning, path planning, and estimation. His inventions are centered on robots designed in a segmented fashion to mimic snake-like actuation and motion. They have been used in surgical applications for diagnosis and tumor removal; nuclear power plant inspection, archaeological excavations, manufacturing applications and understanding biological behaviors of a variety of animals.
Howie is a Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University where he serves as the co-director of the Biorobotics Lab and as director of the Robotics Major. He received his undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Business from the University of Pennsylvania and his PhD from Caltech.
We talk about The Internet of Things and Big Data so much on this podcast because these two technological advancements are changing the world and affecting business practices in every industry sector. In the past, Internet of Things devices were ATM machines or mobile phones. But due to the eruption of new devices, there are now 8.4 billion connected things in use worldwide, with the average individual owning 5.1 connected devices.
Not only does the Internet of Things connect us across the globe, it also continuously collects gigantic sets of raw data from our direct environment. The analysis and use of this Big Data is the technology revolution of our times.
On this episode, we are joined in the studio by two big-thinking entrepreneurs who are proving that that they can provide the right ecosystem to manage this colossal global data. Particularly in healthcare. Joshua “Dax” Cabrera and Patrick Mulcahy formed their company MEDSiS in 2014.
MEDSiS is an international information technology company that provides a platform for Big Data management solutions. Their platform enables access, management, integration, consolidation, machine learning, sharing and distribution, analytics, and artificial general intelligence (AGI). MEDSiS supports Big Data across heterogeneous enterprise platforms, global/national/regional organizations, and governments. The MEDSiS solutions are cloud hybrid ecosystems that are designed to be mission critical and operate in environments that have volatile infrastructure such as remote and rural access locations. The MEDSiS technology is in more than 1,300 sites worldwide, coupled with technology partners. Let’s listen as they share their ideas and entrepreneurial journey with us.
Merriam Webster defines the word CYBER as relating to, or involving computers or computer networks (such as the Internet). Cybersecurity refers to a set of techniques used to protect the integrity of these networks, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. The core functionality of cybersecurity involves protecting our information and systems from major breaches in security or cyber threats. More and more, hackers are finding new ways to threaten and attack our networks and are creating and refining the tools that they use to break through the cyber defenses that are in place to protect our data, social networks and systems such as power grids, voting machines, etc.
The cyberattack on the Equifax credit reporting agency in 2017, that led to the theft of Social Security numbers, birth dates, and additional data on almost half the U.S. population, was a scary realization that hackers are targeting enormous numbers of people…..daily.
Recent news makes it clear that Russian hackers targeted voting systems in several American states before the 2016 presidential election. So many of us were shocked to realize that up to 87 million Facebook users had their personal data ending up in the hands of a voter-profiling company called Cambridge Analytica. We learned directly from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, that Facebook itself methodically scrutinizes and keeps track of the particulars of its users’ daily online lives…… details that people often readily volunteer — age, employer, relationship status, likes and location, etc. AND can learn almost anything about users by using artificial intelligence to analyze online behavior.
Lucky for all of us, there are brilliant men and women all over the world working to not only protect us now, but also predict and protect us from future threats. Right here at Carnegie Mellon University, The world-renowned CyLab Security and Privacy Institute approaches security and privacy research with a cross-disciplinary, holistic mindset. Experts here think beyond the traditional boundaries of pure engineering and computer science solutions to big problems. They look further into the human factors that make security and privacy usable as well as the economics and social sciences behind the decisions people make with technology. Just as importantly, they must understand the policy ideas that power the network safety of our private and public enterprises. They know that security and privacy affects every aspect of daily life, from a technician safeguarding the resiliency of a city’s electric grid to a small child learning to read watching videos on an iPad. This issue affects each and every one of us.
Thankfully, we talk with one of the world’s most respected leaders on this subject on today’s episode. Dr. Douglas Sicker is the Director of CMU’s Cylab Security and Privacy Institute, Department Head of Engineering and Public Policy, the Lord Endowed Chair of Engineering and Professor in the College of Engineering School of Computer Science, as well as Heinz College.
Understanding how the brain works remains one of the biggest mysteries for science to solve. There is a lot that we do not know about the brain and most of what we do know has only been discovered in the last few decades.
The people that are working to help us understand and care for the human brain are some of the most dedicated and brilliant minds in medicine. They know that the answers to critical questions in neuroscience live at the intersection between biology, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence, computer science, data, statistics and engineering and they are working to leverage all of these areas of science to apply new applications of immersive technology to brain health.
We are excited to have one of those brilliant minds as our guest on this episode. Dr. Ali Rezai, leads the comprehensive and integrated clinical and research programs in the neurosciences at West Virginia University and WVU Medicine and is the Director of the newly formed West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.
Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer and second leading cause of cancer related deaths for both men and women in the United States. Despite being one of the most preventable and curable cancers, approximately 150,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer annually and approximately 50,000 people die of colon cancer every year. Given these numbers, we are all driven to get colonoscopies that can find and remove the cancer precursors, or polyps. If all the polyps are removed, we presume that a tumor can never grow. So, detecting and removing polyps is the key to early diagnosis and prevention of colorectal cancer. So, imagine my surprise when our guest today taught me that somewhere around twenty percent of colon cancer diagnoses are made in people that had clean colonoscopies in the prior three years!
The numbers are staggering…approximately 15 million colonoscopies are performed in the United States each year. I know you are doing your back of the envelop calculations to let me help…that represents 75 million feet or 14,000 miles of colon being looked at each year. Finding polyps during the exam depends on the doctor’s experience, skills, attention, and the preparation condition.
Patients, who get a colonoscopy, do so with the hope and expectation of preventing the development of colon cancer within one to a few years of the colonoscopy…but colonoscopies are not perfect and in fact about 17- 48% of polyps are missed.
In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Shyam Thakkar. Dr. Thakkar is one of the physicians working tirelessly every day to make sure that doctors do not miss polyps during exams and that people do not die from Colon Cancer.
Imagine a future world where victims of spinal cord injuries can walk again, where there is no shortage of donor organs for those in need……..and where damaged and weak parts of the body are simply replaced with new ones. This is the exciting promise of regenerative medicine, an area of medicine that develops procedures to regrow, repair or replace damaged or diseased cells, organs or tissues. Regenerative medicine includes the generation and use of therapeutic stem cells, tissue engineering and the production of artificial organs. The phrase regenerative medicine has only been in our lexicon for two decades, but the concepts that drive it and the passion to harness the power of the body to heal itself have been dreamed of for millennia. Exponential growth in knowledge in the fields biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, genetics, medicine, robotics, and beyond has collided to fuel an extraordinary opportunity…to deliver on the hype surrounding the vision. Success will be defined by bringing extraordinary solutions for some of the most complex and life-threatening problems faced by humankind to the clinic.
Clinicians, scientists, engineers, lawyers, business people are all playing key roles in moving regenerative medicine forward. On this episode, we are going to talk with one of the world’s most accomplished transplant surgeons who is also a renowned regenerative medicine scientist and accomplished entrepreneur about his life, clinical career, and his entrepreneurial activities.
Dr. Paulo Fontes is recently became a Professor of Surgery and Director, Research & Innovation at West Virginia University. He is a co-founder and shareholder of 2 startup companies and the Director of the VGS Foundation, Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is a non-profit life science foundation linked to a $65M fund.