The TEDMED conference took place last week in San Diego, but it has taken me this long to digest all of the content and follow up on all the connections I made there. The general theme of the conference can be summed up in two sentences: There are amazing advances coming in medical technology. These may or may not make it through the FDA approval process in time to save your life.
This was one of the few conferences where it made sense to go to every session. A representative sampling:
• Eythor Bender of Ekso Bionics demonstrated an exoskeleton that allowed a paraplegic to walk.
• Daniel Kraft showing what medicine can learn from other fields such as aviation.
• Calvin Harley of Telome Health describing how we might halt the aging process by regrowing the DNA on the end of your chromosomes. (A Russian researcher on aging cautioned me that you might not want to rush out and start gobbling down the “nutritional supplement” quite yet – remember Vitamin E?)
• Architech Michael Graves now in a wheel chair, describing his frustration with poorly designed hospital rooms,
• Lance Armstrong describing the decisions he and his doctor needed to make in treating his cancer.
• Quyen Nguyen of UC San Diego, showing a video of a fluorescent dye that binds to tumor cells to make them more visible during surgery.
• Diana Nyad describing her attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida and her encounters with box jellyfish.
• Paul Stamets on medicines derived from mushrooms.
• Gabor Forgacs of Organovo demonstrating an inkjet printer that was modified to “print” organs from a supply of cells.
• Yoav Medan of InSightec describing one of the breakthroughs that did get FDA approval: a device that uses focused ultrasound to do surgery without making an incision in the patient.
• Mehmood Kahn, Chief Scientific Officer of PepsiCo arguing that we needed processed foods (albeit of higher quality) if we were to feed the earth’s seven billion inhabitants. (Although e-Patient Dave tweeted that this does not explain high fructose corn syrup.)
• Dean Kamen describing his frustration in trying to get FDA clearance for a robotic arm he developed for war veterans.
• Nate Ball, an engineer and beatbox artist demonstrating how he makes all those sounds. On stage. By having Dr. Nguyen thread fiber optics through his nose so we could see an image of his vocal cords as he made various sounds.
• Charles Pel of Physcient describing a new model of retractor that uses force sensors to back-off before it damages bones or tissue.
Next year, the conference moves to Washington, DC. In a move that can only be described as audacious, Jay Walker plans to double the size of the conference and take on the DC establishment. If anyone has the enthusiasm and resources to do it, it would be Jay.
Check out more photos of the event here.