Sergey Brin, Google co-founder is a very interesting man. His story is the number one immigrant success story in the USA today, I dare say. I have 2 Brin videos to show you today:
In the first one, Sergey demonstrates mobility in 2000 in 3 ways with his ‘faint accent that is no longer identifiably Russian’ (I really like this presentation as you can learn many things on how to give and not to give a talk):
In the second video Sergey speaks in his native language, Russian but with a “huuuge american accent” as a Russian colleague of mine wrote to me in an email.Continue reading →
Will it one day be possible to take a pill to stay young? How will an average life expectancy of beyond a hundred years affect society and the planet? Join leading longevity researchers Robert Butler, David Sinclair and Richard Weindruch to investigate the facts and implications surrounding scientific developments — emerging technologies, novel therapies, and innovative medical practices — that forecast a radical extension of a healthy human life. Featuring a special performance by acclaimed singer, Marilyn Maye.
Rievman, 64, who co-founded the Cryonics Society of South Florida in the 1960s, now resides in a deep-freeze capsule at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, awaiting the day when medical science can ”re-animate” him and cure his ills: lupus and Type I diabetes, which afflicted him starting at age 17. Continue reading →
In part 1 we had Skull from the game zone. Now comes the loser geek archetype George McFly - played by Crispin Glover – from Back to the Future or at least his laugh. The relation between Skull & George is more than obvious: chocolate milk. (Yes, it’s weekend.)
Homeless people without proper medical insurance are the insignificant others for the health care system.
Wikipedia says but maybe it is obvious enough for everybody:
“Health care for the homeless is a major public health challenge.
Homeless people are more likely to suffer injuries and medical problems from their lifestyle on the street, which includes poor nutrition, substance abuse, exposure to the severe elements of weather, and a higher exposure to violence (robberies, beatings, and so on). Yet at the same time, they have little access to public medical services or clinics, in many cases because they lack health insurance.”
In the meantime & on the other side of life Google Health launched this week as the online personal health/medical information management system for people……with a web access, stable income, medical records, medical insurance and home.
At first sight Google Health does not seem to offer any solution for storing the health information of homeless people and thereby helping them somehow. But here there is this option:
So the idea is that social workers/caretakers are uploading and managing the Google Health profile of the homeless people they’re familiar with.
The O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures Startup Camp is a nice option for the emerging personalized genomics companies or any web-related biotech startups to communicate and cooperate with alpha geeks and early technology adopters.
The Thursday and Friday (July 10-11) before this year’s Foo Camp in Sebastopol July 11-13, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures will be hosting OATV Startup Camp. This startup boot camp will consist of sessions led by startup veterans and other experts in a roundtable discussion format on various topics important to founders. The sessions will be more of a conversation on each topic rather than a lecture, in which participants will learn from each other as well as from entrepreneurs who’ve already been successful.Continue reading →
Roni F. Zeiger, MD (watch his presentation), Google Health product manager, whose PubMed profile (if he really is the very same person) gives us a very strong reason why he was hired by Google for this job (he joined Google in 2006).
The 38-year-old, who still sees patients some evenings and weekends at a nearby clinic, said: “At Google, I can use my expertise and knowledge to potentially help millions of people each day.”
Fortunately all of his 3 papers are freely accessible out of which 2 are particularly interesting and related to Google (Health). Here I just copy the abstracts and probably get back to the papers after I digested them.
We designed hedges for clinical queries sent to MEDLINE and Google in an attempt to explicitly model the relationship, such as treatment or diagnosis, between search terms. A pilot evaluation suggested that mean average precision (MAP) improved for a precomputed diagnostic query but not for a precomputed treatment query. An important limitation to this approach is that target resources do not explicitly model these relationships.
Here is a little timeline from a liveblogger for the Google Factory Tour of Search (05/19/08) including the official launch presentation of Google Health – time frame 83:35/1:23:35 – 90:45/1:30:45 -, by dr. Roni Zeiger, Google Health product manager who truly believes – & he is probably right – “that the most interesting, innovative services of Google Health are the ones that we haven’t seen or even thought of yet.”
So watch “the pivotal moment of the history of healthcare” using the words of Stephen Suffin, corporate chief medical officer from Quest Diagnostics.
People expect usually too much from Google even in the sectors, like biotechnology or medicine where Google is not native. For me the recent Google Health – which is basically an embryonic online medical health record system for users with a Gmail Account in the USA – seems to be rather about just catching up with the past than doing the future right now. That is not a criticism but rather a description. Storing/exchanging/updating individual medical records digitally is a “must-have-done-by-now” for the geeks, early technological adopters as the technology long exists, while it is still far-far away concerning current medical practices.
Google Health is really forward thinking in the way that it facilitates medical consumers/patients to upload their medical profile/conditions in the lack of institutional data thereby getting more familiar with everything health related. But Google Health is for the more or less healthy/mainstream and not for the seriously ill: in its recent form it cannot help to find a clinical trial for a rare disease, say.
For the moment, Google Health looks like a charity operation. The company won’t serve ads on the site (presumably to avoid the appearance of impropriety); nor does it plan on selling data, which would likely be extremely lucrative.
Instead, the company is focused on building out the service and growing market share. That’s a good thing, say industry watchers, because it could take years before the market matures and consumers are ready for the digital health revolution.
Yep, it is still too early and building a critical mass is a crucial thing. It is so early that most of the angles remain hidden in obligatory posts on Google Health. I suggest to read the detailed & insightful comments, for instance this one at TechCrunch by Fred Neil:Continue reading →
Nature Biotechnology is the (peer review) journal for me: it’s geeky, fresh and it takes into account more than just one point-of-view, that of the scientist-academist’s: technology & business are hand in hands also. (Recommending Nat Biotech makes a niche sense here while recommending Nature, which is actually the only science journal I’m reading issue by issue is hm… too obvious)
But Nature Biotech goes as far as citing even a non peer review journal – I am also prettyfamiliar with – called Wired. So my puzzle is /please use your contextual knowledge first & just then your typing skills while thinking of an answer/: which Wired article is cited in a March Nature Biotech News and Views article (very good, by the way) named Synthetic genomes brought closer to life by Robert A Holt amongst strict science articles. Don’t think too high, it’s rather a reflection.
“That’s the problem these days,” 2K says. “Nobody wants to do work hard. Everybody wants easy. In my days, we knew what heavy lifting was. I had to carry rocks to my cave in the office. We carried rocks to write on. We wrote our code with a hammer and a chisel. That’s not software kid. That’s hardware.”Continue reading →
Along the lines of self-motivated employees, I asked a manager whether most of their new products came from the individual employees or from management. He expressed the conviction that most innovation in most companies comes from individual employees. Where management can help is in finding effective places to fit new features into the organization and product line.
Google found that releasing too many products prevented the public from learning about them and adopting them. Adding a feature to an existing product such as Gmail or Blogger could mean that millions of people adopt it, whereas releasing it as a stand-along product might limit adoption to a few thousand.
The question for me is always how these experiences can be compared and applied to the biotech industry, in this case I am curious how biotechnological innovation is going in the profit sector outside academia. So if you are working at a biotech startup or at a big pharma please share us your opinion (anonymously if you like) in the comments on the nature of innovation at your company!
Say Hello to my new 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, Mac OS X 10.5.2 MacBook right from the Fifth Avenue Apple Store, New York City! We are back in New Orleans waiting for the swarm of the formosan termites.
Let me recall some Manhattan moments with the help of quick iPhone photos.
F. Murray Abraham is one of my favorite actors, the Coen Brothers are one of my favorite movie makers. So we enjoyed ‘Almost an evening‘ the first ever play of Ethan Coen (half of the Coens) featuring Abraham as god amongst others in Bleecker Street Theatre, Off-Broadway. (The play itself probably won’t be an evergreen.) /picture at the top right corner via Flickr
a very geek Warhammer game player at the end of Washington Square Park in the Village
Anna and me are visiting New York City from 8th to 11th, Sunday this week. We are eager to meet geeky figures particularly as our current location, New Orleans is not really a heaven for tech-savvy people. If interested to meet with us, drop me a line: [attilacsordas][at][gmail.com]
The project is called X2, and its aim is to forecast the future of science, technology and innovation. The name may sound like science fiction, but it’s actually an historical allusion. In my previous life as an academic historian, I studied the X Club, a group of Victorian scientists who were very interested in the future of British science. The Club formed when its members were still young, ambitious outsiders, fighting to establish their reputations in a world in which social connections and privilege mattered more than scientific achievement; by the time they retired, its nine members were among the leaders of British science.
It seems that my favorite ever unconference, the SciFooCamp will be aroundunconferenced by a BioBarCamp this year. The whole idea of the BioBarCamp is based upon the SciFoo Camp, so it is by no means a competitive but a complimentary event.
From the BarCamp wiki: “The BioBarCamp is an idea (fed by the tweets of the BioTwitterer community) to organize a life sciences – biotechnology – personalized genomics & medicine – bioinformatics unconference at the Bay Area around the 3rd SciFoo Camp time, which is 8-10th August. The SciFooCamp generates a lot of enthusiasm & activity but not just for those who are invited (only 200). On the other hand, it would be nice to organize a bio-related BarCamp, just like the Cambridge BarCamb, in which the bio-related SciFoo Campers and all the other biogeeks could gather together.”
The main activity is happening right now at the public BioBarCamp Google Group. If interested please join there or just follow the discussions. We are right now in the process of finding a proper venue and sponsors and any help would be most welcome. Right now 6 or 7 August seems to be the consensus day and we have a very generous offer from The Institute for the Future via Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in Palo Alto (no response from 23andMe so far, see below).
It’s against a classic Twitter story, just like this before. You can reconstruct the whole conversation with Twitter Search Engine Tweet Scan by searching for terms SciFoo, BioBarCamp, SciBarCamp but here are my selected tweets:
Scene One, 04/10/08 How the idea was born on that day in reverse chronological order:
Scene Two 04/22/08 How the biospecificity and name was born alongside with a possible venue idea: Continue reading →
“Skull is in the game zone, right now. And you don’t want to mess with him when he is in the game zone. He once played for 4 days straight on 1 quarter, a gallon of chocolate milk and an adult diaper.”
In 2007, Google made headlines when they invested $4.4 million in 23andMe, a genetic screening start-up company began by Anne Wojcicki, the wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and a business partner. But if you thought that was Google’s only interest in genetics and DNA, you’re wrong. Google has also been investing in a second DNA start-up called Navigenics, which for $2,500 and a small bit of saliva will provide you with genetic test results delivered securely online containing information about the likelihood for 18 medical conditions.
What’s really funny here is that I predicted this investment last Friday, on the 18th, on Twitter. The original idea was Aaron Swartz’s Google thought experiment: Imagine you were suddenly put in charge of Google. What would you spend your time doing?I came up with this answer (picking Navigenics because of ther profile and location) on behalf of Sergey Brin:
“tracks the web technology ecosystem commonly referenced as “Web 2.0.” We collect facts and figures about new web products, startup companies, key startup employees, and the funding dollars powering their growth.”
3. 23andMe is a pioneering web-based, personalized genomics startup (founded in April, 2006) with a high-tech service, a definitely “Web 2.0″ website & investors most Web 2.0 startups only dreaming of.
Michael Kingsley – diagnosed with Parkinson disease at the age 42 – wrote an utterly fatalist, sad&straight and death conscious essay entitled Mine Is Longer than Yours on the last boomer game he calls competitive longevity published in the New Yorker. This piece is the dark counterpart of the recent WiredKurzweil coverage on Mr. K.’s enormous efforts of being prospectively healthy as long as to reach next generation life extension technologies.
In contrast to that, Mr Kingsley, who underwent deep brain stimulation and lives with wires in the brain and batteries in the chest, seems to be somewhat restricted in the age of web to “switching your subscription from Newsweek to Time”. Still, “longevity is not a zero-sum game” – he admits.
Mr. Kingsley is pretty ignorant about any non-selfish motivation behind life extension (he is a political journalist by profession): Continue reading →
There is a pattern of successful technological innovations I can summarize the following way: there is a nerd engineer who actually invents something and builds the first functional prototype, and there is a geeky enough yo who recognizes the value of the prototype and makes the bigger money/fame/other beneficiaries out of it by turning it into a commercial product: the archetypal nerd/geek pair in this respect is Wozniak/Jobs. In case of the wiki software the programmer/inventor was WardCunningham, while Jimmy Wales became the official Mr. Wiki due to Wikipedia.
Recently I discovered Cunningham on Twitter and I learnt that for coding he takes inspiration from life’s processes ranging from cell signaling to cultural evolution. His coming speech: Continue reading →
Building and using low budget but high tech devices at home is a main motivation behind hacking. A Harvard Chemistry Research Group now created a microchannel producing device using a Hewlett Packard 7550A Graphics Plotter (see some eBay prices) to perform a diagnostic protein assay with it amongst others. /See my SciFoo microfluidics coverage./
“The system works like this. By replica moulding, the pens of the plotter are replaced with PDMS versions that can deliver various types of ‘ink’. The purpose of the ink, when cured, is to create channels in a filter-paper substrate, and after experimenting with the possibilities Bruzewicz et al. found that a syrupy mixture of 3:1 PDMS:hexane did just fine. Having chosen the appropriate paper, the trick then is to use the plotter to draw channel shapes, with the PDMS syrup penetrating the full depth of the paper to create water-tight chambers in various patterns.”
• Computer: Dell Dimension 4100, Pentium III Processor (1 GHz)
• Plotter: Hewlett Packard 7550A Graphics Plotter
• Operating System: OpenSuSE Linux 10.1, Novell Corporation. Available for free download
• Additional Software:
1. Inkscape – vector drawing program, for design of channels. Included in OpenSuSE, also available for free.
At the SciFoo Camp last year at the Googleplex I suggested a little unconference session (ok, there were some slides ready on my MacBook) and one participant was Chinh Dang (another was this inventor) Technology Director of the Allen Institute for Brain Science who made a little intro to the work of the Institute to the 9-10 attendees after this slide of mine:
Paul Allen is the likable, Steven Wozniak-type co-founder of Microsoft, but I guess a bit richer (once we estimated with a friend of mine that he could buy all the Budapest condos circa 180 times or sg like that).
But instead of doing that he provided $100M – amongst others – in seed money to fund the Allen Brain Atlas.
Last year I approached a powerful Wirededitor with the following story pitch: “A full and deep but cool report on the current (scientific) life extension technologies, persons, battles, camps, grants, problems, perspectives.”
His reply was a diplomatic and definite naysaying:
“Thanks for the idea. Alas, we’ve done *way* too many stories on life-extension over the years, from profiles of the singularity guys and Aubrey De Gray (sic) to shorter takes on various startups and stuff. There may be cool stuff out there, but I’m afraid we’ve exhausted our appetite on the subject.”
However the life extension appetite is not something that could be exhausted until the problem is solved systematically and the Wired guys’ appetite seems to be restored and healthy again as in the April Wired issue (not online yet) there is a full story (or rather followup) on the No.1 singularity guy and baby boomer escapist artist Ray Kurzweil called Stayin’ Alive by senior Wired contributing editor Gary Wolf (whose book Wired – A Romance is a good reading).
What is interesting in Kurzweil for experimental scientists/robust life extension supporters is not his meditations on singularity, accelerating change and mind uploading (see the counterarguments by Mark Anderson in the same Wired issue), but his experimental, futuristic, life extensionist lifyestyle:
Kurzweil takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that doesn’t have time to organize them all himself. So he’s hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses. K. also spends one day a week at a medical clinic, receiving intravenous longevity treatments. The reason for his focus on optimal health should be obvious: If the singularity is going to render humans immortal by the middle of this century, it would be a shame to die in the interim.
The title question is my million (not billion yet) dollar question for this year. Arthur Levinson is a board member of Google (Apple too) and in his leftover time he is the CEO of the most successful biotech company so far, that’s Genentech. I would be curious to hear about his biotech-related activity as a G board member from my readers even in the form of guesses. Maybe he is teaching biotech classes to Googlers after both Genentech’s and Google’s investment into 23andMe or just sitting around sometimes at the nice cafeterias at the Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View and explaining knockout technology to coders.
As a local New Orleans face (my colleagues just call me Mitoman in the lab) I had the chance to just simply walk into the grandiose PITTCON exhibiton at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center and I liked it. In addition to getting answers to some strictly lab related questions concerning filters and fuges (nevermind), I satisfied my 2 major side interests: the older bioDIY and the brand new RFID.
1. I surprised every biotech vendor - some of them laughed, others were meditating a bit - with the question: ok, but what is the cheapest gadget you have for somebody who wants to set up his basic DNA private lab at his backyard?
In my coming series to help launch a grassroots biotech DIY movement I’ll put together concrete suggestions on what to buy, but according to the experts:
- the price of a new benchtop centrifuge (6-8000 x g) is $800-1200, but the manufacturer is simply not interested in individual service and recycle used machines for low-throughput hobbyist end-users
- liquid nitrogen: 24 liter tank around $5000 (you can get it lower), LN itself is not that cheap but it’s worth storing your cells in a local repository bank instead, at least an expert guy told me
- a laminar hood for sterile work with cells is also around $5000, way too much for garage biofreaks, but you can still build your own out of a household air purifier
2. Have you ever thought of tracking, reidentifying your eppendorfs and tiny PCR tubes in the lab instead of the almost impossible hand marking? Well, we are not there yet, but Baytek developed an RFID kit for glass GC or HPLC vials. Continue reading →
To learn more, researchers need to collect thousands of genetic profiles – and the health data connected with each of them – to find correlations between the two. That leads to a second goal of 23andMe – to collect a large database of genetic information and then come back to you over time with invitations to provide specific health data and participate in research.
We’re not asking you to do this for purely altruistic reasons – either on our part or on yours. We’re a profit-seeking company, even though our founders and employees – and directors! – all share the vision of better understanding of everyone’s genomic make-up. As for you, the research results your data help produce could translate directly into benefits for you, or at least for your children, grandchildren and friends.
Now imagine a world (2009?) in which 23andMe genotype profiles could be uploaded to your Google Health profile with one click (see picture).
So I accepted the invitation and became an Academic Editor. But I confess that I was not yet a true convert to OA or to PLoS Biology. So I decided to do what any good scientist should do in such a situation—I planned a publishing experiment. I’d had many papers in Science and Nature before. And so I convinced my collaborators on a high-profile paper to submit it to PLoS Biology, to see how this new high-profile OA journal would compare.
But then, while finalizing the paper, a two-month-long medical nightmare ensued that eventually ended in the stillbirth of my first child. While my wife and I struggled with medical mistakes and negligence, we felt the need to take charge and figure out for ourselves what the right medical care should be. And this is when I experienced the horror of closed-access publishing. For unlike my colleagues at major research universities that have subscriptions to all journals, I worked at a 300-person nonprofit research institute with a small library. So there I was—a scientist and a taxpayer—desperate to read the results of work that I helped pay for and work that might give me more knowledge than possessed by our doctors. Continue reading →
The preliminary program already has over two dozen confirmed
speakers, all of them world leaders in their field. As for previous
conferences I have [co-]organised, the emphasis of this meeting is on
“applied biogerontology” — the design and implementation of
biomedical interventions that may, jointly, constitute a
comprehensive panel of rejuvenation therapies, sufficient to restore
middle-aged or older laboratory animals (and, in due course, humans)
to a youthful degree of physiological robustness. The list of
scientific sessions and confirmed speakers is as follows:
DNA damage, telomeres, cancer
Adam Arkin, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Jan Vijg, Buck
Institute for Age Research; Jerry Shay, U. Texas Southwestern;
Claudia Gravekamp, Pacific Medical Center Research Institute; Zheng
Cui, Wake Forest University School of Medicine; Rita Effros, UCLA
The cell niche
Irina Conboy, U. California Berkeley; Judith Campisi, Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory and Buck Institute; Leanne Jones, Salk
Institute; Ken Muneoka, Tulane University; Kevin Healy, Stanford
University Continue reading →
Finally back from my Bay Area trip, the workshop I participated turned out to be very stimulating in terms of people and ideas. Also visiting The Blood Knot performance at the American Conservatory Theater and having a drink with Monya&Dan were absolutely delightful. I missed my flight on Saturday, so I slept in LA (and missed my wife) and discovered the city to the amount of a Taco Bell dinner near to the La Quinta Hotel. Also I did a little geek tourism and visited the South Park area in San Francisco (but forgot to check the Wired headquarters) which was so nicely described in Aaron Swartz‘s unfortunately unfinished (but not unfinishable) Bubble city:
Downtown San Francisco is a world of carefully-gridded streets and looming skyscrapers, but hidden behind a gas station on Third is a place that almost looks like another world. The sun shines brightly upon a park with green grass and tall shady trees and vibrant swings with children. The park is an oval and the perimeter is lined with small, pastel-colored buildings. Here and there are a smattering of small cafes and restaurants. And the other buildings are filled with startups. Twitter here. Adaptive Path there. Even Yahoo, when it wanted to encourage its employees to be more startup-y, opened up an office in the neighborhood. Sit on the grass and chances are you’ll sit near a friend from another company or bump into them in line at a cafe. The place crawls with companies and back on the street, surveying the scene with a distant but watchful eye, lie the journalists, whose publications cover with awe the rumblings of those below. It was here that Newsflip made its home.
Leaving New Orleans for the Bay Area for the next 3 days. I am visiting a quite enigmatic workshop in Palo Alto on Feb 22, then I am in San Francisco downtown on Friday evening and Saturday AM. If anybody would like to meet me, I am available there on Saturday near Union Square, just drop a mail.
Travel readings: Wired, March (not online yet, The Ruby on Rails coverage was interesting, but still hesitating whether to read Chris Anderson next airport book ad essay: Free or not, but definitely will read Joshua Davis story on Cougar Ace), Woody Guthrie: Bound for glory
Also a Wired recommendation: How to fly through the airport security in a dignity safe way: laceless shoes and holeless socks.