TedMed’s Hive shines a bright light on nineteen innovators working to improve health and well-being in a wide variety of ways. Eighteen of the innovators presented on the 2017 TedMed main stage in a Day 2 session called, rightfully, Audacious. The two-minute presentations were divided up into four categories: Get Smart, Launch Pad, Radical Reinvention, and About Time. Here’s a synopsis of what they are working on.
The focus of this group of innovations is pushing our boundaries on the body of knowledge we know as people.
First up was Chee Yeun Chung of Yumanity Therapeutics. The company is using yeast cells to learn everything they can about the misfolding of brain proteins, a biologic mistake that can cause nerve cell damage, cell death, and serious neurologic disorders. The company is applying gene editing techniques and rapid screening to find drug-like molecules that can repair the misfolding. She said some of these molecules are now being prepared for human studies.
James Field of LabGenius started out by telling the audience that human creativity is shackled by the limits of human intelligence. But, he said, there is a reason for hope. Autonomous machines that are able to iteratively learn—artificial intelligence—are being developed that can break through the cognitive barriers and allow us to develop new therapies that can cure previously incurable diseases.
Dan Sobek from Kernel asked what if humans could precisely tune their minds via deep stimulation of the brain. It has been used in Parkinson’s disease and work is being done to see if it can be used in other disorders, such as severe depression, reducing anxiety, stopping epileptic seizures, and perhaps enhancing our abilities to learn.
Hispanics are now the largest racial-ethnic group in California, but only 5% of doctors speak Spanish. Abner Mason of ConsejoSano says there is a growing disconnect, linguistically and culturally, between doctors and the patients that they serve. He said his company is helping doctors know their patients at a deeper level by integrating compassionate care with technology like multichannel messaging and data analytics. As a result, doctors and patients will be able to better communicate and navigate healthcare.
This group of entrepreneurs is working on how to repurpose existing ideas that can serve as the foundation for big change. Moderator, Stacey Chang, said these innovators have the ability to see old things from a fresh perspective and then reformulate them to invent something new.
First up was Omar Abudayyeh of the Broad Institute. He reminded us how terrifying unknown diseases can be. He told us the story of a friend who became septic and was treated with a whole host of different antibiotics that wreaked havoc with her system. This approach was used because, initially, the doctors didn’t know what type of bacteria was causing the infection. This is inefficient, he said, and technology exists to get to diagnoses much more quickly. That technology is called CRISPR-CAS9, which can detect different DNA and RNA sequences to determine causes of disease. Eventually, this technology will be able to be used in the field and even at home to quickly and cheaply detect infections and maybe even cancer.
Neuroscientist and engineer Kate Rosenbluth of Cala Health asks what if electricity were a medicine. She described a patient with essential tremor so severe he could not write a note or drink a coffee with a friend. She wondered if she could reverse engineer his brain’s electrical circuit using body-worn electronics. She says the company has been able to develop this type of therapy and improve these debilitating symptoms.
Mudit Garg of Qventus is applying artificial intelligence to streamline the complex processes of delivering healthcare, such as patient flow, patient access, and utilization of supplies to make them more efficient and reduce cost. They have already done this, he said. One of their customers has treated 3,000 more patients in the ER this year compared to last year without adding more resources. This also saved nearly a million minutes of wait time for patients.
After moving from Michigan to California, Sara Vander Zanden was shocked by the number of people she saw sleeping in doorways and living under bridges. She initially thought that homelessness was just too big of a problem to solve. Instead, she came up with an extraordinary idea—reimagining idle backyards as platforms for building a more equitable world. The Block Project builds small format, off-grade homes in residential backyards for people living on the streets. You may think no one would step forward to do this, but she said she is already working with 50 families in Seattle to create homes for homeless people. She showed a photo of Kim and Dan who have such a structure in their backyard and now Robert, a 75-year-old man who had lived on the streets for more than 10 years, has a safe place to call home.
These five entrepreneurs are repurposing existing materials, technologies, and research to address major issues in health and medicine.
Justin Barad asks if there is a better way to train surgeons than “see one, do one, teach one.” The number and complexities of modern surgery keep on increasing and will eventually make the old ways of teaching surgery obsolete. Osso VR is using virtual reality simulation to allow the next generation of surgeons to hone their skills before having to apply them to patients.
Nadja Oertelt says science has a big problem because scientists don’t speak in a language that the general public can understand. Without understanding, there can be misunderstanding and a failure to engage the public in important scientific topics, like climate change. To help solve this problem her company, Massive, is forging new communication pathways between scientists and the public and is training scientists to become expert science storytellers.
Gabriel Otte of Freenome says our current healthcare system waits until too late to effectively treat disease; we are simply not detecting them early enough for cure. He wants to be able to detect disease at the earliest stages by combining advances in life sciences and technology so that one simple tube of blood can provide affordable early detection of age-associated diseases. Combining early detection with lifestyle changes and the most effective treatments, he says, will allow us to truly be living in a world without disease.
Karen Hogan says that biofabrication is the next industrial revolution, This means using organisms to grow the things we need. But the current processes take a long time and are labor intensive to figure out a bio-based solution. Her company, Biorealize, has a vision of developing new automated tools and putting a “cobot” by the side of every researcher to do the tedious work of research thereby freeing them up to focus on the more complex aspects of research and innovation.
Siddarth Satish tells us that maternal mortality rates are on the rise in the U.S. in part because of maternal hemorrhage. The problem, he says, is that there is often a failure to recognize serious hemorrhage early enough to intervene. This is, in part, because estimating the blood loss is difficult. Gauss Surgical is trying to solve that problem by using mobile digital devices to take pictures of sponges, canisters, and other blood containing media in the delivery room and in the OR to measure accurately, precisely, and in real time how much blood has been lost. The hope is that this will help make delivery and surgery safer both here in the U.S. and globally.
This group of entrepreneurs is trying to reframe and rethink how we think about the limits of time.
Amy Schulman says non-adherence to prescribed medications is an epidemic. Approximately 125,000 people die each year because they failed to take their pills. It is also costly: We spend $300 billion on avoidable healthcare costs due to non-adherence. There are many reasons why people don’t take their pills, many of which are valid including forgetfulness, inconvenience, and stigma. Amy’s company, Lyndra, is working on developing a single pill that can deliver all of the medication you need for a week via one dose. What if, she says, instead of trying to change people, we change the pill instead.
What if a medicine listened to cues from your body to provide therapy when and where it’s needed? That is the question Aleks Radovic-Moreno is trying to answer with his company, Alivio Therapeutics. He says that over 50 million people living today are suffering from diseases caused by an overactive immune system. So how can you turn down the immune system without shutting it off? What if new medicines could be developed that actually interact with the immune system? This is what Alivio hopes to do.
Over 500 million people around the world suffer from Type 2 diabetes (T2D), but what if we are approaching the disease incorrectly. Cardiologist Harith Rajagopalan of Fractyl Labs had an ah-ha moment when he realized that a specific gut surgery, gastric by-pass, could not only reverse but seemingly cure some cases of T2D. He believes we need to shift our focus from managing blood sugar to a focus on the gut. His team has developed a minimally invasive procedural therapy, delivered through the mouth, that is designed to rejuvenate the part of the gut that is implicated in the disease. The aim is to reverse, not just manage diabetes.
Jo Schneier’s grandmother abandoned her family and committed suicide. This story led to widespread suicide in his family. But Jo’s family eventually tracked down her gravestone and found out that she died much later than their grandfather had told them and not from suicide. This demonstrates, he said, the power of story. Because the need for caregivers is growing and the work is undervalued by society, Cognotion is using story-telling to inspire people to become caregivers and to understand the importance of their job. The company uses stories not only to impart the skills caregivers need, but also to let them know that their work is important.
Kevin Lyman says that 450 million people will have an imaging test in 2017 alone, but one in five will be misdiagnosed and one in four will have their diagnosis missed altogether. This translates into millions of preventable deaths and billions in preventable costs. Enlitic is applying artificial intelligence machine-learning models that have been trained via the expertise of many doctors to improve diagnostic capability.
In the category “in bed with the flu” is the 19th Hive entrepreneur, Katelyn Gleason, CEO of Eligible. Here is a bit about the company from her TedMed Hive bio:
Eligible is the leading billing infrastructure company for healthcare in the U.S. Eligible provides a software service that allows providers to automatically determine patients’ insurance coverage. This eliminates errors and slowdowns caused by traditional healthcare billing and dramatically increases providers’ revenues at a fraction of the normal cost to collect. Today, Eligible’s software automates eligibility for over 2,000 insurance companies, which cover more than 90% of the insured U.S. population. Major providers like Radnet or the Cleveland Clinic now have kiosks installed throughout their facilities where patients can scan emailed barcodes in order to see exactly how much their service will cost, even before proceeding with the appointment. Eligible integrations also help power services like ZocDoc, Oscar, and Healthtap, offering eligibility and cost-transparency at every step of the healthcare process. Provider revenues climb and doctors are free to focus on what they do best—providing patients with the best possible care.
Get well soon Katelyn!