Author: Lisa Fratt

What we’ve been reading: Week of March 23, 2015

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Single-Dose Cures for Malaria, Other Diseases (MIT Technology Review)
Pills that deliver a full course of treatment in one swallow could, or “super pills,” could simplify the treatment of diseases such as malaria and potentially produce cost savings that stretch into the $100 billion a year range, according to Bob Langer, PhD, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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What we’ve been reading: Week of February 16, 2015

Vector’s picks of recent pediatric healthcare, science and innovation news.

Hand of a Superhero: 3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary (The New York Times)
3D printers, it turns out, are an ideal solution for children who are missing fingers or hands. Prosthetics are rarely made for children; they tend to be too expensive, and children outgrow them far too quickly. Enter the 3D printer, which can create a D.I.Y. hand for as little as $20 to $50.

A Pancreas in a Capsule (MIT Technology Review)
Can stem cells solve the Type 1 diabetes puzzle? A handful of United States patients have had lab-grown pancreas cells, derived from human embryonic stem cells, transplanted in a human safety trial. Tech Review documents the challenges, and potential, of turning stem cells into real, functioning pancreas cells.

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Realities of relativity nudge researcher to alternate career plan

From a series profiling researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital

He’s a big thinker focused on harnessing the hyper-small. Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, is a leading drug delivery and biomaterials researcher, leveraging nanoparticle technology and other new vehicles to make medications safer and more effective.

It’s not quite what he had in mind as a child. He dreamed of studying life forms in remote galaxies.

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But when he became aware of the constraints of relativity, he re-focused his ambitions, ultimately concentrating on innovations in drug delivery. Here’s what he told us.

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Ophthalmologist finds another way to be a rock star

From a series on researchers and innovators at Boston Children’s Hospital.

David Hunter, MD, PhD
Happy to fix things, Hunter realigns a strike plate on a balcony door. (Photo: Constance West, MD)

David G. Hunter, MD, PhD, dreamed of a career as a rock star. Instead, he became Boston Children’s Hospital’s ophthalmologist-in-chief and invented the Pediatric Vision Scanner. The device, designed for use by pediatricians, detects amblyopia or “lazy eye,” the leading cause of vision loss in children, as early as preschool age when the condition is highly correctable.

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Innovation Tank nets two winners

Daymond John, of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” and a five-judge panel of venture capitalists and physicians selected two winners in the Innovation Tank at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards. The judges awarded the fledgling companies—both of which have created products to help prevent catheter-associated infections—$12,500 each. The runner-up, Kurbo, received $5,000.

“What’s amazing about the Innovation Tank is that [the winners] don’t have to give up any of their company,” John said. The number-one reason new businesses don’t succeed is overfunding. That’s because aspiring entrepreneurs often take out substantial loans to fund their innovations.

Here’s a closer look at the three innovators who participated in the tank:

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Zeke Emanuel: 5 strategies hospitals need to survive

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Twenty percent of hospitals will close by the end of the decade, predicted bioethicist Ezekiel “Zeke” Emanuel MD, PhD, during a keynote address at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards.

How can hospitals make the cut and stay alive? The only way is to deliver high-quality, low-cost care that elicits patient allegiance, said Emanuel, a former health advisor to President Barack Obama, the chair of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of Reinventing American Health Care.

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What can a surgeon learn from NASCAR drivers?

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At first, Peter Waters, MD, was a bit puzzled when he was asked to present at the 2014 Global Pediatric Innovation + Awards. Unlike some of his colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital, Waters, the hospital’s orthopedic surgeon-in-chief, hadn’t developed an orthopedic widget or led groundbreaking scientific research. But his innovation could ultimately be even more important.

Waters has leveraged an unlikely partnership with the NASCAR racing team Hendrick Motorsports to inject new levels of safety and collaboration into pediatric orthopedic surgery departments across the United States.

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Bill Taylor: Can we steal the next disruptive health innovation from Cirque du Soleil?

“R&D is not always research and development. Sometimes it’s rip off and duplicate,” Bill Taylor, cofounder and founding editor of Fast Company magazine, said during his keynote address at the Boston Children’s Hospital Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards 2014.

In his address, titled “Tough Problems, New Remedies: A Practically Radical Prescription for Health Care,” Taylor encouraged innovators to look broadly across other fields and determine the health care version of the most successful players in those fields.

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Innovation inspiration: From Shakira to Toys ‘R’ Us

A fleet of toddlers get ready to race in their Go Baby Go cars, customized by therapists and parents to provide disabled children with mobility and help them strengthen weak muscles.
Start your engines: A fleet of GoBabyGo cars, customized by therapists and parents to give disabled children mobility and help strengthen weak muscles. (Courtesy Cole Galloway)
TEDMED2014 focused on a powerful theme: unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Speaker after speaker shared tales of imagination, inspiration and innovation. Here are a few of our favorites:

$100 plastic car stands in for $25,000 power wheelchair

In the first (and likely only) National Institutes of Health-funded shopping spree at Toys R’ Us, Cole Galloway, director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab at the University of Delaware, and crew stocked up on pint-sized riding toys.

Galloway’s quest was to facilitate independence and mobility among disabled children from the age of six months and older and offer a low-tech solution during the five-year wait in the United States for a $25,000 power pediatric wheelchair.

The hackers jerry-rigged the toys with pool noodles, PVC pipe and switches, reconfiguring them as mobile rehabilitation devices to promote functional skills among kids with special needs.

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Innovation doesn’t need to be sexy

Small innovations can transform health care
Fixing a real problem, even a small one, can transform health care.
What can innovators do to work with investors and industry to move an idea toward commercialization? Speakers at the upcoming Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards, hosted by Boston Children’s Hospital, have some simple advice: Don’t think your innovation has to be sexy.

Health care is plagued by problems that aren’t necessarily sexy or compelling, says Mandira Singh, MBA, of AthenaHealth, who will speak at the Summit’s Mobile & Digital Health panel. More than many other industries, it still depends on outdated technology. For example, it’s the only industry that continues to rely on fax machines. “These are small problems that need to be fixed,” Singh said recently at a Boston Children’s Hospital forum.

Instead of focusing on everyday challenges, innovators often think far out into the future—to where they think health care will be in 10 years. That can be a trap:

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