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Scripps Florida: The Elderly as Early Adopters of Biomedical Innovation

I just returned from a brief vacation in Jupiter, Florida. As Woody Allen once famously said, "seventy percent of success in life is showing up." I often find that this is the case in research, especially when cities and regions are what you study. You need to be open to serendipitous discoveries as you travel.

Fertility Treatments and Cosmetic Traits

On the heels of the public controversy over a mother of six using fertility treatments to have octuplets, comes a story from the Wall Street Journal that highlights the “ethical gray zones” brought about through fertility treatments.

Corporate Incubation: Big Pharma's Bold Move

I've been meaning to write about this for a few months now, but the news this week about GlaxoSmithKline's cutbacks in internal R&D (I'll post something about this later in the week) brought me back to a March 2008 piece in Nature Biotechnology about the establishment of corporate biotech incubators at Biogen and Pfizer. (Nature Biotechnology, "Start-ups weigh benefits of corporate incubators", March 2008)

BioBarCamp

In a blog post the other day, I mentioned FooCamp--which is an annual invitation-only participant driven conference hosted by open source publishing legend Tim O'Reilly (who, interestingly enough, is credited with coining the term "Web 2.0").  On August 6th & 7th, the Institute will be hosting BioBarCamp.  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, BarCamps are user-generated conferences—open, participatory workshop-events, during which content is provided by participants.  They are sometimes referred to as unconferences.  My colleague, Alex Pang, has observed, "[T]hese camps . . . at their best are semi-chaotic but intellectually exciting affairs." You can read more about BarCamps here.

Global networks for remote clusters

This article from Research Policy provides an excellent analysis of the particular problems of trying to create globally-competitive clusters in geographically isolated areas, using the biotech industry in Melbourne, Australia as its case study.

Cease-and-desist letter sent to California-based personalized genetics startups

California likes to think of itself as a high-tech friendly place, and generally it is. However, Alexis Madrigal reports that the state government has decided to go after personal genetics companies:

Last Monday, the state's laboratory field services group issued 13 cease-and-desist letters to genetic testing companies. Wired.com obtained a copy of the letters (pdf.) from two recipients. And the tough talk in a recent teleconference among regulatory officials confirms the seriousness of the department's intent.

"We [are] no longer tolerating direct-to-consumer genetic testing in California," Karen Nickles, Chief of Laboratory Field Services at the health department, told members of the Clinical Laboratories Advisory Committee on June 13.

Targeted companies include personal genomics startups 23andMe and Navigenics. These services are seen as the leading edge of a new type of health care in which consumers can use their genetic profile to tailor their medical and lifestyle choices. The established medical community, however, is wary of the technology arguing that the medical utility of some tests is unproven. Doctors also complain that direct-to-consumer services bypass them as the gatekeepers and analysts of medical information, which they worry could confuse consumers, not to mention cost them a billing event.

The health department's actions are a direct challenge to the viability of the infant DNA-testing industry, for which physician involvement is shaping up to be a major battleground. As far back as a September 2006 meeting, health department officials were voicing concerns over "nutrigenetic tests that analyze a limited number of genes to give personalized nutritional and lifestyle recommendations."

(via Virginia Postrel's Dynamist Blog)

Have you taken your smart pill today?

Coming soon to a pharmacy near you . . . pills that can monitor when they have been taken and what effects they are having on your body. Michael Chorost, who spoke at IFTF's recent Ten Year Forecast Conference, reports in MIT's Technology Review about Proteus Biomedical's development of in-body computing platforms.

DNA testing companies come under scrutiny

Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News broke stories yesterday about impending investigaitons by the Departments of Public Health in California and New York into six online genetic testing companies.

Retail DNA

Navigenics is not the only company to market consumer genetic testing (see 23andMe and deCODEme), but it may be the first to do so in a retail setting (at least one as trendy as Manhattan's SoHo District). The New York Times has a short piece about Navigenics' temporary storefront in SoHo.

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