Will it blend? Apparently a blender is just about all it takes to make industrial volumes of graphene!  Thanks to my enlightened friend I found out just how important this little idea could become.  Graphene may one day be used to generate batteries that charge in seconds, toxic waste sponges, bionic devices, more aerodynamic tennis rackets to be thrown farther in frustration, and of course as another reason for a Gizmodo post. 
http://gizmodo.com/how-you-can-make-graphene-at-home-in-your-blender-1565497683
http://gizmodo.com/5988977/9-incredible-uses-for-graphene
http://gizmodo.com/5985269/how-graphene-could-transform-the-gadgets-of-the-future

Will it blend? Apparently a blender is just about all it takes to make industrial volumes of graphene!  Thanks to my enlightened friend I found out just how important this little idea could become.  Graphene may one day be used to generate batteries that charge in seconds, toxic waste sponges, bionic devices, more aerodynamic tennis rackets to be thrown farther in frustration, and of course as another reason for a Gizmodo post. 

http://gizmodo.com/how-you-can-make-graphene-at-home-in-your-blender-1565497683

http://gizmodo.com/5988977/9-incredible-uses-for-graphene

http://gizmodo.com/5985269/how-graphene-could-transform-the-gadgets-of-the-future

Inexpensive wearable sensors are a great way to provide a personalized touch to health care.  Something as convenient as this temperature sensor may be useful in detecting autonomic nervous system changes or even skin hydration according to the article in Nature Materials.

What gives them inspiration?
Here’s a collection of successful entrepreneurs’ thoughts on just that.  There are about 30 or so posts on this thread and here are some notable quotes.
“You can’t do it alone… …I knew that we could all learn better if we collaborated with each other. So I set out to change the system.”
- Giovanni Colella, MD, Co-Founder & CEO at Castlight Health
 
 “It is the personal tales of people I meet that are most inspiring… …Often I am more struck by the potential of an individual than their idea.”
- Richard Branson, Founder at Virgin Group
 
“What the leader who gave me the assignment knew, and that I didn’t, is that people with leadership potential often don’t discover it and tap into it until they are faced with a truly difficult challenge, one that pulls them out of their comfort zone and makes failure a real option.”
- Steven J. Thompson, CEO at Johns Hopkins Medicine International
 
And for good measure: “But for me, a consistent and reliable source of inspiration is Donald Trump.”
- Richard A. Moran, CEO, Corporate Director, Venture Capitalist, Author, Vintner


Picture credit to the essay from Karl Heiselman, CEO at Wolff Olins.

What gives them inspiration?

Here’s a collection of successful entrepreneurs’ thoughts on just that.  There are about 30 or so posts on this thread and here are some notable quotes.

“You can’t do it alone… …I knew that we could all learn better if we collaborated with each other. So I set out to change the system.”

- Giovanni Colella, MD, Co-Founder & CEO at Castlight Health

 

 “It is the personal tales of people I meet that are most inspiring… …Often I am more struck by the potential of an individual than their idea.”

- Richard Branson, Founder at Virgin Group

 

“What the leader who gave me the assignment knew, and that I didn’t, is that people with leadership potential often don’t discover it and tap into it until they are faced with a truly difficult challenge, one that pulls them out of their comfort zone and makes failure a real option.

- Steven J. Thompson, CEO at Johns Hopkins Medicine International

 

And for good measure: “But for me, a consistent and reliable source of inspiration is Donald Trump.

- Richard A. Moran, CEO, Corporate Director, Venture Capitalist, Author, Vintner

Picture credit to the essay from Karl Heiselman, CEO at Wolff Olins.

Once I started thinking about decision making in the context of creating new ideas I found a few reasons to dig deeper.   For one, decision making is an essential part of the method that we use internally to iterate a fleeting thought into an idea that solves an important problem or an old problem in a better way.  Two, this process is often overlooked even in important business decisions.  Lastly, according to this blogger’s testimony we make as many as 35,000 decisions each day, which is reason enough in itself. 
With all these decisions happening I wondered, what constitutes a good decision maker from a bad one. I quickly found that this subject is way beyond the scope of a blog post, but I did find some useful information that puts a framework on a process we often perform in the background of our minds.  I broke the process down into four steps.
Step 1: realize the opportunity cost of decision making
The New York Times reported on an MIT study about decision making.  The test subjects (ultimately this could have been anyone on the web in 2008) were to choose between shapes and determine which was bigger.  The more correct answers you got the better.  Catch was that the size difference from question to question could be anywhere from was 2 – 25 %. The study found that poor performance was related to wasting time trying to differentiate shapes with only a 2% difference instead of just guessing and moving onto an easier comparison.  Crunching the numbers shows that participants spent, “64 percent of their time deciding between similar shapes, and only 36 percent of their time choosing between dissimilar shapes, Dr. Ariely reports.”  Almost everyone would have done better if they had weighted in the opportunity cost (the amount of time wasted on tough decisions vs. moving onto easier decisions).
The point is when it comes to decisions of equal importance, there is no benefit to spending more time on the difficult ones.  What color to paint the kitchen, yoga or spinning class, where to eat, how long to stay at our current job or get a new one?  They mean different things to different people, but are overall not worth a great deal of effort to solve.  So that puts an important stipulation on decision making in that you stand to lose out by not making it at the opportune time, or in missing out on other things while waffling.  This might be called dithering or decision paralysis, and I often hear it associated with the term fear of failure.
To get over decision paralysis sometimes simply picking a route and trying it out is best according to the “life’s an experiment approach.”  The knowledge gained, for better or worse, makes the next decision in that space more informed.
Step 2: weight your options & when stuck, experiment by choosing one of the options
Got it, but still how do I make better decisions?  There are about 357,107 amazon search results for the term ‘decision making’ leaving the finer details of this to an expert.  However I’ve been through this process recently and I found the tool we used to be very attractive (when time permits), which was a matrix.  We were stratifying the market opportunities for a medical device and had about eight medical problems the device could realistically attempt to solve.  The matrix consisted of the potential applications across the top and the methods of evaluating the application in the left column, such as cost of clinical trial, overcoming competitors, market size, fit with company IP, etc…  We could score and weight certain criteria by application and determine an overall ‘fit’ for the device in each market opportunity.  There are web resources available to follow this method and the graphical representation of the outcomes (e.g. a bubble chart) are often easy to interpret and make a stunning slide for a venture capital pitch.
In short, this step consists of deciding the options are, framing them in the context of your hierarchy, and applying the potential risk/benefits.  Be sure to check emotional and gut reactions, such as overemphasizing an option connected to a positive experience regardless of its impact on the project.  One of my favorite quotes from Einstein encompasses this, “a man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” 
Aside from emotions, decision fatigue can also be a negative contributor to the process.
Step 3: quantify or record the outcome
Next we record our results.  There seems to be a theme of scientific method in the last couple blog posts being that it applies to decision making as well.  Here we are using ourselves as the subject and choosing our own “treatment group.”  I think we’ve heard this time and again that sticking to the decision is critical here.  They say that will-power is strengthened, like a muscle, rather than inherent. 
Quantifying a decision’s outcome objectively may not be possible, but attempting to do so could be a great benefit and exercise.  However, simply recording the experience in some way may suffice such as a picture or a blurb in a journal.
Step 4: when faced with future decisions, utilize past knowledge
When faced with the same or similar decision later, we are expected to get a more favorable outcome when past experience is considered.  Since we’ve recorded our single subject experiment there is a previous outcome to review and use to guide future decisions.  This is where objective, rather than subjective measurements are useful.
Step 5: fail as quickly and often as possible. 
I can’t understate the importance of this.  I first heard this in grad school in a number of ways from a number of people, and accepting this advice was difficult, but one of the best things that helped me in becoming a better researcher.  As far as start-up companies go I’ll point you to some of the many results on why and how to fail fast…
Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgebradt/2013/01/23/want-to-fail-fast-do-these-three-things/
BusinessWeek: http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2007-06-24/fail-fast-fail-cheap
BusinessInsider: http://www.businessinsider.com/my-best-advice-to-entrepreneurs-fail-fast-fail-often-and-follow-your-passion-2011-8
500 Start-ups: http://500.co/2011/02/23/fail-fast-often-by-design/

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/post/the-new-fail-fail-fast-fail-early-and-fail-often/2012/05/30/gJQAKA891U_blog.html

Once I started thinking about decision making in the context of creating new ideas I found a few reasons to dig deeper.   For one, decision making is an essential part of the method that we use internally to iterate a fleeting thought into an idea that solves an important problem or an old problem in a better way.  Two, this process is often overlooked even in important business decisions.  Lastly, according to this blogger’s testimony we make as many as 35,000 decisions each day, which is reason enough in itself. 

With all these decisions happening I wondered, what constitutes a good decision maker from a bad one. I quickly found that this subject is way beyond the scope of a blog post, but I did find some useful information that puts a framework on a process we often perform in the background of our minds.  I broke the process down into four steps.

Step 1: realize the opportunity cost of decision making

The New York Times reported on an MIT study about decision making.  The test subjects (ultimately this could have been anyone on the web in 2008) were to choose between shapes and determine which was bigger.  The more correct answers you got the better.  Catch was that the size difference from question to question could be anywhere from was 2 – 25 %. The study found that poor performance was related to wasting time trying to differentiate shapes with only a 2% difference instead of just guessing and moving onto an easier comparison.  Crunching the numbers shows that participants spent, “64 percent of their time deciding between similar shapes, and only 36 percent of their time choosing between dissimilar shapes, Dr. Ariely reports.”  Almost everyone would have done better if they had weighted in the opportunity cost (the amount of time wasted on tough decisions vs. moving onto easier decisions).

The point is when it comes to decisions of equal importance, there is no benefit to spending more time on the difficult ones.  What color to paint the kitchen, yoga or spinning class, where to eat, how long to stay at our current job or get a new one?  They mean different things to different people, but are overall not worth a great deal of effort to solve.  So that puts an important stipulation on decision making in that you stand to lose out by not making it at the opportune time, or in missing out on other things while waffling.  This might be called dithering or decision paralysis, and I often hear it associated with the term fear of failure.

To get over decision paralysis sometimes simply picking a route and trying it out is best according to the “life’s an experiment approach.”  The knowledge gained, for better or worse, makes the next decision in that space more informed.

Step 2: weight your options & when stuck, experiment by choosing one of the options

Got it, but still how do I make better decisions?  There are about 357,107 amazon search results for the term ‘decision making’ leaving the finer details of this to an expert.  However I’ve been through this process recently and I found the tool we used to be very attractive (when time permits), which was a matrix.  We were stratifying the market opportunities for a medical device and had about eight medical problems the device could realistically attempt to solve.  The matrix consisted of the potential applications across the top and the methods of evaluating the application in the left column, such as cost of clinical trial, overcoming competitors, market size, fit with company IP, etc…  We could score and weight certain criteria by application and determine an overall ‘fit’ for the device in each market opportunity.  There are web resources available to follow this method and the graphical representation of the outcomes (e.g. a bubble chart) are often easy to interpret and make a stunning slide for a venture capital pitch.

In short, this step consists of deciding the options are, framing them in the context of your hierarchy, and applying the potential risk/benefits.  Be sure to check emotional and gut reactions, such as overemphasizing an option connected to a positive experience regardless of its impact on the project.  One of my favorite quotes from Einstein encompasses this, “a man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” 

Aside from emotions, decision fatigue can also be a negative contributor to the process.

Step 3: quantify or record the outcome

Next we record our results.  There seems to be a theme of scientific method in the last couple blog posts being that it applies to decision making as well.  Here we are using ourselves as the subject and choosing our own “treatment group.”  I think we’ve heard this time and again that sticking to the decision is critical here.  They say that will-power is strengthened, like a muscle, rather than inherent. 

Quantifying a decision’s outcome objectively may not be possible, but attempting to do so could be a great benefit and exercise.  However, simply recording the experience in some way may suffice such as a picture or a blurb in a journal.

Step 4: when faced with future decisions, utilize past knowledge

When faced with the same or similar decision later, we are expected to get a more favorable outcome when past experience is considered.  Since we’ve recorded our single subject experiment there is a previous outcome to review and use to guide future decisions.  This is where objective, rather than subjective measurements are useful.

Step 5: fail as quickly and often as possible

I can’t understate the importance of this.  I first heard this in grad school in a number of ways from a number of people, and accepting this advice was difficult, but one of the best things that helped me in becoming a better researcher.  As far as start-up companies go I’ll point you to some of the many results on why and how to fail fast…

Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgebradt/2013/01/23/want-to-fail-fast-do-these-three-things/

BusinessWeek: http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2007-06-24/fail-fast-fail-cheap

BusinessInsider: http://www.businessinsider.com/my-best-advice-to-entrepreneurs-fail-fast-fail-often-and-follow-your-passion-2011-8

500 Start-ups: http://500.co/2011/02/23/fail-fast-often-by-design/

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/post/the-new-fail-fail-fast-fail-early-and-fail-often/2012/05/30/gJQAKA891U_blog.html

What is all this LEAN stuff about?
While attending an NSF SBIR Phase II Grantees conference back in May, I listened to a presentation given by a guy named Ash Maurya.  It was all about taking a business idea from the safe of your mind to the customer as fast as possible.  The catch is that the product you’re selling is unfinished and as minimal as possible, called the minimum viable product (MVP; jargon when used automatically promotes you to business man lvl 10).   Ash explained that his past experience indicated that people who spend years and years inventing, spending $, and developing a product in their garage may fall victim to a critical and yet simple problem… does anyone really what to buy that?
Ash, was also pretty disheartened with the old ‘business model’ 50 page document that everyone cringes to write.  He promoted this thing called the Lean Canvas, a modification of the Business Model Canvas from the Lean series.  It’s a 15 min brain dump of that wild hair business idea you had driving home from work.  Let see, so far I’ve tried this thing out a few times with some product ideas at work and with a couple ideas of my own.  Biggest advantage for me, a non-MBA carrying entrepreneurial hopeful, is that all of the key business aspects are on one page and the amount of space they occupy is correlated to their importance.  Ash wrote a step-by-step book on overcoming these particular start-up problems called Running Lean and added it to the Lean Series.  Now other people at work are talking about the Lean approach to start-ups and this series seems to be gaining a huge amount of traction (+10 business jargon). 
Back to the “does anyone really want to buy that.”  Well the answer, according to this book, is to spread your business idea from the beginning.  The book describes going back to the fundamental reason for making a product: is the problem we are trying to solve worth solving.  Once that ‘problem’ is validated through potential customers, actual design of the MVP takes place.  This can be a simple web page product teaser, called a landing page.  I understand this is what Lean business practice is all about in that the MVP is just good enough to get the idea across and saves the start-up from expensive design or code generation.
I took a shot at this with an idea a few days ago.  Admittedly, I have little web-page design experience, but I felt like this would suffice in terms of practicing the dissemination of a business idea.  If you have any advice on improving the visibility of a webpage or how to make the design more appealing please share!   Here’s a link to the landing page: https://sites.google.com/site/2mymedplan/
With customer validation of the MVP, the decision to develop the product can be made with one critical piece of knowledge: someone does really want to buy that.
Last important issue here is that the process is quantitative and hypothesis driven like the scientific method (wait a minute, you mean to tell me business isn’t just luck or genius!!).  Also key is the original product idea is going to change many times throughout the process, adapting to the customer from step one.
Some skepticism of the book would be the worry of having your great idea stolen by a faster and richer group through this early reveal approach.  Also, as far as the medical device industry is concerned, it’s illegal to market a medical device prior to FDA approval/clearance.  This makes customer validation of the MVP difficult.  The medical community is a different beast compared to the everyday customer.  Determining a way to work around this issue is something worth brainstorming.
I’m looking at another book from the Lean series on my desk, The Lean Startup, and will certainly take a closer look, as Running Lean was a good read.

What is all this LEAN stuff about?

While attending an NSF SBIR Phase II Grantees conference back in May, I listened to a presentation given by a guy named Ash Maurya.  It was all about taking a business idea from the safe of your mind to the customer as fast as possible.  The catch is that the product you’re selling is unfinished and as minimal as possible, called the minimum viable product (MVP; jargon when used automatically promotes you to business man lvl 10).   Ash explained that his past experience indicated that people who spend years and years inventing, spending $, and developing a product in their garage may fall victim to a critical and yet simple problem… does anyone really what to buy that?

Ash, was also pretty disheartened with the old ‘business model’ 50 page document that everyone cringes to write.  He promoted this thing called the Lean Canvas, a modification of the Business Model Canvas from the Lean series.  It’s a 15 min brain dump of that wild hair business idea you had driving home from work.  Let see, so far I’ve tried this thing out a few times with some product ideas at work and with a couple ideas of my own.  Biggest advantage for me, a non-MBA carrying entrepreneurial hopeful, is that all of the key business aspects are on one page and the amount of space they occupy is correlated to their importance.  Ash wrote a step-by-step book on overcoming these particular start-up problems called Running Lean and added it to the Lean Series.  Now other people at work are talking about the Lean approach to start-ups and this series seems to be gaining a huge amount of traction (+10 business jargon). 

Back to the “does anyone really want to buy that.”  Well the answer, according to this book, is to spread your business idea from the beginning.  The book describes going back to the fundamental reason for making a product: is the problem we are trying to solve worth solving.  Once that ‘problem’ is validated through potential customers, actual design of the MVP takes place.  This can be a simple web page product teaser, called a landing page.  I understand this is what Lean business practice is all about in that the MVP is just good enough to get the idea across and saves the start-up from expensive design or code generation.

I took a shot at this with an idea a few days ago.  Admittedly, I have little web-page design experience, but I felt like this would suffice in terms of practicing the dissemination of a business idea.  If you have any advice on improving the visibility of a webpage or how to make the design more appealing please share!   Here’s a link to the landing page: https://sites.google.com/site/2mymedplan/

With customer validation of the MVP, the decision to develop the product can be made with one critical piece of knowledge: someone does really want to buy that.

Last important issue here is that the process is quantitative and hypothesis driven like the scientific method (wait a minute, you mean to tell me business isn’t just luck or genius!!).  Also key is the original product idea is going to change many times throughout the process, adapting to the customer from step one.

Some skepticism of the book would be the worry of having your great idea stolen by a faster and richer group through this early reveal approach.  Also, as far as the medical device industry is concerned, it’s illegal to market a medical device prior to FDA approval/clearance.  This makes customer validation of the MVP difficult.  The medical community is a different beast compared to the everyday customer.  Determining a way to work around this issue is something worth brainstorming.

I’m looking at another book from the Lean series on my desk, The Lean Startup, and will certainly take a closer look, as Running Lean was a good read.

Chance favors the connected mind.

I’m planning to revitalize biomedengine as It’s been a little over a year since I’ve paid much attention to this blog.  Before, I was using this site as a public reference list of the biomedically relevant things I came across on the internet.  This was interesting, but I’d like to make a change, and one of the main reasons is that I want to re-shaping this blog as a means to connect to the medical device start-up community.

Since I’ve been away from tumbler, the landscape around me has changed quite a bit.  I graduated and made the transition from academia to industry and have been lucky enough to see my hard work recognized and net me a Principal Scientist job at a start-up medical device company.  This happened more quickly than I expected, and one of the better ways I found out that small companies never fail to surprise.   If I listed off the accomplishments our small team has performed in the last year it would amaze, and baffle as we still haven’t sold a single product, yet we are still on a path of success (and paying our bills).  On the other side I’ve seen the way financial necessity begets marginalization of the people that built a company from scratch.  There are many dramas and rewards of the small medical device world, and I think most of us here are willing to put up with this highly regulated and diverse field because we are hoping to beat the odds in an altruistic industry.

In the beginning, I did not think it would be as rewarding and had not idea what to expect.  I found that what you say and do will have a major impact on the direction and day-to-day work, and one of the biggest advantages has been getting to take-on almost every company role.  This has included building prototypes, working directly with patients in the ICU, doing research with academic collaborators, and writing grants, contracts, and FDA submissions.  On the flip side, we are never doing the same thing from one quarter to the next, working past 2 am to hit deadlines, and are sometimes worried how much longer the money will last.  It’s hard for me to say at this point if there is anything normal about my experiences, but I would recommend giving it a try in any capacity.

At any rate, I’m on a discovery path to find out where people get the ideas that initiate start-up companies in the medical industry, and how the small percentage of start-ups that reach their exit strategy were able to achieve their success.  I’ll share what I find, and am happy to take any recommendations.

Going out with one of Steven Johnson’s TED talks, where good ideas come from.

Some notable segments…

Ideas are not singular and are like a network stitched together from whatever ideas happen to be around.

People often incorrectly recollect where an idea took place or the amount of time it took to form.

“Value connecting ideas, not protecting them”

“Chance favors the connected mind”

fuckyeahmedicalstuff

jtotheizzoe:

genannetics:

NOBEL PRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine:

John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka are the joint winners of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

Check out this article for more information on pluripotent stem cells and these two scientist’s contribution to medicine:

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2012/advanced-medicineprize2012.pdf

Personal note:

I do think that the Nobel committee should have included Dr. James Thomson on this shared award. He was the first to derive human embryonic stem cells, and he and Dr. Yamanaka each published the iPS results in the same issue of Nature on work they had been doing simultaneously.  Both recipients are very deserving, but Dr. Thomson made significant contributions to this field of research, in a manner deserving of recognition.

This was a pretty obvious choice this year, but that does not diminish the incredible science done by these two gentlemen. I guess what I’m really saying is “I totally picked right, so go me!”

I agree that Wisconsin’s James Thomson could/should have been included in this award along with Yamanaka (although Gurdon’s work predates them). The protein factors that turn on the appropriate genes to convert adult cells back into an embryonic or stem cell-like state would not be known without Dr. Thomson’s work. We got mad love for ya, Dr. Thomson.

It’s one of the fastest “research to Nobel” turnarounds that I know of, but I think it’s well-deserved. It may yet be decades before we see medical benefits resulting from this sort of work, but we have come close to decoding one of the most basic questions of biology: What makes this cell do this thing, and how can we make it do something else?

Happy Nobel-mas! More awards to come …

smarterplanet
smarterplanet:

New injection could keep you alive without breathing.
A team led by researchers at Boston Childrens Hospital have developed tiny, gas filled microparticles that can be delivered via an injection to quickly oxygenate the blood. In lab tests, the injection kept mice alive for 15 minutes after their airways were blocked. 
The team hopes that one day the microparticle solutions could be used by paramedics or emergency room doctors to allow time for a breathing tube or other measure to be put in place. The injections could likely be used for up to 30 minutes, after which time the injected fluid would start to overload the bloodstream.

smarterplanet:

New injection could keep you alive without breathing.

A team led by researchers at Boston Childrens Hospital have developed tiny, gas filled microparticles that can be delivered via an injection to quickly oxygenate the blood. In lab tests, the injection kept mice alive for 15 minutes after their airways were blocked. 

The team hopes that one day the microparticle solutions could be used by paramedics or emergency room doctors to allow time for a breathing tube or other measure to be put in place. The injections could likely be used for up to 30 minutes, after which time the injected fluid would start to overload the bloodstream.