The Theranos Story, ch. 27: investor ‘whales’ surface in class action lawsuit news

click to enlargeDon’t jump…you may land on one of them! In the Bottomless Well that is The Unicorn Losing Its Horn, The Transubstantiation of a $9 bn valuation to $9, to mix up a Whole Lotta Metaphors, the latest is that Certain Big Investors (‘whales’ in Vegas Lingo) and at least one minnow have lost their shirts, or maybe their sleeves and cuff links.

The first is via a class action lawsuit filed Monday against Theranos in San Francisco Federal Court by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, seeking to represent potentially hundreds of purchasers of Theranos shares from July 29, 2013, through October 5, 2016 .

According to the Wall Street Journal, the charges relate to “false and misleading claims about its operations and technology while soliciting money from investors.” Hagens Berman is representing Silicon Valley investment banker Robert Colman, who is the retired co-founder of Robertson Stephens & Co. (a legendary, now defunct, investment bank specializing in tech that blew up after the dot-com bust). He invested through a VC fund, Lucas Venture Group, who participated in Theranos’ Series G funding in late 2013. Lucas was invited to invest $15 million, and their principals had personal ties to Elizabeth Holmes, according to TechCrunch. The second plaintiff, Hilary Taubman-Dye, purchased Theranos shares at $19/share on SharesPost Inc., an online exchange for shares of private companies, in August 2015. Her claim is that she tried to cancel it after the Wall Street Journal exposé in October, but the purchase went through in December after Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes and an unidentified third party refused to buy back the shares as a secondary transaction. TechCrunch identified her as a “longtime technical recruiter who now works in investor relations for a TV production company” which means that her investment was likely no bag of shells for her. Their respective investments are not disclosed.

The second, according to a second article in the Journal, comes from the usual ‘sources familiar with the matter’ and papers filed by Theranos in Delaware and Arizona. These include some very atypical startup investors, such as Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. and family-controlled Cox Enterprises, at $100 million each in the 2014-15 round when shares were valued at $17/each, and an undisclosed amount by Riley Bechtel of Bechtel Group, who was later named to the board of directors. Other, more typical Silicon Valley investments date back to when Theranos was the more pedestrianly named Real Time Cures in 2004 and the shares were 15 cents each:

  • Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison
  • VCs from firms such as ATA Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The latter’s Tim Draper and his daughter (!) have been quite critical of anyone, especially John Carreyrou of the WSJ, claiming that Ms Holmes was perhaps mistaken in her scientific and business practices. (Partner Jurvetson in reports has expressed a more ‘que será, será’ attitude.) (more…)

#MedMo16 video highlights and awards on YouTube (Day 2)

Again courtesy of the MedStartr crowd-based healthcare investment fund and HealthTechTalkLive is the video of the second day at #MedMo16 from City Winery in NYC. It is just over 6 hours and includes both a panel discussion and individual presentations on what healthcare and the ACA will look in the Trump administration, blockchain, what it is like to grow your startup to a ‘baby unicorn’, human-centered design, investment and–most interesting to this marketer–being a ‘lean rat’ to run that business plan maze (2:29:00).

The five winners of the Mega Challenge start at 5:55:00:

Population Health, Payers and PharmaTech: EllieGrid (med management) and Mymee (personal health coach)
People’s Choice: Aloha Health (personalized care data for engagement)
Devices and Wearable Health Tech: Ceeable (cloud-based eye exam)
Design: Ceeable
Clinical Innovations and Hospital Tech: Haystack (proteome molecular profiling for cancer)

Day 2 link is here. More on this when your Editor has time to recover! Special thanks to Alex Fair, Tom Tagariello, Ben Chodor, Ivan Schlachter, Mimi Rosenfeld and Steve Greene on the #MedMo16 team.

Events dear boy, events…

Here is a selection of events you may wish to engage with that have crossed this editor’s PC recently:

Nominate someone for a Digital Pioneer Award – nominations close on 2 December.

DigitalHealth.London in collaboration with NHS England is hosting the Digital Pioneer Awards. They are seeking out within the NHS individuals at any rank and in any role, who are deserving of an award for any of:

  • Digital leadership
  • Digital Innovation, or
  • Sustainability through digital (which means that they have been instrumental in making sure a digital implementation has been sustained enough to a point of delivering benefit).

Med-e-Tel, the Luxembourg event,  has a call out for abstracts with a deadline of 4 December.

The NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Programme have launched recruitment for their second year cohort. Applications for all doctors will close on 9 December 2016. This intake apparently “will have limited places” (don’t they all?). Interviews will be held in March 2017 and the programme will commence in autumn 2017.

The West Midlands Health Informatics Network (WIN) will be holding its third (free) annual digital healthcare conference on 24 January 2017 at the University of Warwick. The keynote and guest speakers are:

  • Professor Theodoros N. Arvanitis, Chair in eHealth Innovation and Head of Research at The Institute of Digital Healthcare
  • John Crawford, Healthcare Industry Leader, Europe, at IBM
  • Noel Gordon, Chairman of NHS Digital
  • Harpreet Sood, Senior Fellow to the CEO at NHS England
  • Jenny Wood, Director of Adult Social Care at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

The aims of the conference are to:

  • showcase innovation and research in digital health, care and wellbeing;
  • enable the sharing of good practice and experience from those working in this area; and
  • promote collaboration across various settings.

The day will consist of exhibitions, poster presentations, talks/panels delivered by stakeholders, and networking sessions. With the keynote/guest speakers they have lined up, this is set to be their highest profile event to date, therefore, they ask that people should register as soon as possible here.

The Royal Society of Medicine is holding its highly popular Recent developments in digital health conference on 28 February. Speakers this year include Ali Parsa, Dame Fiona Caldicott, Shafi Ahmed,  and Sir Mark Walport – it’s going to be another great event. Last year there were disappointed late bookers because it sold out, so worth getting in early by booking here, now!

Hat tip to Prof Mike Short for some of the events.

 

You wait for ages for a new meaning for JAM then two come along together

Anyone tuning in to the Chancellor’s Autumn statement will be only too well aware of the JAMs – just about managing. However there also another JAM – the JAM Card and app which is a brilliant idea to flag to impatient people that you just need a little more time – Just A Minute, in fact – whether due to age, infirmity or disability. Now there’s an app to go with it too so you can record whether people responded well or not to you flashing the card at them.

So simple…so brilliant!

Hat tip to Prof Mike Short.

#MedMo16 video highlights on YouTube (Day 1)

Courtesy of the MedStartr crowd-based healthcare investment fund and HealthTechTalkLive is the first day video of #MedMo16 from City Winery in NYC. It’s a tick over 7 hours of six Momentum talks, two final exams for Mega Challenge competitors in population health and devices/wearables plus three panels. Your Editor is running the presentations so you know the dastardly doer of any ‘goofs’ you see! Day One is on YouTube here. The finalist list in the Mega Challenge presentations differs from the program here–start times are in parentheses:

  • Pop Health, Payers and Pharmatech: Mymee, AudibleRx, EllieGrid, Agewell Biometrics US, Aloha Health (1:03:00)
  • Devices and Wearable Health Tech: GlucoSight, Rx Bandz, HeartIn, tonguenacity, Ceeable (4:56:00)

Day 2 will be posted tomorrow.

NYeC Digital Health Conference (NYC)–next week

NYeC Digital Health Conference, 6-7 December 2016 | New World Stages, New York, NY
The New York eHealth Collaborative’s Digital Health Conference brings together 500 senior-level healthcare industry leaders to learn about new innovations and to foster dynamic conversation addressing how healthcare is being redefined through technology. It is well on track to fill completely, so if you’ve been delaying your booking, now is the time. And our readers enjoy a 10 percent discount.

Updated and expanded agenda here.

Keynote speakers:
• Robert Wachter, MD, Professor and Interim Chairman of the Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, author of “The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age” [TTA 16 Apr 15]. (To this Editor, this is a must-see keynote!)
• Steven Johnson, PBS Host and Bestselling Author, “How We Got To Now” and “Where Good Ideas Come From”

Some other speakers: Carol Raphael, the former CEO of Visiting Nurse Service of NY; Kristopher Smith of Northwell Health; James Mault of Qualcomm Life and Aron Gupta of Quartet Health. This year a who’s who of New York’s healthcare and health tech community will gather for two days of networking, lively intellectual exchange, and exploration to see what’s new, what’s cutting edge and what will shape the future of healthcare.

It’s worth taking the trip to NYC for this right before the holidays! For more information, click here for the website.

Telehealth & Telecare Aware Readers receive a 10% registration discount. Click on this link or the sidebar advert. Important–use code TTA when registering. For updates, @NYeHealth. TTA is a conference partner/media partner of the NYeC DHC.

Last call for London Health Technology Forum Thursday, early bird RSM mHealth 2017

On the evening of Thursday 24th November, the London Health Technology Forum holds its last event of the calendar year on “Intellectual property & licensing”. This is a really critical area that this editor has seen more people lose money on because of not handling properly than in any other aspect of early start-up management – it truly is vital to think through very early on, to stop people stealing your ideas and paying an appropriate price to license them. Attendance is free; booking is here.

(The RSM’s mHealth app conference on 4th April 2017 is just about to end its early bird prices too – worth booking here anyway now, at it’s usually a sellout).

Robot-assisted ‘smart homes’ and AI: the boundary between supportive and intrusive?

click to enlargeSomething that has been bothersome to Deep Thinkers (and Not Such Deep Thinkers like this Editor) is the almost-forced loss of control inherent in discussion of AI-powered technology. There is a elitist Wagging of Fingers that generally accompanies the Inevitable Questions and Qualms.

  • If you don’t think 100 percent self-driving cars are an Unalloyed Wonder, like Elon Musk and Google tells you, you’re a Luddite
  • If you have concerns about nanny tech or smart homes which can spy on you, you’re paranoid
  • If you are concerned that robots will take the ‘social’ out of ‘social care’, likely replace human carers for people, or lose your neighbor their job, you are not with the program

I have likely led with the reason why: loss of control. Control does not motivate just Control Freaks. Think about the decisions you like versus the ones you don’t. Think about how helpless you felt as a child or teenager when big decisions were made without any of your input. It goes that deep.

In the smart home, robotic/AI world then, who has the control? Someone unknown, faceless, well meaning but with their own rationale? (Yes, those metrics–quality, cost, savings) Recall ‘Uninvited Guests’, the video which demonstrated that Dad Ain’t Gonna Take Nannying and is good at sabotage.

Let’s stop and consider: what are we doing? Where are we going? What fills the need for assistance and care, yet retains that person’s human autonomy and that old term…dignity? Maybe they might even like it? For your consideration:

How a robot could be grandma’s new carer (plastic dogs to the contrary in The Guardian)

AI Is Not out to Get Us (Scientific American)

Hat tip on both to reader Malcolm Fisk, Senior Research Fellow (CCSR) at De Montfort University via LinkedIn

One Caring Team testing virtual reality for dementia and depression treatment, relief

click to enlargeA San Francisco-based company, One Caring Team, is visiting Bay Area seniors with a treatment that is also a treat–virtual reality headsets that recreate a beach or other relaxing environment. VR has been used with Microsoft Kinect in game-playing in assisted living communities, but the physician-founder Sonya Kim is seeking to give a break most to those older people with dementia or depression. They no longer can travel and their world has grown very small. VR gives them an opportunity to hear and see things they haven’t in a long time, if ever. Versions being tested have both a VR picture, narration on screen and audio; versions for dementia patients skip written ‘bubbles’. The point is to have the clients/patients feel safe, relaxed and welcomed. Some of the results have been that patients start to speak, interact with the pictures intuitively and be more alert, with lasting effects between VR visits. Formal studies have been done in other settings for pain management and for rehab, but this is a new company and concept. One problem is cost: $850 for each Samsung Gear VR headset plus the Galaxy smartphone, but if anything help on VR and social funding is easy to find the Bay Area; founder of the Virtual World Society, the University of Washington’s virtual interface pioneer Dr. Tom Furness, is now One Caring Team’s acting chief technology officer. Washington Post, NPR, F6S.com (Photo from One Caring Team via NPR)

Off to DC court we go: Anthem-Cigna, Aetna-Humana merger trials (US)

It seems like a year ago that the US Department of Justice sued to stop the merger of these healthcare payer giants on antitrust grounds, but it was only July! On the face of it, it would reduce the Big 5 Payers to the Big 3, with the $48 bn Anthem-Cigna matchup besting UnitedHealthcare for the #1 pole position with 45 million covered persons. DOJ also cited reduction of benefits, raising premiums, cutting payments to doctors and reducing the quality of service. 11 states, including New York, California and Connecticut, plus the District of Columbia, are backing the DOJ.

The Anthem – Cigna trial started today in US Federal Court in Washington DC. It is a two-phase hearing: the first on Anthem – Cigna’s merger’s effect on national employers, the second starting 12 Dec on local markets.

So much has happened since our July report, none of it good. ACA exchange plans have hiked benefits up well into the double digit increases by state due to lack of competition: CO-OP insurers couldn’t defy actuarial gravity for long and went out of business; commercial insurers lost too much money and bailed from multiple states (KFF). The effect on Medicare Advantage programs, which are judged on the county-state level, will be most significant with a combined Aetna-Humana having 40-50 percent market share in many counties. This triggers divestiture in current regulations.

These mergers rarely go to court after a DOJ action, so all eyes are on DC. An added fillip is that many expected the lawsuit to be the final kibosh on a Anthem-Cigna deal where reports of conflicts on future management and governance of a single entity were frequent. It wasn’t–and DOJ reportedly will be using documentation on the governance clash to demonstrate why it should not take place.

The $38 bn Aetna – Humana court date is 5 Dec, also in Washington, before a different judge.  All want a decision before year’s end so that (if positive) they can proceed with state regulatory approvals before deal expiration on 30 April 2017.

Bloomberg Big Law Business, USA Today  Also don’t assume this has much to do with a Donald J. Trump administration being ‘typical Republican=friendlier to Big Mergers’, because the president-elect has been hostile to other high profile ones, notably AT&T/TimeWarner, and this will be over before a new Attorney General is confirmed.

The Theranos Story, ch. 26: counsel Boies, Schiller & Flexner departs, disagreeing

click to enlargeAppearing in the netherworld of a Saturday weekend edition before a holiday week was this tidbit in the Wall Street Journal announcing that Theranos‘ legal representation will no longer be big, politically connected NY-based law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. Their replacement is a big, politically connected Washington, DC-based law firm, WilmerHale.

Reasons why, according to the John Carreyrou article, are disagreements on how to handle the ongoing multiple government investigations of Theranos. It also follows the September departure of in-house general counsel, and former Boies partner, Heather King, who is returning to the firm. Her replacement is David Taylor, who has no visible ties to WilmerHale.

According to Mr Carreyrou, Mr Boies “became Theranos’s outside counsel after being approached in 2011 by two investors in the Palo Alto, Calif., startup. He fiercely defended Theranos against questions about its technology and operations.” Those actions included threats of legal action against the WSJ and pressuring whistleblower Tyler Shultz (ch. 25).

Mr Boies also sits on the Theranos board. His fate there is not disclosed, yet.

David Boies is known as a bare-knucks litigator involved in high profile cases defending Sony, American Express and Big Tobacco, and against Medco, Microsoft and George Bush in the 2000 presidential election. At 75, the chairman is one of the best known figures in what is colorfully termed Big Law.

Perhaps another reason why is found at the end of the article. “The law firm was paid in Theranos stock for its work on the patent case, according to a person familiar with the matter. Boies Schiller was granted more than 300,000 shares valued at $4.5 million, based on a valuation of $15 a share at the time, this person said.” Since this $9 bn Unicorn is now worth about $9, this was a bad investment, indeed.

But Elizabeth Holmes, and whoever is left, are soldiering on to “show who we are through our inventions.” Indeed.

If the link hits the paywall, search on “Theranos and David Boies Cut Legal Ties”.  See here for the 25 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing Saga.

North West Telecare event, 23 November

Wednesday 23rd November 2016, 9:15am – 4:30pm
Village Hotel Club Ashton Moss, Pamir Drive, Ashton-Under-Lyne UK (close to Ashton Moss Metrolink Station)

This is a free event for housing and healthcare professionals with a full day of workshops on telecare in supporting independent living, case studies of best practices and demonstrations of the latest products. There are four workshops which run both in the AM and PM sessions. There are also three guest speakers: Dr Malcolm Fisk, Director of the Telehealth Quality Group, De Montfort University, Leicester; Gill Drummond, Dementia Lead for Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust; Alyson Scurfield, Chief Executive of the TSA. More information and registration here. Hat tip to reader Dawn Thornber of Contour Homes. UPDATE If you have last minute difficulty booking, please contact directly Andrew.Townsend@contourhomes.co.uk

Exciting new sessions, more startup funding at #MedMo16 NYC–now 25% off! (updated)

New Venue!
City Winery, 155 Varick Street, New York, NY
9am – 3:30pm (cocktail reception after) Monday 28 Nov; 9am – 3pm Tuesday 29 Nov
Information. Registration. TTA Readers use code Telecare25 for a 25% discount.

click to enlargeMedStartr and Health 2.0 NYC present Momentum, a full two-day conference focused on finding, partnering, piloting, and investing in the best new ideas in healthcare. Here are some updates on this event the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving Weekend:

  • The MedMo16 Mega Challenge is awarding to participating startups in up to three pitch contests showcasing some of the coolest new early stage companies. 20 will be competing for over $750,000 (up from $500,000) in funding. Review the finalists here.
  • 70 speakers, five panels and nine talks from healthcare leaders like Rich Park of City MD (urgent care), Khan Siddiqui of Higi (gamified health kiosks), Regina Holliday of the patient activist Walking Gallery and more, featuring:
    The Unicorn Panel with leaders from some of the hottest companies like Pager (on-demand doctors) and Change Healthcare (revenue cycle management)
    Healthcare Innovation in the Trump Era, moderated by Fard Johnmar
    Ask the VC where we will let the crowd pose questions to leading investors in healthcare

Tickets are regularly priced as below–but our Readers get 25% off the full rates below. Use code Telecare25 when registering:

  • $75 for early stage startup founders, students and patient advocates ($56.25)
  • $155 general – expires 21 Nov–$395 thereafter ($116.25/$296.25)
  • $250 healthcare ecosystem stakeholders, investors and care providers ($187.50)
  • $450 non-healthcare ecosystem stakeholders ($337.50)

Tables and sponsorships available from $750.

MedMo16 is also the kickoff for the MedStartr Venture Fund which adds to the crowdfunding impact of MedStartr–now up to 94 health projects. TTA is a supporter of MedStartr and Health 2.0 NYC and Editor Donna is a MedMo16 event host. Hat tip to Alex Fair of #MedMo16 and MedStartr. Tag #MedMo16 and follow @MedStartr.

The Theranos Story, ch. 25: is the nadir the $400,000 harassment of whistleblower Tyler Shultz?

click to enlargeA story to make your blood…boil. Tyler Shultz is a 26 year old Stanford University grad with a biology undergraduate degree. He ‘fell in love’ with the Theranos vision of quick small blood sample testing after visiting his grandfather’s home near the campus and meeting, of all people, Elizabeth Holmes in 2011. Tyler snagged a summer internship and then a full time job during their salad and steak days (September 2013). He worked on the assay validation team, which verified the accuracy of blood tests run on Edison machines before they were deployed in the lab for use with patients.

Then it all went sideways…and down. Ms Holmes was at his grandfather’s because he is George Shultz, 95 year old former secretary of state and Fellow at the Hoover Institution based at Stanford. Mr Shultz was one of the numerous Washington alumni lending luster to the Theranos board (now advisers), such as Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, James Mattis and Bill Frist (the last the only one with an MD).

Tyler Shultz soon discovered, like many new graduates, that his dream job wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Except that it wasn’t the hours or the quality of the snacks. He discovered that the Edison machines had highly variable results when tests were rerun with the same blood sample–and they routinely discarded the outliers from the validation reports. Edison testing for a sexually-transmitted infectious disease had a claimed 95 percent sensitivity. “But when Mr. Shultz looked at the two sets of experiments from which the report was compiled, they showed sensitivities of 65% and 80%.” It only got worse when he moved to the production team, where quality control standards were routinely flunked and President Sunny Balwani pressed lab employees to run the tests anyway. Mr Shultz went directly to Ms Holmes, twice, received a nastygram from Mr Balwani for the second, and quit–but not before anonymously sending results to the New York officials who administered a proficiency-testing program and who confirmed that the results sounded like ‘PT cheating’.

The rest of the story by John Carreyou is one of corporate harassment and family estrangement: legal harassment (including private investigators) by none other than David Boies’ law firm on the pretext of ‘confidential information’; the manipulation, currying of favor and misleading of a great but aged man; and a family’s trust fractured if not broken, despite the grandson being proven right, ironically, by the same Washington agencies that his grandfather so loyally served. Mr Shultz is now working on the Cloud DX team for the VITALITI Diagnostic Android Application in the running for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE. Wall Street Journal  See here for the 24 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing Saga.

The Theranos Story, ch. 24: looking for the nadir in Walgreens’ lawsuit

click to enlargeWhen will we find the nadir of Theranos’ business practices? Between the excruciating details of the Walgreens lawsuit and the treatment of an employee who knew the truth in 2014 (part 2), the bottom, like Jacob’s Well in Texas at left, may be unfindable.

The first is what is revealed in the public version (filed 15 Nov) of the civil complaint filed with the US District Court, District of Delaware (PDF). While heavily redacted in parts of text and in the exhibits, it is damning if all true–and there is little available information that does not fit Walgreens‘ narrative, though this Editor was left wondering why red flags about Theranos didn’t flap ‘n’ fly at Walgreens much earlier, especially with a reported $140 million investment at stake.

The relationship began in January 2010. A March presentation by Theranos included some astonishing claims: the Theranos finger-stick blood draw lab analysis had been comprehensively validated by ten of the leading fifteen pharmaceutical companies over seven years; that bio-pharma companies, “prominent research institutions, and US and foreign government health and military organizations” had already used the technology; that Theranos was capable of launching it in retail stores by end of 2010. They also represented that they were positioned with FDA to introduce the technology outside of clinical studies. Johns Hopkins, contracted by Walgreens to validate their methodology, could only work with data provided by Theranos.

Did anyone at Walgreens think to check with said pharmas, researchers, government health and military organizations? There was time. The master agreement was not signed until 2012 and pilot stores opened in 2013.  (Pages 5-10, section 24 through 50). Interestingly, pages 11-12 which may deal with the labs, as well as many other parts, are heavily redacted.

In short, there is a gap of at least two years when Walgreens could have double-checked Theranos’ claims and methods, especially in the crucial period before pilot locations were opened. (To be fair, Theranos successfully maintained a veil of secrecy and a wall of PR smoke.) But the repercussions were huge.  It seems that Walgreens only woke up from the dream when the Wall Street Journal published its investigation another two years later in October 2015. In the immediate aftermath of the article, Walgreens learned that Theranos had abandoned the finger-stick draws…and that the head of the Newark CA lab was a full-time dermatologist onsite once a week (page 15).

After that point, the Theranos fan dance with Walgreens accelerates.

  • Theranos concealed the January and March 2016 CMS notices and subsequent reports on its labs to Walgreens until again the WSJ publicly revealed it (pages 17-18, 25). They also attempted to conceal the CMS rejection of the Plan of Correction for its labs (page 24).
  • Theranos accused Walgreens of breaching the agreement and confidentiality to the WSJ , and also cited delay in building out Wellness Centers–in February 2016 (pages 20-21)
  • Walgreens received nothing but evasions from Theranos including no notification of ‘tens of thousands’ voided results, including critical PT/INR coagulation results, until after the WSJ broke that bit of news on 18 May (page 26).

By 12 June 2016, the wheels were fully off (and the world was minding, indeed) and Walgreens called the breach of warranty. But even then, this was not until a final push–lawsuits were filed against both Theranos and Walgreens starting in late May.

One wonders how many reputations are on a stake (to mix two metaphors) at Walgreens Boots. Details in Ars Technica (which obtained the PDF and broke the story) and of course Neil Versel’s acerbic POV in MedCityNews. Hat tip to reader David Albert MD of AliveCor.

See here for the 23 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing Saga.

S-t-r-e-t-c-h that sensor patch! Stanford’s breakthrough for health wearables

click to enlarge(Photo: Nature) Here’s a stretchy polymer with the right stuff for wearables. It can stretch, wrinkle and heal like skin. It can be ‘healed’ if damaged. Most of all, according to the Chemical & Engineering News article summarizing the Nature letter (PDF link) authored by the Stanford University team, it “has an electronic performance on par with amorphous silicon, the material that’s used in transistor arrays that control liquid-crystal display pixels. And it maintains that electrical performance even when stretched to double its original size.” We have been following stretchy sensors for some years, highlighting the pioneering work of John Rogers, a materials scientist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and his team, whose work has been commercially marketed through MC10 [our back file here], but the difference here is the process. Rogers and others have been meticulously building rigid sensors onto a rubbery material that has some ‘give’. In Rogers’ words, “Stretchy mechanics and efficient charge transport typically do not go together.”  Bao’s group has developed “clever chemistries that seem to capture both properties in a single material.” Early days still, but tremendous potential in healthcare wearables for those who truly understand the technical aspects of this and develop accordingly. Hat tip to Jerry Kolosky of Panasonic via LinkedIn