Will there ever be a medical ‘tricorder’?

ZDNet teases us that ‘the race is on’, but is it? It’s a great clickbait headline, but the substance of the article illustrates the distance between today’s tech reality versus the picture of Star Trek’s Bones pointing a Tricorder at a patient and immediately pronouncing that your malady was Sakuro’s Disease or some strange Vulcan malady.

Was it that long ago that the Scanadu Scout was the odds-on bet to be the Tricorder? The hype began in 2012 [TTA 23 May 2013] with Indiegogo funding, competing for the XPRIZE, and breathless pronouncements at nearly every healthcare conference. By 2016, it missed the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE finals (with Northern Ireland’s Intelesens), bricked all sold units to date to comply with FDA regulations on investigational devices, and with Chinese money in hand, moved into other testing devices. Those looking for Scanadu today will be disappointed as their website is unreachable. The DeBrowers and medical director Alan Greene, all of whom were fêted on the healthcare scene, are engaged over at Doc.ai with a new mission of decentralizing precision medicine onto the blockchain using AI, using your medical data gathered on an app (of course).

Google X was up next as Scanadu was fading. There were various devices they were hyping and testing as Google’s life sciences skunk works morphed into Verily, but to date they have all petered out, with some questions raised about people and project churn at the Alphabet unit [TTA 6 April 2016] .

Basil Leaf Technologies (as Final Frontier Medical Devices) wound up winning last year’s final Qualcomm XPRIZE with DxtER, which could diagnose and interpret a defined set of 13 health conditions to various degrees, while continuously monitoring five vital health metrics, using a mix of sensors and an AI-powered diagnostic engine. What they are planning to market first is not DxtER, but a single-disease device to monitor congestive cardiac failure (CCF) since FDA approval for DxtER “would take aeons to be approved.”

Urine tests are also a ‘wet’ way into a tricorder state, with both Basil Leaf and the University of Glasgow working on devices which could quickly scan for metabolites in urine that indicate particular diseases.

QuantuMDx’s Q-POC, from Newcastle UK, is expected to launch in 2019 with handheld diagnostics for bacterial and viral infections. In addition to quick diagnostics for outbreaks in less developed countries, they are also developing diagnostics to prescribe the right antibiotic the first time. This is critical in treatment superbugs such as MRSA and MSSA, as well as more garden variety infections which can go wrong quickly. TTA profiled their crowdfunding launch in 2014.

The ZDNet article wraps up with a bit of romance about how a tricorder is needed for Mars, but down here on Earth, the reality is that a tricorder will likely be a combination of devices and analytics, stitched together by machine learning and AI.

Alphabet action versus diabetes with Life Sciences’ contact lens and Sanofi

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/google-contacts_1401174_616.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /] Monday’s Big Story. As previously reported [TTA 25 Aug], the new Google holding company Alphabet is bringing the Life Sciences group formerly under Google X into its own company, with a new name TBD. On Monday, Life Sciences and Paris-based pharma Sanofi announced a partnership on projects related to diabetes monitoring and treatment. According to BioSpace, “at least part of the partnership will be focusing on helping Life Sciences create small, Internet-based devices that either automatically adjust insulin levels, or make suggestions based on real-time monitoring. ”

Clearly Life Sciences’ raison d’etre includes a focus on this disease, others that may relate to it, and in developing devices that others may market. Your Editors have been tracking their research for well over a year. A roundup of Life Sciences’ partnerships include more than diabetes:

**Novartis division Alcon for the glucose sensing contact lens [TTA 17 July 14, patent report 27 Mar 15 ]

** DexCom to develop a Band-Aid sized wearable for glucose monitoring, announced 15 August

**A 10 year deal with Abbvie for age-related disease exploration (which relates to the accelerated aging associated with diabetes)

**Biogen for multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments

We continue to have doubts about the practicality of the contact lens and the viability of embedded sensors in lenses, as the eyes are extremely sensitive and especially vulnerable for those with diabetes. But directionally on this disease, which is expanding almost uncontrollably worldwide, the research and devices which Life Sciences can develop for a variety of companies looks promising. Business Insider, Re/Code, Digital Trends

Google X develops health tracker–for research and clinical trials only

And it’s not for sale. The life sciences group within Google X is testing on small groups a wrist-worn device which can sense with high accuracy pulse, heart rhythm, skin temperature and environmental information like light exposure and noise levels. Bloomberg News, which appears to have broken the story, quotes Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google: “Our intended use is for this to become a medical device that’s prescribed to patients or used for clinical trials.” Obviously it will be more accurate both in hardware and in back end algorithms than what’s currently marketed via Android Wear for smartwatches. Perhaps this is meant for the ‘superusers’ of healthcare services at the top 5 percent using 50 percent of spend, the new ‘It Girls’ of healthcare, TTA 28 May)? However, he’s also projecting out 20-30 years, so health systems and researchers, do not hold your breath waiting for this to become reality. (This is also a counter to Apple’s ResearchKit.) Also Yahoo Finance and The Verge, which has a gigantic photo of a smartwatch but no caption attribution. The Verge also mentions their research in MS. Gizmodo also adds that Mr Conrad is directing the Google X Baseline project, which is doing human testing and crunching data to develop a baseline of normal human health.

More about Google X in this video interview on Tested with Astro Teller (for real), ‘captain of moonshots’ for the company, on ‘thinking big and failing quickly’. (24 minutes)

Kickstarting the 1st week of summer: news from all over

No deal yet between insurer giants. Cigna turned down a $53.8 billion bid from Anthem. According to Healthcare Finance, concerns ranged from corporate governance problems, their membership in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the probable chairman’s (from the Anthem side) qualifications and data security (ahem!). Given that Anthem’s 60 million record breach was an inadvertent inside job [TTA 11 Feb], the last is perfectly understandable. But the door appears to be open for the emollient of additional money (to mix a metaphor). Extra: a tart take on this from the WSJ…..Jaguar is looking to increase driving safety by reading your brain waves to detect if you are distracted or daydreaming, via sensors embedded into the steering wheel. It’s based on technology used by NASA and the US bobsled team. They are also working on mood enhancing lighting and a predictive system to speed your interactions with the dashboard to minimize eyes off the road. But will these detect if you feel good to be bad, as their adverts say? Gizmag….The FT gets into digital health via business, profiling startups such as Lyra Health, Genomics England and Heartflow, as well as 23andme and Google X (including the glucose-detecting contact lens we profiled 18 months ago. Hat tips to Eric Topol and David Doherty (mHealth Insight) via Twitter….The NY Times looks at the dark side of ‘senior independence’ with a group of NYC homebound seniors, but other than tut-tutting the desire of older mainly limited income New Yorkers to remain in familiar surroundings, our ‘national celebration of independence’ (!) and not to be institutionalized (their words), the article doesn’t offer much in the way of solutions. And solutions are badly needed for the nearly 2 million over 65 who rarely or never leave their homes, because not all of them will be in assisted living. Hat tip to Joseph Coughlin of MIT AgeLab via Twitter…. But in Australia, they’re exploring ‘future proofing’ and ‘dignity enabling’ homes for an aging population to make them more livable and accessible, via landscaped ramps, larger bathrooms, and sensor rich floors that connect to gait tracking and analysis. Smart Homes 2.0. Sydney Morning Herald…..Neil Versel over at his new MedCityNews stand reports on Doctor On Demand‘s test of tablet-based medical kiosks adjacent to the pharmacy department at four Wegman’s grocery stores here in the Northeast. Is Weis Market far behind?….And Fitbit has a bit part in ‘Law and Order’…well, not the TV show in perpetual reruns, but in a real-life case in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania which is not all Amish farms, black carriages and the so-called Amish Mafia. The police used Fitbit activity data to determine that a local resident (and Fitbit wearer), who claimed she was raped by a stranger, staged the crime scene with overturned furniture, a knife, and a bottle of vodka in her home. ABC27 News via David Lee Scher.

Assistive tech for older adults gets fresh developer interest, funding

Companies and investors are waking up to the potential of technology to assist both older people, wherever they live, and families to keep in touch, live more safely and to compensate for impediments created by physical or cognitive conditions. Ozy, an online news aggregator new to this Editor, notes the $5 trillion annually that boomers and older adults spend in what’s termed the ‘new old-age economy’ (AARP has previously termed it the ‘longevity economy‘) and that there’s money in tech solutions to their problems. Examples: the Lift Labs [TTA 1 Oct 13] stabilizing food utensil that cancels out most active tremors (as in Parkinson’s) while eating; Caremerge which has EHR, care coordination and secure messaging features for the care team in long-term and transitional care, but also connects families with a smartphone app and residents with reminders; GeriJoy [TTA 3 July 14], a tablet that combines an interactive pet avatar/companion with engagement, reminder and education tools for older and cognitively impaired adults.

While we’ve noted many developments along similar lines over the past ten years, interest and financial backing is aligning. (more…)

The demise of Google Glass

Well we predicted only a few days ago that there would be some major wearable casualties this year, little realising that the first was about to hit us: Google’s decision to stop selling Glass “in present form”.

Donning this editor’s retrospectacles, the campaign to embed Glass into the world’s technology infrastructure has always felt a bit forced: much more supplier push than customer pull, with wearers, except in circumstances like surgical operations, given a wide berth by many non-wearers. It was pricey too.

Clearly though, the ability to record video and to access information in hands-free mode will continue to be an important requirement for many health & care workers, and social attitudes will likely change too, so there can be little doubt that perhaps a less obviously intrusive version will return in due course. (more…)

Google X developing nanoparticle/sensor diagnostic

The research skunkworks of Google, Google X, is investigating combining nanoparticles introduced to the bloodstream via a pill, with a wrist-worn sensor that would detect where the nanoparticles attach. They could attach to cancer cells, fatty plaques in blood vessels, or analyze the chemical composition of blood to detect imbalances. The wrist-worn sensor (which looks awfully like a smartwatch) would upload the readings of the nanoparticles via light and radio waves one or more times a day. By going public at this stage, the intent of Google X is to license out the technology for further development and to find partners. The BBC News Technology article has an unfortunate headline not backed up in the article: Google is developing cancer and heart attack detector

Google Contact Lens for diabetics in development

Breaking news

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”130″ /][grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Hand-holding-zoomed-in.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]It’s unusual that a smart contact lens that measures blood glucose makes lead worldwide news while it is still in clinical studies, but when it is from Google, The Gimlet Eye wants to be the first to try it.

Google’s blog and a single interview they granted to the Associated Press have confirmed the earlier rumor on a blood glucose-measuring contact that first appeared last Friday [TTA 10 January; item from FierceMedicalDevices in the 4th paragraph, Google’s meeting with FDA on a powered contact lens]. The AP article also confirmed its genesis in University of Washington/NSF research. The Google lens under development might have tiny LED lights that visually advise the wearer on their glucose levels, as well as transmit the information via a wireless chip. Last week’s speculation was on a Google Glass-like display à la iOptik.

Research specifically directed towards continual monitoring of the blood glucose in tears has been ongoing and other companies have developed powered lenses. A key question is the equivalence and accuracy of monitoring tears versus blood. (more…)