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One Step Closer To Real Medical Tech Breakthrough… If Immigration Law Doesn't Get In The Way

from the so-close dept

Six years ago, we wrote about Andy Kessler’s fascinating book, The End of Medicine, which got me to totally rethink how nearly every society approaches healthcare today. Even though the book is years old, I recommend it frequently. The key issue is that we still tend to treat healthcare as something driven by two key industries: pharmaceuticals and insurance. However, the book is based around the idea that, in pretty much every other industry, technology tends to (1) get better and (2) get cheaper. But that doesn’t happen much with healthcare — and that’s because it’s all about insurance and drugs. That means it’s really about treating the symptoms, rather than actually trying to prevent problems.

One story in the book that has stuck with me is the description of a possible home-based heart scanner. The argument was that we really aren’t that far off from being able to wake up in the morning, walk into the bathroom and scan your body, such that your computer (or phone?) would immediately pop up a 3D scan of key internal organs, such as your heart, allowing you to see if everything’s okay. No waiting for chest pains before you get your heart checked out. Why not check out your heart every single day, and have the 3D model immediately available?

We’re not quite there yet, but a few months ago, I was introduced to Dr. Fabien Beckers and his co-founders of the fascinating startup Morpheus Medical — and when he described the product they were working on, which some have called “a Google Earth for cardiologists”, I immediately recalled that product from Kessler’s predictions. Morpheus is building an amazing product, where a simple heart scan creates a 3D model of the heart non-invasively and shows flows and pressure. Morpheus doesn’t go quite as far as the example in Kessler’s book yet, but this is a serious team and the existing product looks amazing. You can read a bit more about the offering here. Among the key features is the fact that they can just use data from a quick MRI to build this 3D model and show all sorts of useful data to doctors at a fraction the cost of what’s out there today. A product that is cheaper, faster, better and can help keep people healthy? It seems amazing.

The team leading the company really is a bunch of all-stars. Dr. Beckers has run a series of companies, often driven by the ability to use technology to advance social good. For example, before Morpheus, he built and ran a company called Kameleon Technologies — which was initially built off the idea of helping design a better guidance system for the blind. That technology then expanded to be useful in the consumer space, using the same concept to create interactive billboards for advertising purposes, called Mobizone. And, oh yeah, he has a PhD in quantum mechanics from Cambridge University — hence the “Dr.” title. The rest of the team is equally talented. The origin of the company came from a meeting between Dr. Beckers and John Axerio-Cilies, who was working on a PhD in fluid dynamics at Stanford. Add to that Albert Hsiao who has a PhD in bioengineering, and Shreyas Vasanawala, an associate professor at Stanford whose own works is focused on pediatric MRIs, and it’s a monster team of innovators building an offering that I hope drives the healthcare revolution in the direction that Kessler described in his book.

It will not surprise some that the biggest roadblocks the company may face are regulatory, rather than technological. But the amazing thing is that the biggest one may be immigration regulations. You see, Beckers, who put the company together and has been instrumental in building it up, is not an American citizen, and due to our immigration policies, there’s a very real chance he can’t get a visa to stay in the US. Is this really the sort of thing that the US wants to be known for? Kicking out pioneering innovators like Dr. Beckers as he seeks to build a company that can really drive the healthcare market forward would be a massive loss to the US and the public at large, especially if it leads to difficulty in keeping the company going. I know the experience first hand, having tried to start a company many years ago, where my partner couldn’t get the appropriate visa, leaving us unable to proceed.

Years after reading that Kessler book and imagining a world where we might finally focus on using technology to really solve healthcare problems outside of the pharma industry, I’m hopeful that we may finally be near such a world. Hopefully our short-sighted immigration policies let that kind of innovation move forward (and move forward here in the US).

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Companies: morpheus medical

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Comments on “One Step Closer To Real Medical Tech Breakthrough… If Immigration Law Doesn't Get In The Way”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Off into Mike's futuristic fantasies: McCoy's medical tri-corder.

“we really aren’t that far off from being able to wake up in the morning, walk into the bathroom and scan your body” — I’m pretty sure that would involve penetrating radiation (unless a truly revolutionary device, not using MRI), the kind you seem to object to getting at the airport. In any case, I doubt there’s any daily use device to do such an internal scan which doesn’t create major cancer risks. BTW: didn’t that used to be NMRI where the N is for Nuclear? As I recall they dropped that because scary.

“can just use data from a quick MRI … cheaper, faster, better and can help keep people healthy? It seems amazing.” — Locally “a quick MRI” runs about $1000, so your notions of “cheaper” — on a daily basis — aren’t mine.

“Why not check out your heart every single day, and have the 3D model immediately available?” — Holy cow! You set the bar right on the floor with your own unwitting self-mockery! What a narcissist and/or hypochondriac you are! Does this notion really strike you as appealing?

Every click for Mike “Streisand Effect” Masnick is a click for him!
Do your part as often as you can! Click early! Click often!

Guy From V says:

Re: Off into Mike's futuristic fantasies: McCoy's medical tri-corder.

Man, take a frigging Xanax or something. I don’t usually care about all your Mikegriping but holy Christ. They are doing wonderful things at psychiatric hospitals these days. Fixated ASPD with paranoid tendencies is very controllable with daily non-ionizing MRI radiation scans. But you might want to stay away from radios…and your computer unless you need to bitch at Mike…oh and most anything else with an electromagnetic current. Now that I’m thinking about it actually gravity and heat are non-ionizing radiation. You had better watch out. Oh man…biophotons from our bodies are too…shit. You had better take cover, dude.

G Thompson (profile) says:

If the US doesn’t want this I for one invite the company and the whole team to come to Australia. Then we could have this under our national banner.. like we have the Cervical cancer vaccine, cochlear implants, bionic eye (very new and first implant just recently performed) and other medical/technological marvels too many to mention.

shawnhcorey (profile) says:

Of Course

“That means it’s really about treating the symptoms, rather than actually trying to prevent problems.”

Of course. If the drug companies cure you, you stop buying their drugs. If they only treat the symptoms, then you buy their drugs for the rest of your life. Guaranteed return business. And if their drugs have side effects, they can sell you more drugs to deal with them.

biotechnology research center (user link) says:

Medical Advancements

This would be very helpful. I think this would be very beneficial for both sides, medically, and personally. Some people wait to long to go see a doctor, and sometimes even to late. I think this would be a very great and useful piece of equipment to have. I would like to see this come out in the next 20 years.

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