Monday, October 24, 2011

Helping the paralyzed to walk--can Uncle Sam compute the value of that?

A company called Ekso Bionics has developed a wearable, battery-powered exoskeleton that enables the paralyzed to walk; that's one Amanda Boxtel, above, walking for the first time in a long time.   A very heartening story--and it's not just a story, it's real.

No doubt such exoskeletons are expensive, although, of course, the price will fall if and when they are mass-produced and new competitors enter the market. 

Of course, if the US government were to buy such bionic devices for, say, America's wounded warriors coming back with crippling injuries from Iraq and Afghanistan, that expenditure would simply be measured as a cost by the Congressional Budget Office.    Given the tenor of the times, it's a safe bet that the bean-counters who rule Washington these days will say that we can't afford it.   Would the CBO even attempt to score the possibility that more wounded warriors would be able to go back to work, and be more productive?  And of course, the way things work in DC these days, if CBO doesn't score it, then it has not happened. 

Moreover, if we had built this exoskeleton industry here at home, then the cost of buying the equipment would be balanced by the jobs and profits that we would be generating here on the home front.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More on the Serious Medicine Crash

Data from the California Healthcare Institute and the Boston Consulting Group providing yet another metric of the decay of healthcare investment in the US.   Note steep falloff in last three years. These numbers not adjusted for inflation.

H/T: Manhattan Institute's Medical Progress Today. 

Serious Medicine Crash update

According to the Medical Innovation & Competitiveness Coalition, a unit of the National Venture Capital Association, medical investment is dramatically falling off:

The survey found that U.S. venture capital firms have been decreasing their investment in biopharmaceutical and medical device companies over the past three years and expect to further curtail such investment in the future. Overall 39 percent of respondent firms have decreased their investments in   life sciences companies over the last three years and the same percentage expect to further decrease these investments over the next three years, some by greater than 30 percent. This is roughly twice the number of firms that have increased and/or expect to increase investment.

While 40 and 42 percent of firms expect to decrease investment in biopharmaceutical and medical device companies respectively, 42 and 54 percent expect to increase their investment in non-FDA regulated healthcare services and healthcare information technology companies respectively.

In another alarming sign, survey respondents expect to see significant investment decreases in companies fighting serious and highly prevalent conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and neurological diseases.

“More than 100 million Americans suffer from diseases for which there are still no cures, or even meaningful therapeutic options. To conquer disease and relieve suffering, we must have a medical innovation pipeline that is as strong and robust as possible,” said Margaret Anderson, executive director, FasterCures. “Bringing critical therapies to market requires venture capital investment to spur a thriving life sciences industry as well as having a regulatory system that’s appropriately resourced and equipped to ensure innovation is translated to better health.” 

H/T: Manhattan Institute's Medical Progress Today

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011