Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Embracing Consilience

I recently joined a Nano/Life Science corporate development firm called "Consilient Capital Partners" that is the brainchild of my friend, Mark Lester (see: www.consilientcapital.com for more). Mark and I believe that wealth creation in the Nano/Life Science domain will increasingly be generated by getting experts from different disciplines to work together (hence the name "Consilient" which is derived from the word "Consilience," which means a unity of knowledge).

Below is an article I recently came across that highlights the power of Consilient thinking. Getting scientists from different disciplines to work together won't be easy given the NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome that exists at many places around the world. However, I believe the upside to multidisciplinary research in the Nano/Life Science domain is off the charts.




California Scientists Attempt Nanomachines Against Arterial Plaque

Some scientists at a few Calfornia research centers have received funding to develop nanotec therapies against atheosclerotic plaques in arteries. Note that this an announcement of the beginning of their research efforts. But the announcement is notable because these scientists are attempting to develop nanodevices to hook onto and modify arterial plaque.

The Burnham Institute has been selected as a "Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology" ("PEN") by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ("NHLBI") of the National Institutes of Health ("NIH"). A partnership of 25 scientists from The Burnham Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, and The Scripps Research Institute will use the $13 million award to design nanotechnologies to detect, monitor, treat, and eliminate "vulnerable" plaque, the probable cause of death in sudden cardiac arrest.

Led by Jeffrey Smith, Ph.D., of the Burnham Institute and the principal investigator of the program, the scientific team is comprised of biochemists, vascular biologists, chemical engineers and physicists. "This is a novel approach to bring experts from all these fields together," said Dr. Smith. "And it's very exciting. These groups do not normally work together. But in this instance, I think it's going to produce some real scientific progress."

Recent studies have shown that plaque exists in two modes: non-vulnerable and vulnerable. Blood passing through an artery exerts a shearing force and can cause vulnerable plaque to rupture, which often leads to occlusion and myocardial infarction. This is a significant health issue: of the nearly one million people who die each year from cardiac disease, 60 percent perish without showing any symptoms. As many as 60 - 80 percent of sudden cardiac deaths can be attributed to the physical rupture of vulnerable plaque.

"We intend to exploit this new understanding of atherosclerotic plaque," said Dr. Smith. "By focusing on devising nano-devices, which can be described as machines at the molecular level, we will specifically target vulnerable plaque. That cannot be accomplished today. My colleagues and I hope that our work will lead to real diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for those suffering from this form of cardiac disease."

The project team will work on three innovative solutions to combat vulnerable plaque; 1) building delivery vehicles that can be used to transport drugs and nanodevices to sites of vulnerable plaque; 2) designing a series of self-assembling polymers that can be used as molecular nano-stents to physically stabilize vulnerable plaque, 3) creating nano-machines comprised of human proteins linked to synthetic nano-devices for the purpose of sensing and responding to vulnerable plaque.

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I recently published an article on AEDs – here is a quote from it, in case you are interested:

Statistics give us more and more pieces of information that are bound to worry us, to make us react and change something if we can. More and more people and in earlier and earlier stages of their life die of a heart disease. Statistics, only in the US, are extremely alarming:
- Every 30 seconds someone dies because of a heart disease;
- More than 2.500 Americans die daily because of heart diseases;
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Although AEDs are not a universal panacea for all heart diseases, nothing else can compete to its major feature, that of actually re-starting the heart after it has been stopped by a sudden cardiac arrest. Under these circumstances is it necessary to ask you why anyone in this world, any family, in any home would hope for having such a device in their first aid locker?

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12:44 PM  

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