Ideas For Good: 10 New Medical Innovations That Are Saving and Improving Lives

Ideas for Good

Scientists and inventors today are developing new medical technologies with unprecedented speed and innovation. These new tools enable doctors to diagnose and treat disease and injury in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

These new discoveries in medicine are a perfect demonstration of one of our passions—how innovation can create tangible solutions to problems once thought insurmountable. Let’s have a look at 10 new medical technologies that are changing the field of medicine, improving and extending lives in the process.

1. Cancer Immune Drugs

Scientists have long puzzled over the fact that the immune system seems unable to attack cancer cells. But in uncovering the reason behind that inability, researchers have discovered a way to use the body’s own defenses to battle cancer.

It turns out that cancer cells are able to build a protective shield against the immune system—making it impossible for the immune system to detect and kill them. However, scientists have developed a new drug that breaks down the protection, enabling the immune system to battle cancer cells directly.

In studies, the drugs have been found to help patients with melanoma and kidney, lung, breast, ovarian, and colon cancers, among others. And interest in the new drugs is rising—Science Magazine named cancer immunology its “Breakthrough of the Year” in 2013.

2. 3-D Printing of Synthetic Body Parts

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Medical researchers have successfully used 3D printing to create artificial human body parts. Cornell scientists printed an artificial ear that looks and acts like a natural ear, researchers at MIT are printing bones that are durable, lightweight, and environmentally sustainable, and a San Diego company plans to unveil a printed human liver this year—the world’s first printed organ.

The new technology enables researchers to create bone, tissue, and even organs with the same functionality as their natural counterparts. These artificial human body parts have a huge range of potential—from correcting congenital deformities to healing broken bones to providing organs for the thousands of people awaiting donations.

3. Human-Powered Medical Equipment

Researchers are harnessing new ways to use the human body to power critical medical technologies. Scientists at the University of Michigan created a device that harnesses electricity from a beating heart to power a pacemaker. This technology could eliminate the need for surgeries to replace pacemaker batteries—expensive surgeries that patients with pacemakers must currently undergo every seven years.

In yet another example, researchers recently created a device that harnesses the electrical potential of the inner ear to power a tiny radio. Eventually, they hope to use this electrical potential of the ear to power a cochlear implant, enabling a self-powered hearing aid.

4. Responsive Neurosimulators

For the 2.8 million Americans with epilepsy, seizures are disruptive, anxiety-producing, and sometimes dangerous. In fact, the risk of dying for a person with epilepsy is 1.6 to 3 times higher than the general population.

For patients with intractable epilepsy, the current treatments available have failed to control their seizures, but a new neurological device could change that. The device, which is surgically implanted, detects the triggers of an impending seizure and delivers short electrical pulses to interrupt them before symptoms occur. A clinical study reported a 38% reduction in seizure frequency in the treatment group, compared to a 17% reduction in the control group. And amazingly, the results continue to improve with time.

5. Gene Therapy

genomic testing

Gene therapy is emerging as a viable way to treat medical conditions, especially those that result from a single defective gene. In gene therapy treatment, scientists transplant normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective cells to correct genetic disorders.

Studies have found gene therapy to be effective in treating patients with leukemia and other blood disorders. In fact, two patients who were given Bluebird Bio’s experimental gene therapy for the rare blood disorder beta-thalassemia were able to stop receiving blood transfusions within 12 days of receiving the treatment.

6. The Bionic Eye

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In 2013, the FDA approved a new technology featuring a retinal prosthesis —often known as the “bionic eye.” Its successful creation is one of the most recent and groundbreaking advances in bionic technology yet.

The device can treat retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes most patients to be legally blind by age 40. A tiny camera in the patient’s glasses captures images and converts them into electrical pulses. The optic nerve then transmits the pulses to the brain. While it doesn’t restore normal vision, the device allows patients to identify people and objects and detect light and dark.

7. Genomic Testing

Aggressive cancer treatments can do more harm than good. But new tests have the potential to transform the ways physicians diagnose and treat cancer. Genomic tests focus on groups of genes in an individual’s tumor to predict how it will behave.

One test helps determine whether chemotherapy is advisable in certain breast cancer cases, or if the patient will benefit from hormonal therapy alone. Another test looks at the gene activity in a tumor sample to determine the likelihood that colorectal cancer will reoccur. And this type of testing is on the rise–in 2013, the FDA approved a new genomic test for prostate cancer.

8. Anti-Bleeding Gel

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VETI-GEL™ was, incredibly, developed by a 20 year NYU undergrad student. It is a gel made from plant polymers that instantaneously stops bleeding without needing to apply pressure. It takes just a fraction of a second for the gel to activate the body’s own clotting process, creating a durable clot over the wound site, which can control mass bleeding easily and effectively. It is capable of controlling both internal and external bleeding, and in tests it has been demonstrated to control a wide variety of wound sizes.

The substance can be stored at room temperature which gives it the potential to be included in first aid kits, taken on hikes to remote locations, even used in war zone clinics. It’s an effective, immediate solution to trauma care that has the potential to save millions of lives. Right now, it has been approved for use in veterinary care and it is awaiting FDA approval for human use.

9. Oral Treatment for Hepatitis C

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Historically, patients with hepatitis C have had to endure lengthy treatments (up to 48 weeks) with difficult-to-tolerate drugs. Now, a new drug called Sofosbuvir (brand name: Sovaldi®) hopes to change all of that.

It is the first all-oral treatment for hepatitis C and it has been shown to improve treatment response rates by 90% or higher, with far fewer side effects than the alternatives. Having secured FDA approval and with doctors calling it a “game-changer,” the prospect of curing patients suffering from hepatitis C seems more viable than ever.

alivecor-heart-monitor10. Medical applications for Smart Phones

Our final look at new medical technologies is one you likely already have in your possession—your smart phone. Developers are moving beyond tracking exercise and calorie consumption to exploit the potential of smart phones to improve health.

New developments include a remote stethoscope that can transmit your heart rhythm to your doctor, a wristband that detects nutrients released into your bloodstream as they are broken down during and after your meals, and an iPhone case with electrodes that lets you send your heart data directly to your doctor.

These new technological developments are changing the landscape of medicine—reducing costs, creating breakthroughs in treatment and potentially saving lives.

Stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series and let us know what you think in the comments below.

Great inventors are, by nature, problem solvers. When their talents are put toward ideas for good, the possibilities are truly endless. Which of these technologies is most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series. 

*All trademarks used belong to their respective owners. Innovation Asset Group is not affiliated with them and all information provided comes from publicly available sources.

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

The True Value of Intellectual Property: How the Information Revolution is Driving the Ascendance of IP

Commercialization and Licensing

Today’s marketplace demonstrates a marked shift from an industrial to an information economy. Competitive advantage and profit does not simply come from material assets. Instead, ideas are king.

There is increased pressure on companies to generate new and original ideas that can be capitalized on in order to remain competitive. What’s unusual about this shift is that a company’s value has moved from an emphasis on material assets to intangible assets.

But when assets are intangible, how do we measure their value? That is precisely where intellectual property rights come into play.

Hidden Wealth

IP turns intangible assets into exclusive property rights, which can then be exploited to their maximum potential. When your company’s ideas are protected by IP law, they acquire concrete value, as they become property rights which cannot be commercialized or used without your authorization.

Intellectual property rights themselves are not inherently valuable. Rather, their value comes from the strategic advantage afforded by their exclusivity. Simply put, IP makes intangible assets a bit more tangible by transforming them into valuable, exclusive assets that can be leveraged.

The Real Value of Intellectual Property

So how valuable is IP? In some industries like telecom, pharma and software, intellectual capital represents at least 50% of a company’s market value. For some companies, IP assets are actually worth significantly more than their physical assets.

According to a U.S. Department of Commerce report from March 2012, U.S. intellectual property today is worth approximately $5.06 trillion—equivalent to 35% of the GDP. A more recent and comprehensive Sonecon report suggests that the total value of patents, copyrights, and the R&D that produces them is a staggering $9.2 trillion.

These figures demonstrate just how valuable a company’s competitive advantage can be. Whether your products offer unique functionality, improved efficiency or more desirable aesthetics, IP can help them achieve a marketable value, helping you surpass competitors and building equity in your brand as the exclusive provider of these offerings.

Conversely, when your ideas are not legally protected by IP rights, they may be freely and legally used by any other enterprise without limitation. That means that the concrete value and competitive advantage that comes with exclusivity is lost. Now that a company’s balance sheet is no longer limited to material goods, this loss is simply not an option.

In today’s information economy, it is more critical than ever to safeguard your company’s intangible assets. Since IP now constitutes a significant part of your company’s value, it is an essential tool for preserving your market position and ensuring your long-term competitive viability.

What is your company doing to protect its intellectual property? And how large a role does IP play in your long-term growth strategy? Let us know in the comments below.

Great inventors are, by nature, problem solvers. When their talents are put toward ideas for good, the possibilities are truly endless. Which of these technologies is most exciting to you? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned for more articles from our Ideas for Good series. 

*All trademarks used belong to their respective owners. Innovation Asset Group is not affiliated with them and all information provided comes from publicly available sources.

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.

ViaSat and Space Systems/Loral settle intellectual property dispute

Intellectual Property Management

Satellite company ViaSat recently settled for $100 million with Space Systems/Loral, the company that built its first satellite and proceeded to use the technology to create competing satellites. Both companies create satellites for telecommunications purposes.

A U.S. District Court jury in San Diego found in April that Space Systems had breached a nondisclosure agreement with ViaSat, and had infringed three ViaSat patents. A second patent infringement suit was set to go to trial in 2016, but the settlement brought an end to both suits.

"We have worked hard and invested much to prove that ViaSat created and owns the critical enabling technology of the first generation of high-capacity satellites built by SS/L, including ViaSat-1, Jupiter-1 and others still being manufactured and identified in the referenced suits," Rick Baldridge, president and COO of ViaSat, said in a release.

The company's latest satellite is being manufactured by Boeing and will be launched in mid 2016, according to The Times of San Diego. Space Systems/Loral is protected from further lawsuits on an intellectual property or breach of contract basis by the settlement.

Damages due Oracle from SAP vacated in trial

Commercialization and Licensing Intellectual Property Management

A federal appeals court recently vacated $1.3 billion in damages that were awarded to database company Oracle by a jury trial regarding rival SAP SE's acquisition of Tomorrow Now, according to Forbes. The jury award was, according to the trial judge, excessive, and was therefore reduced. Oracle appealed this decision, but a three-judge federal bench upheld the judge's decision.

In 2007, Oracle sued SAP, alleging a Texas unit of the company had made hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads and copies of software used to market maintenance services to customers. A jury in 2010 subsequently awarded $1.3 billion in damages to Oracle, basing this amount on what a hypothetical license for SAP to use Oracle's intellectual property would have cost.

The new ruling from the appeals court said Oracle could either choose to receive $356.7 million in damages or begin a new trial. The appeals court also said Oracle could not seek damages based on how much a hypothetical license would cost as the method is too speculative.

"We are extremely pleased with the court's decision," Andy Kendzie, an SAP spokesman, said, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Oracle declined to comment on the ruling.

Cipla seeks to bring generic asthma and HIV medicine to the US

Intellectual Property Management

Cipla Ltd., a generic drug company that made the news last decade for selling AIDS drugs for $1 a day in Africa, now seeks to increase its market share in the U.S. The two major areas on which the company will focus are asthma medicines and HIV drugs.

According to Bloomberg, Cipla will be concentrating on a version of GlaxoSmithKline's asthma treatment Advair, for which patent protection expired in 2010. Cipla plans to submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an aerosol generic version of the drug, but GlaxoSmithKline still retains intellectual property protections on the inhalers used for its delivery. The patents for the inhaler that dispenses the aerosol version of Advair are valid until 2025, and the FDA will require any other drug makers to prove their inhalers are equally good. The guidance from the organization requires inhalers similar in size and shape to GlaxoSmithKline's.

In HIV treatment, Cipla plans to create cheaper generic versions of top-selling medications from Gilead Sciences Inc. This is part of the company's play to see 20 percent of its sales come from the U.S. by 2020 – currently, Cipla receives only 9 percent of its sales from the country, according to Bloomberg.