iPhone 5 More Powerful than the Curiosity Mars Rover

SAN FRANCISCO (Takeda Pacific HighTech Reports), Moscone West, January 30, 2013 — MacWorld/iWorld 2013.  NASA experts spoke about NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover and its connection to Apple products at a meeting here.  The session was titled “Software, Hardware, and Flying to Mars. How We Built, Programmed and Operate NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.”  David Oh, Lead Flight Director and Software Engineer at JPL/Caltech Mars Science Lab, asked the question, “Why are we at MacWorld?”  The answer was shown in a slide of the NASA control room at the JPL in Pasadena, California.  On the desk was a mixture of Apple products such as MacBook Pros, iPhones and iPads during the Rover’s Mars landing.  The Macs were running Mac OS X.

Ben Cichy, Chief Flight Software Engineer, compared the processing power of the iPhone 5 to Curiosity’s processing power.  The iPhone 5 has 1.3 GHz and the Curiosity has only 132 MHz.  In addition, the iPhone 5 has 1GB of memory and 64GB of storage and the Rover has 128MB of memory and 4GB of storage.  The cost of an iPhone 5 is $399 while the cost of the Curiosity was $1.8 billion.

During the session, the audience was shown a video of the landing of the Curiosity on Mars.  It only took 7 minutes, but a very tense 7 minutes.  It was very exciting watching the landing of the Mars Rover all over again.  “The Rover’s goal is to explore and see if Mars ever sustained life or is now,” Ben said.

David showed a slide that described the different parts that make up the Rover.  He added that the heart of the mission is the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars).  The SAM analyzes the chemical and isotopic composition of the planet’s atmosphere and surface.  He said that the “Curiosity has two brains (computers) in its belly.  One is the primary computer and the other is the backup.”  This time social media plays a big part in providing people access to seeing what is happening with the Curiosity as it explores the surface of Mars.  The Curiosity has its own Facebook page and iPhone app.

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Pros and Cons of Sharing Personal Genomes on Social Media

I recently particpated in an online conference session held by NGS Leaders when CHI held its Beyond Sequencing conference in San Francisco recently on June 21, 2011. The session was moderated by NGSLeaders’ Eric Glazer and a panel of NGS experts.  The panelists included Kevin Davies, PhD.(Bio-IT World) Pillar Ossorio , PhD. (Univ. of Wisconsin), Johnathan Eisen, PhD, (UC Davis), and Kamamiesh (Kam) Patel, PhD. (Sandia National Labs).  This panel session was about “When People Share Their Genomes on Facebook.”  Both Kevin and Kam participated by telephone and the others were with a live audience in the meeting room.  The session used WebEx to link remote participants.

Kevin summarized the recent history of personal genomics services since the field was started by 23andme.com and deCode Genomics.  He pointed out that these services were marketed as services that enabled consumers to learn much about their genetic make up.  The services just provide information that might help people learn more about their risk for common disease or for geneology.  The customers’ genetic information is not to be used as a diagnostic. While the technology is initially based on microarrays and SNPs, some companies hoped to use NGS when the cost gets low enough.  However, Kevin said that the future of personal genomics is still in the hands of the FDA to decide on guidance to the industry.  Johnathan predicted that we will see a lot of push inside of genomes and personal microbiomes.  Microbiomes are the total kinds of microscopic things that live in or on our bodies.

As the discussion turned to social media, Kam said that the social media giants have big potential uses for health information.  A person could meet with their doctor, then the doctor could later access the person’s Facebook page and follow the progress of a treatment regimen.  But there are pros and cons to watch out for such as exploiters and cost issues.

Johnathan spoke about ‘crowd sourcing’ would be useful for health information.  He said that Facebook is only partly open.  He noticed a new push for open science such as to post lab notebooks on a social media site.  As for citizen science, he predicted that personal genomics, open science projects and citizen science will merge together.  When that happensm then anybody can make or use the information for their own open science projects.

A big question is who owns the personal genetic information held on social media sites.  Pillar, a lawyer, said that  we can think about this in terms of copyrights and patents.  She said that for example, when I get genetic information, I might just get a license for personal use, — it might be limited or unlimited.  The media site rules migth determine who can use the information, etc. At least we have the GINA law to protect our rights regarding employment and insurance discrimation.  However, she thinks that much of this is unknowns.  Pilliar said that the courts would likely say that if you put your genetic information on a public social media site, you are effectively giving away information to the public domain.  She said that people need to be educated about the subject so people would know who should participate.  She said that George Church has a screening process to weed out ignorant people.  He makes applicants take a genomics class and his program has a high cost.

Eric asked the panel when might clinical use will happen or become routine.  Johnathan said that technology will happen soon, but he did not know when clinical practice will happen.  Kevin said that the clinical use of personal genomics is happening now and cited the case of the boy from Wisconsin who was helped by NGS based diagnostics.  He said that there is a huge amount of genetic medical education that is needed.  Pillar said that she believes that the clinical context will take some time to work out.  My take on personal genomics and social media is that we are still in the early early days.

Biotechs Seek Opportunities with Social Media, FDA Still Murky…

On 6/16/11, I attended the BioConference Live interactive online-only life science conference and attended the Panel Discussion titled, “Social Media in Regulated Industries: What are the Opportunities and where is the line?”  I thought I would share some the interesting points brought up during the discussion.  Panelists included Moderator Tina Baumgartner from Accella Group, Pamela Lund from PL Interactive, and Lianne McLean and Mya Thomae from Myraqa.

Baumgartner said that some of the opportunities in social media are the ability to “listen to customers, recruiting employees, attracting funding, and increasing visibility.”  She discussed three of the common misconceptions of social media, which include that it is primarily a tool for marketing and PR, it is too complicated and time consuming, and it has the same regulatory compliance risk as traditional PR and advertising.  None of which are true, according to Baumgartner.

McLean discussed a number of challenges to marketing in a regulated environment such as companies are only allowed to promote their product for the legally approved label and they must report adverse reactions.  She also pointed out that “the FDA’s regulatory stance has been unclear.”  Apparently, the FDA has been promising a guidance document since 1996.  In the meanwhile, the FDA has been issuing warning letters to companies that they think have crossed the line.   In July 2010, the FDA sent Novartis a letter issuing four violations for its “Facebook Share” widget saying among other things that it did not present a balanced viewpoint of its leukemia drug, Tasigna.

One of the attendees asked the panel, “will there be regulatory documents coming soon from the FDA?”  The answer was “not really.”  Another attendee asked, “what is the time horizon of widespread adoption of social media?”  Panelist McLean said “in the next couple of years or so.”  She also said that “pharma companies would adopt more quickly than diagnostic companies.”

Should Biotechs Blog and Tweet More?

On March 21, 2011, I attended the BioConference Live interactive online-only life science conference organized by LabRoots.  LabRoots is an online social network for the science and healthcare community.  Invited to attend the conference were research scientists, clinicians, doctors, and other professionals.

One of the several presentations I attended was a panel discussion titled, “Social Media and Life Sciences: Why should we care about social media (and what you need to know to get started.”  I found it to be very interesting and informative.  Moderator Tina Baumgartner at Accella Group began with a number of questions that she hoped the panel would answer.  Such as, “does social media hold any promises for biotech and life sciences companies, should they engage in social media and what outcome should they expect?”

The panel included Pamela Lund at PL Interacive and Michael Wu at Lithium.  According to Lund, “companies who blog generate 67 percent more monthly leads than companies that do not.  Those that blog and tweet are getting more eyeballs than those that just blog.  Thus causing a multiplier effect for those who blog and tweet.  Biotech companies said that Linkedin was the greatest generator of leads and customers than Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.”

Some other important advantages for companies that use social media include: instant feedback, the ability to respond to colleagues and customers real-time, and addressing negative perceptions, said Lund.  She also offered important things to think about when getting started in social media.  Some of these include finding out who your target audience is, what you should expect from social media, and what would you consider success once you’re involved in social media.  She also discussed the misconceptions and pitfalls of social media such as “social media is not free and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time.”

Michael Wu discussed the importance of influencers in social media and how to find them.  These influencers can cause a change in thought or behavior said Wu.  They can move the consumer down the “purchase funnel” and change their mind so much that they purchase.  Therefore, influencers can be a PR nightmare for companies or they can be a benefit for companies.  According to Wu, “influencers need to have domain credibility, high bandwidth, content relevance, timing relevance, and channel alignment.”

Social media can help scientists gain influence through all those methods previously mentioned.  Michael also mentioned some tools to help scientists gain influence and they include: free social media monitoring with Google Alert, free social reference management with Mendeley, and free relationship maintenance on LinkedIn.

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