Top 10 Takeaways From Seattle’s Engineering Summit: Electro-Active Wallpaper, Facebook Is Watching You, and Dendreon Detractors

5/6/10Follow @gthuang

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development of drugs.” If a company can provide a drug to extend patients’ lives for a few more months and charge about $100,000, he said, “sooner or later we’ll wake up and see that’s not sustainable.” He did not mention Dendreon by name, but it seemed to me that he was referring to the company’s $93,000 per person price it set for Provenge, a drug for patients with terminal prostate cancer. “If we establish we will pay fair price for any drug that decreases the cost of healthcare and improves the life of patients,” Montgomery said, then pharma companies will change their practices to be more “clinically and socially important.”

7. Developing countries will remain a separate market for medicine.

O’Donnell, UW’s dean of engineering, and Hugh Chang from PATH cited the statistic that the number of deaths from chronic disease has surpassed the number of deaths due to infectious disease worldwide. Does that change how biotech and medical companies view the developing-world market? “For the foreseeable future, there’s so much money to be made in healthcare in the developed world that they’ll stay there,” Edelheit said. “It will be separate. I think it’ll be an additional thing instead of a fundamental change in thinking.”

6. Get ready for “electro-active wallpaper.”

Switching gears, UC San Diego computer scientist Larry Smarr dazzled the crowd with his vision of combining super-fast, ultra-broadband networks with high-definition, wall-sized displays that could reinvent how people communicate and collaborate on things like medical imaging, research simulations, and entertainment. The project is called OptIPortal, and Smarr’s institute, Calit2 at UCSD, plays a leading role. Research-wise, the technology lets scientists do much deeper analysis of things like how galaxies formed in the early universe. “You have the universe in a box, essentially,” Smarr said. He says all of this will lead to a “new golden age of scientific discovery.” I’m wondering how businesses will take advantage of this.

5. Cosmologists make very interesting computer scientists.

Is it just me, or is it uncanny how people who study the deepest workings of the universe become successful in software? They’re not strictly “cosmologists,” but think about Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist-turned-supercomputing guru, along with Nathan Myhrvold (who studied with Stephen Hawking) from Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures, and Stephen Wolfram of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha fame. An example of the reverse might be Charles Simonyi, the software whiz (and former Microsoft exec) who has become a leader by example in space tourism. There’s probably something about creating code that meshes well with the mathematics of space and time.

4. Facebook knows who’s getting drunk, with whom, and when.

I’m being flip, but so is Facebook. Jonathan Chang, a data science researcher at Facebook who’s finishing his Ph.D. at Caltech, showed what kinds of detailed information Facebook has … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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