Drone Defibrillators: Reducing the impact of sudden cardiac arrest

In February I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. I was very fortunate in that I remained conscious and did not need to be defribrillated. This is very rare.

The stats for people surviving such an attack are low – 5% in most countries and usually they survive because help was nearby.

But the odds are stacked against survival. Not many places have defibrillators on hand or people who recognize the symptoms and take immediate action.

Take, for example, someone I spoke with this week. He had been riding his bike in the Bay area when he suddenly collapsed. One of the first people to come across him happened to be a cardiologist and as soon as a defib could be sourced he brought him back to consciousness.

When I hear of measures being taken to increase the odds of survival I’m excited. 350,000 people in the US suffer a sudden cardiac attack each year – any technology that increases their chances of survival has my vote.

This video shows a prototype Ambulance Drone that delivers a portable defbrillator and can be operated remotely by a trained health professional:

Achieving Flow In The Face of Near Death: My Recent Experience


I had one of those major mind focusing events over the past three weeks.

I collapsed on the evening of Sunday, 16th February for 15 seconds and then went into an extraordinary conscious ventricular tachycardia at 200 bpm. The ambulance crew were astounded that I was conscious. The trick was flow – I’ve been a proponent since my youth when I was an elite athlete and serious surfer. I managed to pull myself into the zone and maintained this on the journey to the hospital. En route a code 3 had been called and I was greeted at Royal North Shore Emergency by a crack team of 15 doctors. I was still at 170 bpm and they were literally just about to stop my heart and try to shock me out of the tachycardia, when to their amazement I self reverted down to 70 bpm. I’d like to say it was flow again, but my humility refuses and I dare not say I purposefully did that all myself.

I was very lucky. This conscious VT event took place at home and my quick thinking family called 000 immediately. That morning I’d done a stand up paddling training session alone and in the dark, with no safety devices. And the next morning I was scheduled to fly to New Zealand on business. If this event had happened in the air or out on the water I’d very likely not be having this dialogue.

After a series of extensive tests, the specialists determined the best course of action for me would be the insertion of an implantable cardioverter defribrillator. The plumbing of my heart reflected my super fit status, but for some reason the electrics were out of whack.

I had the device installed on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon I walked out of intensive care for the first time in a week and into a private room for recuperation. I felt like a new man, but this feeling was shortlived. Unfortunately a clot had developed and within fifteen minutes my speech slurred and I lost all feeling on my right hand side. Again I was very lucky, as my wife noticed the signs of a stroke immediately and called the medical staff who jumped into action. It was a very scary feeling and not one I’d like to repeat. Within about 20 minutes I began to get feeling back, again to the amazement and relief of the medical staff and my family. I’d had a mini stroke or transient ischemic attack and the clot had moved through my brain.

I again found myself in Emergency and it was established that while I had about 85% recovered from the stroke there was still a strong possibility of further clots. I was given a thrombolysis – a very powerful procedure that reversed all effects of the stroke and broke up any other clots. This was a very intense six hours as there was the possibility of a haematoma developing on the brain.

I made it through that phase, but a haematoma did develop around my defib wound site. I spent another week in intensive care and returned home on Saturday 1st March. The haematoma developed some complications and a week later I was operated on to drain the site – the fear being infection. I remained in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and was discharged on Monday, 10th March.

All through this experience I was thinking about flow, performance and optimizing human development, aided in part by reading Steven Kotler’s book, The Rise of the SuperMan.

Commenting on my experience, Steve says, “It  did seem like you’ve moved through fight or flight and into flow – a very difficult thing to do, so you have some mad skills!”

This whole episode has got me really thinking hard about what I do with my life once I’ve recuperated. I know I have been given a gift, a second chance, and I also know that I’ve adopted a new mantra, GO BIG.

I’m still working this all through, processing and thinking about what I do next. I’m going to have some interesting conversations over the coming weeks.

Ambitious Ideas: Open Sourced Drug Discovery

Paul Graham penned a wonderfully inspirational post recently in which he discussed a number of ‘frighteningly ambitious startup ideas’. Given his proclivity for software and the Internet it is not surprising that the ideas he raises were things like replacing Google’s search engine dominance and delivering us from inbox evil.

Quite separately, a colleague at The University of Sydney, Matthew Todd,  forwarded me an article overnight that he co-authored in Nature on “open science as a research accelerator’.

In the article Matthew and two others discuss how open source-inspired thinking led him on a journey to produce an off-patent drug that could help millions of people around the world deal with bilharzia, a silent pandemic.

From their perspective the key benefit of their open approach was the acceleration of the research:

Experts identified themselves, and spontaneously contributed based on what was being posted online. The research therefore inevitably proceeded faster than if we had attempted to contact people in our limited professional circle individually, in series.

While Matthew was working on open sourcing process chemistry, he posits the question whether a similar approach could be applied to drug discovery.

The pharmaceutical industry is currently undergoing somewhat of a pipeline-related crisis and so the timing could not be better for such an approach to work.

In line with Paul’s thinking this is one of those frighteningly ambitious ideas. As Matthew points out, “There has been discussion of open-source drug discovery, but no coordinated efforts at compound discovery.”

This seems to me to be an area ripe for investigation. One that could herald a new age of abundance (read Peter Diamindis’s new book on this) in health and wellness.

I hope this is a topic that will be covered at the upcoming Founders Fund future conference!


Lumigenix, Personal Genomics And Me

I first became interested in personal genomics and DNA profiling over a decade ago when conducting due diligence on a potential investee company. We did invest and I was Chairman of Genetraks during their early years. Sadly the company didn’t make it beyond its first few rounds of venture capital and it’s worth reading the fascinating account by their CEO, Roz Brandon on what transpired.

Fast forward twelve years – this morning I opened up my pack from Lumigenix, aptly labelled “discover yourself in a new light”, and took out their DNA Collection Kit. Thanks to Romain Bonjean, CEO at Lumigenix, genomics was about to get personal for me.

The entire process was simple, fast and intuitive and kudos to the team for focusing on getting this right. I activated my account, collected my DNA sample and wrapped it up in its packaging. Next stop – the Lumigenix labs…stay tuned for another post when I get my results back!

DrTube One Step Closer With The Doctors Channel

The Doctors Channel is providing medical news vignettes and video analyses of major medical issues to Ozmosis, an online medical discussion forum and knowledge exchange.

Described by CNBC as an “educational YouTube for doctors”, The Doctors Channel videos will be able to be discussed by medical practitioners on “physician only” forums on Ozmosis.

The resultant ability for doctors to share related experiences and learn from each other is a positive move.

Mobile GPS as standard – privacy versus safety

Your choice – lose your loved one or your privacy.

South Korea is looking into equipping new mobile phones with a chip that will allow users to be located via satellite-based positioning technology.

The argument being put forward in a bill before their National Assembly is that this move will assist in reducing kidnapping and other increasingly violent crimes against women and children.

I know there is the slippery slope argument of benevolent versus big brother government and in no other region of the world is this better illustrated – South Korea doing this versus North Korea ….shudder.

However, where we have the technology to eradicate location-based crimes this, to me, far outweighs privacy issues.

DNA tracking would be optimal – this is not that far off.

[via China View]

Magnetism Used To Target Cells


A new method to deliver cells and genes to repair diseased or injured organs in humans in one step closer to reality.

Scientists from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have used magnetic fields and  iron-bearing nanoparticles to drive healthy cells to targeted sites in animal blood vessels.

This post marks the first real widening of our focus here at Metarand in 2008 to cover biotechnology and the life sciences. Along with our previous focus on social media, the Internet and virtual worlds we’re bundling them into a new category – “life media”.

The team leader of this study, Dr Robert J. Levy commented that others researchers have pursued less successful approaches to this novel strategy for delivering cells to targets in the body.

One goal of this cell therapy will be to introduce new cells to recoat the metal stents of heart patients. Many such stents fail over time as smooth muscle cells accumulate excessively on their surfaces and create new blockages.

Dr Levy believes, “This method could become a powerful medical tool.”