CactusThursday was Venture Capital day at IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. Monday will be the tenth anniversary celebration of IBM’s alphaWorks program in San Francisco, and Tuesday will be the DEMO Conference in San Diego.
The IBM Venture Capital Group facilitates relationships between the company’s vast research and development, product, and marketing resources venture capital firms and their portfolio companies. Many are recent start-up companies that build their business and technology solutions on IBM’s industry solutions platform and then use the IBM marketing resources to get the word out and to act as a distribution channel. It is a symbiotic relationship that works well for all parties. Yesterday’s conference was attended by dozens of "VC" firms, more than fifty of their portfolio companies, and a dozen or so industry thought leaders. It was a very positive day of interaction with numerous IBM executives focused on vertical industry segments including banking, retail, media & entertainment, telecommunications, government, and healthcare. I attended three of the sessions but the most interesting was healthcare.
The biggest trend that the IBM healthcare experts talked about is an understanding of disease at the molecular level and development of targeted drugs based on genomic insight. This will lead to individual diagnosis and treatment based upon medical history and genetic predispositions, as opposed the anecdotal approach used today. This new level of understanding will also enable "pre-emptive medicine" — don’t wait until you get sick to seek treatment. Genetically we are all 99% the same but the small differences are what cause health problems. The innovation in patient-centric healthcare is going to happen much more quickly than people think. Why?
There is a convergence of four disruptive changes underway…

  1. Rapid evolution in technology. Computers keep getting smaller and faster. Nanotechnology is emerging rapidly.
  2. Pressure on existing business models. Many hospitals are losing money, insurers are trying to put on the brakes, consumers are not happy with the services they get, waste and duplication are rampant, and medical errors are causing deaths.
  3. Social pressures. People are beginning to realize that medical data about them is their data, not the doctor’s or hospital’s. Hundreds of millions of people more than sixty years old have high expectations for their health and are demanding treatment for things that once would be considered incurable.
  4. Political pressures. Politicians are feeling the heat and want to see progress. They want more people to get affordable or subsidized care and they want to protect privacy.

Any one of these four factors would be interesting and create pressure for change. The convergence of all four are creating a firestorm of activity. Stay tuned.

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