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10 Quotable Moments from the World Medical Innovation Forum


Ann Romney, Global Ambassador for the Ann Romney Center for Neurological Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Nancy Synderman, Chief Medical Editor, NBC News. All photos via WMIF.

The World Medical Innovation Forum (WMIF) took place last week from April 27 to 29, 2015 at the Westin Copley Place Boston Hotel. The Neuroscience-focused forum was organized by Partners HealthCare Innovation and included leading physicians and scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, as well as chief executives from of some of the largest companies in healthcare. The event highlighted disruptive technologies for various neurologic and psychiatric disorders including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, autism, stroke and sleep disorders.

Here, we round up ten quotable moments you’ll wish you hadn’t missed:

1. Jan Skvarka, President and CEO of Tal Medical, on managing neurological disease:

“Neuro diseases such as depression, schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s continue to impose an extreme toll on our society. Major scientific breakthroughs like those we have seen in oncology or immunology over the past 20 years mostly bypassed neuro disorders. We are now finally reaching an inflection point in neurosciences. A slew of new discoveries are showing a real promise to change the way we diagnose and treat these debilitating diseases.”

2. Miri Polachek, executive director of Israel Brain Technologies, on accelerating Israel’s brain-related innovation:

“The WMIF was a fantastic platform for meeting leaders in the Boston neuro-ecosystem and exploring strategic partnerships for our programs, including our new Brainnovations accelerator and our new Braingels investor network. I’m looking forward to strengthening the Boston-Israel neuroscience connection.”

3. Ann Romney on patient advocacy:

“Patients can provide such an important perspective, and it is critical that their voices are heard. That is why we launched our social media campaign – #50MillionFaces – today. We are providing a platform for those who face neurologic diseases to share their story. Together we can empower each other, inspire a community of hope, and bring focus to the need for research funding, treatments and cures.”

4. Judy Faulkner, CEO of Epic Systems, on EHR interoperability: 

“A lot of people in medicine say ‘Why can’t you just get the systems to talk to one another?’ And I say to them ‘Why can’t you just cure cancer?’”

5. Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind on autism and neurodevelopment:

“For every recognizable deficit, there is an equal and opposite strength. It’s not a question of if, but where. Giving IQ tests to these kids should be illegal. My son can do things four or five times better than me, and I teach at Harvard.”

6. Rajiv Kaul, Manager of the Fidelity Select Biotechnology Portfolio, on neuro-investing for mortals:

“Things don’t happen overnight, but there is reason to be optimistic if you pick the right areas. You will start seeing results. My personal view is that the traditional view between public and private investors has moved. What really drives all of this is the probability of success. What it means is that the large pools of capital are now more successful to pioneering venture capitalist. A general challenge to the industry in the last 15 years has been the cost of capital.”

7. Angus McQuilken, VP of Marketing at the Massachusetts Life Science Center, on the Massachusetts Life Science Center Neuroscience Consortium:

“The program was founded in 2012 with founding consortium members AbbVie, Biogen, EMD Serono, Janssen Research & Development, Merck, Pfizer, and Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. Funding of up to $250,000 per project is available with a focus on neurodegenerative and neuro-inflammatory diseases (such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s), Neuropathic Pain or Treatment Resistant Depression. Researchers based at any non-profit organization with operations in Massachusetts are eligible to apply.”

8. Chris Coburn, VP at Partners HealthCare Innovation, on patient centricity:

“Neuroscience has reached the threshold in so many categories. What we are trying to accomplish with the forum is to reflect that. With all the great potential and the satisfaction among all the scientists and entrepreneurs. It’s clearly on the cusp in so many ways. It always comes back to the patients. For example with Ann Romney, with somebody as visible as she is, reflecting the patient need is important. In any part of healthcare you can get focused on whatever that task is at hand, and you always have to come back to the patents. Ann Romney eloquently motivated her family to do more.”

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, left, the Disruptive Dozen champions, and Dr. David Silbersweig, right.

Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, left, with the Disruptive Dozen champions and Dr. David Silbersweig.

9. Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, Director of Genetics and Aging Research at the Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, on the “Disruptive Dozen,” twelve emerging technologies with the potential to revolutionize neurological and psychiatric care:

“The technologies were selected based on three criteria. The innovation needs to have strong potential in the next decade. The innovation needs to have a high probability of commercial deployment. And, the innovation must be available by April 30, 2025.”

10. Kiran Reddy, Corporate Strategy at Biogen Idec, on the need for neuroscience investment: 

“In healthcare/neuroscience we need to balance our reductionist approaches (e.g. genome sequencing, neuronal subtypes and costs of a single drug) with holistic approaches (e.g. big data analytics, connectomics via imaging tools and delivery of healthcare value in a system). From a Biogen perspective, we need to increasingly engage with external collaborators like Partners and other industry partners in order to achieve our mission to make a big difference for patients.”

Robert Schultz

Robert Schultz

    Robert Schultz has an MBA in Information Systems from University of Massachusetts-Boston and a BS in International Business from Northeastern University, where he served as Business Manager for the university’s largest student publication, The Northeastern News. Schultz is an experienced healthcare technology startup enthusiast who was involved with the patient monitoring company Aware Engineering through the MassBio MassCONNECT program.

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