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About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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November 29, 2004

Venture Philanthropy and FasterCures for Mental Health

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Posted by Zack Lynch

As foundations, private enterprise and governments continue their struggle to develop better therapies for neurological disorders faster, venture philanthropy is looking to shift the entire landscape. Most specifically, FasterCures, formed under the auspices of the Milken Institute, is boldly challenging all aspects of "the complex machinery that drives breakthroughs in medicine work."

The FasterCures Acceleration agenda addresses four key areas:
1. Science and Technology
2. Law and Regulation
3. Economics and Finance
4. Social Issues and Ethics

I highly recommend following this link to their position on increasing incentives for medical cures. It pinpoints why defining the neurotechnology industry will accelerate faster, more targeted cures for mental illness.

Update: Barron's - the cover story of the latest issue of Barron's is entitled: "Stategic giving - A Special Report on Philanthropy -- Business principles are reshaping the charitable world. Five nonprofits to watch.These new players are saying that maybe if we take the best of the business world and the best of philanthropy, we could get some traction on solving these problems," says Elizabeth Bremner, president of the Palo Alto., Calif.-based Foundation Incubator, an organization that helps newly-minted Silicon Valley millionaires get charitable ventures up and running."

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Brain Foundations

November 19, 2004

Why Define the Neurotechology Industry?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Mental illness represents the largest and fastest growing unmet medical market with an estimated 1.5 billion people suffering from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. Annually, neurodegenerative diseases and disorders generate more healthcare related costs and lost income than any other therapeutic arena: an estimated $1.0 trillion worldwide and $250 billion in the U.S. As population growth continues and people live longer these numbers will soar much higher.

Translating basic research into actual cures for mental illness will require an order of magnitude more capital than is currently being invested by governments, private enterprise and foundations. With the annual direct and indirect cost of mental illness approaching $250B in the US, the $1.4B NIMH budget remains a drop in the bucket when compared to the size of the problem. Even the estimated $30B annually invested by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to develop new treatments for mental illness is inadequate with respect to size of the global mental health care crisis.

To dramatically increase the amount of financial capital available to neuroscience researchers and emerging companies, neuroscience must become an industry that can attract global capital: the neurotechnology industry.

The neurotechnology industry faces unique investment, research, and regulatory issues currently hidden by the fragmented coverage of relevant sectors including: biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biopharmaceuticals, and medical devices. The lack of a focused industry analysis results in reduced valuations for companies, incomplete investment scrutiny, and a cloudy view of the competitive dynamics in this rapidly expanding and highly profitable industry.

Just as nano-scale science evolved into the nanotechnology industry over the past five years – becoming the focus of over 50 venture funds while simultaneously engaging global equity markets through tracking indexes (e.g. Merrill Lynch Nanotech Index) – defining the neurotechnology industry will increase the potential for successful exit strategies available to neurotechnology companies and investors. With the public markets pulling for the latest translation of research into successful treatments, the pool of capital that neurotechnology venture funds will have at their disposal will increase dramatically.

Think about it this way: if there was a simple way to invest in mental health wouldn't you want 10% of your retirement portfolio focused on neurotech ventures who are creating the next generation of tools for neurodegenerative diseases and mental disorders. If so, what companies would you include?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurotech Industry

November 16, 2004

What Drives Great Surges of Development?

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Carlota Perez has a clue:

"Great surges of development represent the gradual integral transformation of both the techno-economic and the socio-institutional spheres of the social system, through the assimilation a cluster of converging technologies. A great surge leads to structural changes in production, distribution, communication and consumption, leading to profound qualitative social changes. Society, in turn, influences the path taken by the revolution."

Earlier this year the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published The Coevolution of Human Potential and Converging Technologies. It is a compendium of 16 papers that discuss different aspects of the 2003 NBIC conference held in Los Angeles.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: NeuroWave 2050

November 15, 2004

William Safire Leaving NYTimes for Dana Foundation

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Posted by Zack Lynch

William Safire, the insightful New York Times Op-Ed, will end his regular column in early 2005, a Times spokeswoman said Monday. Safire will turn 75 next month, and plans to devote more time to The Dana Foundation, a non-profit organization active in neuroscience research, the arts, and education. Among the many notable contributions Safire made over the five decades as a reporter was his recent coining of the term "neuroethics."

"That (Dana) is the main reason to leave the column," Safire told E&P by phone from his Washington, D.C., office Monday. "I want to have another run at something new." If there is anyone who sees where neurotechnology is headed it is Safire. Time to give him a call.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroethics

November 9, 2004

Neuroenablement - Beyond Therapy and Enhancement

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Posted by Zack Lynch

"The limits of our language are the limits of our world”

-Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1921

Distinguishing the line between therapy and enhancement remains a contentious and difficult project. The debate revolves around a number of moral concerns, philosophical approaches, and practical safety issues as to the proper role of medicine, therapeutics, and values in society.

While most agree that a therapy can roughly defined as a treatment for a disorder or deficiency, which aims to bring an unhealthy person towards a healthier state of being, the term enhancement is so problematic that is has created grid-lock in ethical discussions of great practical importance.

No where was this more clear than in the keynote talks given by Leon Kass and Francis Fukayama at the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities conference in Philadelphia last week. The problem with these two terms is that they are not mutually exclusive, what might be considered healthy and normal for one person may not be for another.

So, what is normal? Clearly, every person enters the world with different natural endowments that fall along a distribution of emotional, cognitive and sensory capabilities. Those individuals with debilitating mental disorders or that exhibit extreme deficiencies in a particular capability relative to the general population are easily characterized into the therapy category.

Within the context of today's terminology the use of neurotechnologies by "healthy" individuals for “non-medical” purposes is currently defined as enhancement. However, this does not capture the actual intention and belief of most. This is why I am proposing a new model ethical model based on the concept of neuroenablement.

Without neuroenablement we run the risk of medicalizing most of human behavior and increasing the stigmatization associated with improving one's capabilities within one's right to pursue their individual definition of life, liberty and happiness.

As I have mentioned previously, in the minds of many, “enhancement” evokes artificiality, denotes a lack of worthy achievement, is characterized as “a perversion of medicine”, or even maligned as an unnatural shortcut. On the other hand, enablement projects images of empowerment, lifting the bottom up, and even addresses issues of fairness and social equity. Neuroenablement empowers people: it provides a way for people to leverage better tools for mental health to achieve desired results

As I will explain in future posts, the neuroenablement model will clarify ethical discussions, allow regulators to develop effective policies with respect to advancing neurotechnologies, and in the end promote human dignity. If you have a keen interest in this subject please feel free to email me with your thoughts.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroethics

November 8, 2004

Arab Strategy Forum 2004 - A Peek into 2050, Keynote by Zack Lynch

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I am extremely honored to be giving the keynote talk at this year's Arab Strategy Forum that will be held from 13 - 15 December 2004, in Dubai, UAE. The central theme of the Forum will be 'The Arab World in 2020'. Discussions will focus on three major axis, Arab Governments in 2020, Arab Economies & Businesses in 2020, and Arab Societies in 2020. My keynote talk at the Gala Dinner on December 14 will focus on "Tomorrow’s World: A Peek into 2050."

The invitation was graciously extended by the Executive Office of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defense Minister with additional support from Mr. Saeed Al Muntafiq, Director General of Dubai Development and Investment Authority.

It has been almost 20 years since I have visited Dubai. Under the leadership of the UAE's first President, who passed away last week, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the country's other progressive leaders like Sheikh Mohammed, the country has established an impressive record of rapid economic and social development, including: Dubai Internet City (where 65% of the workforce are women), Dubai Media City, Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai Health Care City, and the Dubai's e-government portal, the world’s first fully online government.

I look forward to sharing with the Forum participants a hopeful and realistic peek into our common future.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurosociety

November 3, 2004

A Sage Passes - His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan

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Posted by Zack Lynch

His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, was laid to rest on Wednesday evening at a site in the Zayed Grand Mosque as millions mourned his passing.

Known as the Arab Sage, Sheikh Zayed will be remembered for his focus on long-term political-economic development, equality of women, inter-faith tolerance and compassion for his people. He was a beacon of hope throughout the world that will shine on for many decades.

"A nation without a past is a nation without a present or future," he once said. "Thanks to God, our nation has a rich past with a flourishing civilization, deep-rooted in this land for many centuries. These stable roots will always flourish and bloom in the glorious present of our nation and its anticipated future."

The Supreme Council of the Emirates, which comprises the leaders of the seven constituent emirates, their brothers and their crown princes, held a meeting and unanimously elected Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, ruler of Abu Dhabi, as its president Wednesday, hours after burying his father.

Sheikh Zayed was the first and only president of the UAE, which was formed in 1971. He was strongly revered by Emiratis and other Arabs across the Middle East.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurosociety

Richard Glen Boire - Seed Magazine's Choice for Revolutionary Mind in 2004

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Posted by Zack Lynch

"We are in the midst of a cultural revolution sparked by science," declares SEED Magazine. In this month's issue SEED highlights 18 icons and iconoclasts whose radical ideas are inspiring a vivid dialogue that is deepening our understanding of ourselves and the world around us." Among the chosen leaders is CCLE's Richard Glen Boire (click here for Richards' insightful Brain Waves articles). The following is an excerpt from the SEED piece:

[DAVIS, Calif.] The phrase “intellectual property” evokes an alphabet soup of legal arcana and technobabble from most lawyers, but to Richard Glen Boire, the concept has a much more literal meaning. As director and chief legal counsel of the nonprofit Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE), Boire acts as a full-time legal watchdog on issues pertaining to “freedom of thought”—or as he puts it, “protect[ing] the individual’s right to privacy, auto-nomy, and choice with respect to his or her own brain chemistry.”

Richard backs up his thought leadership with immense energy and activism. For example, in 2002, U.S. government prosecutors sought to forcibly drug a defendant, Dr. Sell with antipsychotics so that he would be “fit to stand trial.” Sell refused the drugs, sparking a legal battle that spiraled all the way up to the Supreme Court—where, Boire filed the first-ever freedom-of-thought brief on his behalf. The Supreme Court ruled in Sell’s favor in June of last year.

Affirming Richard and Wrye's more recent work is Reason's Jacob Scullum who recently remarked, "The U.S. Supreme Court once declared that 'the most tyrannical government is powerless to control the inward workings of the mind.' That is no longer true, the CCLE concludes: "Pharmacotherapy drugs now give the government that power."

As an advisor to CCLE, I couldn't agree more with distinguishing Richard. I am always stunned by his deep knowledge of constitutional law, neurotechnology and the human spirit.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neuroethics

November 1, 2004

Stretch, Vote and Stretch

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Get up from your computer.  Really.  This blog is not important.

Get up...take a deep breath in, stretch your hands to the sky, slowly bringing your hands down and breath out.  Breathe in again and stretch slowly to the floor.  Breathe out as you come back to standing.  Repeat 3 times. 

Then go vote.

Remember, your brain will only last as long as your body.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: X-tra