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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.
Follow me on Twitter at @neurorev
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March 24, 2005

Numenta for Neurotechnology - Now That's Valuable

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Jeff Hawkin's has started an "On Intelligence" company Numenta to apply neuroscience to computing problems. Numenta's business focus will be the development of software tools, support services, and the licensing of intellectual property. While products are still distant, let's hope Jeff provides this new platform technology an minimal cost to neuroinformatics groups, researchers and Paul Allen's Brain Atlas team to help accelerate the development of better tools for brain disorders that directly impact one out of every four people.

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

March 23, 2005

Saegis Continues Cogniceutical Progress with ADHD Focus

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Cogniceuticals improve and treat disorders of attention, learning, memory, or cognition. Cogniceuticals are the fastest growing neuropharmaceutical market for two primary reasons: (1) demographic shifts towards aging population (2) scientific progress on memory related disorders, especially animal models.

As I wrote last year in Saegis a cogniceutical pure play, Saegis continues to prove their cogniceutical focus with their recent announcement that it began a Phase II study of its lead product candidate, SGS742, for adult patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It's progress and focus like this that have made the neurotechnology industry one of the hottest areas for venture capital investment in the life sciences, surging 225% in the past 5 years.

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

March 22, 2005

How Bad Is It? The Cost of Brain Disorders in Europe

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Update February 9, 2007: Some of these links have gone extinct. The Cost of Brain Disorders Report can be found here.

Estimates of the economic cost of neurological and psychiatric disorders vary widely depending on the source, breadth of study and input data. In 2002, the Society for Neuroscience estimated the cost of neurological and mental disorders in the U.S. alone exceeded $548 billion, not including indirect costs. In 2003, Pfizer estimated that the direct cost worldwide exceeded $1 trillion. Research compiled by NeuroInsights over the past year puts the total global economic burden much higher. It's time for faster cures for brain-related illnesses.

On April 26, the final results of a two-year pan-European project on the "Cost of Brain Disorders in Europe" will be presented before the European Commissioner of research, Janes Potocnik, at the European Parliament. The project was established by the European Brain Council and is the first project aimed at analyzing the cost of all brain disorders of the Brain in Europe, bringing together scientific edge in epidemiology and health economics on major brain disorders in Europe. Supporting this work were organizations like the European Brain Council, the European Federation of Neurological Associations and the Global Alliance of Mental Illness Advocacy Networks, and The European DANA Alliance for the Brain. (The geographical scope of study was limited to the European territory, defined as all 25 EU member countries and the 3 EFTA-countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland).

I've been in contact with the researchers and I believe the world will be astounded by what they finally have to share. In short, we are in the midst of a global mental illness epidemic as populations grow and individuals age.

I'll let you know as soon as they let me. But in the mean time, I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day to think of some one in your life who might appreciate a short email or phone call to let them know how much they have inspired you or how much you appreciate them. Human social interaction is clearly one of the most important components of maintaining a healthy mind.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Mental Health Issues

March 18, 2005

WSJ - Neuroimaging Here to Stay

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Posted by Zack Lynch

In Sharon Begley's WSJ article today "While Brain Imaging Offers New Knowledge, It Can Be an Illusion" she highlights important points about advancing neuroimaging. (subscription required)

On the ethics front she reiterates what Stanford's Judy Illes has been talking about for years. "Brain scans such as these have a power to persuade that other forms of data lack. Although measurements (perspiration, basically) had already shown that seeing cocaine triggers an intense physiological reaction, and although grandmasters can tell you they memorize old game positions and strategies, in both cases the brain scans carried the day."

She continues, "Blame it on the cognitive paparazzi. Neuroimaging such as PET and fMRI are seducing laypeople and scientists alike into believing we know more than we do about how and why we think, feel and behave, some scientists say. The power of brain imaging, says Frank Keil, a Yale University psychology professor, reflects "the illusion of explanatory depth. If people see something, they are often deluded into thinking they understand it better than they really do."

She ends with this reality check, "For all its flaws, neuroimaging is here to stay. No self-respecting psych department can afford to forgo it. Of the dozen or so new faculty members recently hired by his department, says Phillip Shaver, chairman of psychology at the University of California, Davis, 10 use primarily neuroimaging. Economists, political scientists and sociologists are not far behind. As with all powerful tools, let the user beware." (my emphasis added)

Beyond what she mentions here, we also see use of neuroimaging in finance, marketing, art, and even love (follow that link). So say good bye to the information society, and say hello to our emerging neurosociety. One last point, I have to hand it to Sharon for nailing the brilliant phrase "cognitive paparazzi." That's a meme that is sure to spread.

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

March 16, 2005

VCs Have Brains on Their Minds - Neurotech VC Up 225%

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Neurotechnology Industry Experiencing Explosive Growth in Venture Funding Says Upcoming Report from NeuroInsights

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 16, 2005--A soon-to-be-released report from NeuroInsights, the neurotechnology market authority, will show that venture capital investment in neurotech companies (firms developing treatments for neurological and psychiatric illnesses) climbed a phenomenal 225 percent from 1999 to 2004 -- representing $5.987 billion invested by VCs during that period.

According to data compiled by NeuroInsights, more than one-in-four venture capital dollars invested in the Life Sciences now goes to companies creating innovations in neuropharmaceuticals, neurodevices and neurodiagnostics.

"Five of the top ten leading causes of disability worldwide are caused by problems with the brain and nervous system," explained Zack Lynch, managing director of NeuroInsights. "The good news is that new treatments for those suffering from illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, depression and chronic pain are emerging quickly. Building on the success of the Human Genome Project and decades of brain research, neurotech now holds the greatest potential for major discoveries, commercial success and real investment opportunities. It's no wonder over 60 venture capital firms made significant investments in private neurotech companies last year."

"Neurotech companies are addressing the largest and fastest growing unmet medical market so there's room for many new companies with good science to compete," said Mark Cochran, managing partner at NeuroVentures Capital. "As a focused neurotech fund, we've talked with over 500 startups in the space and the potential for high return investment has never been more compelling."

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Neurotech Industry

March 15, 2005

Our Mind's Eye - Neuroimaging Suggests Survival

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Posted by Zack Lynch

If the 1990s were the "Decade of the Brain," these 10 years could be called the "Decade of Neuroimaging," writes Joyce Ward in this month's feature article, The Minds Eye: Imaging Helps Unravel Mysteries of the Mind.

In her article in Advance Magazine (read by imaging, radiology and oncology professionals) Joyce takes them on a journey into how the neurodiagnostic tools they use daily to help patients understand their diseases are transformingother aspects of human society. Taking neuroimaging outside of medicine, she dives into neuromarketing and beyond.

Covering recent neuromarketing research by Brighthouse, NeuroSense and others, she finally arrives at the ethical implications. I've spent several years thinking deeply about the societal implications of neurotechnology, and like every tool ever developed, it's a double-edged sword. One side can slice open the fruits of life while the other cuts deeply through our souls.

As Thomas Friedman suggested in Dubai recently, the world is flat. I agree. And given this shift to business 3.0 where individuals are the locus of competition, not firms or countries, I have come to this position on much of the national neuroethics discussions....And so she ends the article on this thought:

"But inquiries into the ethics of neuroimaging may be a case of closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. If there is a competitive advantage to using brain imaging to screen employees or to determine which advertising campaign will bring the best response, then industry will adapt the technology, says Zack Lynch, managing director of Neuroinsights, a commercial and financial consulting company based in San Francisco. Lynch is writing a book called "Neurosociety—How Brain Science will Shape the Future of Business, Politics and Culture."

"If you look at it historically, the financial sector is the first to adapt to technology advances," Lynch says, predicting that 10 years from now, industry would spend one of every 10 marketing dollars on neuromarketing, making the commercial use of neuroimaging a fait accompli.

"We live in a global economy," Lynch says. "If you are a company, and you are 15 percent more efficient because you use brain scanning and biochips, the next company will have to use it."

We might not like our cell phones, but they help us survive in our infomation society. We might not like our mind's read, but are you really trustworthy? Are all of us?

Beyond therapy and enhancement is survival.

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

March 14, 2005

March 13, 2005

Brain Awareness Week Reaches 57 Countries in 10th Year

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Brain Awareness Week is a growing international effort organized by the Dana Foundation to advance public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.
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Over 1700 organizations across 57 countries are hosting public lectures, educational exhibits, school programs and workshops throughout the week. For educational ideas for your classroom or events occurring in your area visit dana.org.

For those of you in San Francisco on Monday, I highly recommend coming to watch the award-winning documentary Out of the Shadow which illuminates the national plight of schizophrenia through one family's struggle. It will be shown at the annual training conference of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare on Monday, March 14 at 4:30 p.m. Hope to see you there.

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

March 9, 2005

Neuropharmaceutical Approval Process - The FDA's Slow Road

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Posted by Zack Lynch

Regulation of neuropharmaceuticals and neurodevices fall under two different centers within the FDA. Pharmaceuticals are overseen by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), while devices are overseen by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH).

The Current FDA Neuropharmaceutical Approval Process

Manufacturers who intend to market a new drug must go through a very complex and expensive process. Bringing a new drug to market can take a drug maker 10-15 years at a cost of over $800 million. There are several steps involved in obtaining FDA approval for a new drug (which is getting more difficult)

The first step is to submit an Investigational New Drug (IND) application to the FDA that contains preclinical information: animal pharmacology and toxicology data to determine if the product is safe for initial testing in humans; information on the chemistry, manufacturing & controls to determine if company can produce drug consistently; and the clinical protocols to determine if the methods for conducting the study will cause harm to human test subjects.

When the FDA has cleared the IND application, the drug manufacturer can conduct clinical trials for the drug on patients living within the United States. Clinical trials have three phases:

Phase I: Study of drug in 20 to 80 healthy human volunteers for up to one year to provide information on the drug's toxicity and potential side effects.

Phase II: This type of study is conducted on patients with the targeted disease that the drug is intended to treat over two years to test the drug's safety and efficacy.

Phase III: This is the most comprehensive of the investigational studies focusing on a large number of patients (typically several hundred to several thousand) for approximately two to four years, depending on the drug and the patient population.

Once the manufacturer has successfully completed three phases of clinical studies on an investigational drug, they submit the information as part of a New Drug Application (NDA). Along with the clinical trial results, the manufacturer must also provide: the technical instructions for using the product and the promotional materials used to market the drug to consumers to ensure the claims are appropriate; a manufacturing summary that details of how the drug will be prepared and manufactured and what controls are in place to guarantee a consistent product; non-clinical Information on how the drug should be administered, to whom and at what doses; and a risk/benefit analysis.

The drug maker's submission is reviewed by the FDA and if the drug is granted NDA approval, the FDA may require that the drug maker engage in a phase IV clinical study, which may be larger and longer term than the phase III trial. The phase IV study is designed to monitor the ongoing safety and efficacy of the drug.

Are we ready for FasterCures yet? Check out this suggested process for accelerating the approval process. Indeed, recent events have begun to make many question the concept of accelerating the process at all. Watch out for Pharma's horizontal future.

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

March 7, 2005

Blogging Begets Better Brains

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Posted by Zack Lynch

I must recommend a new neurolearning blog that has a strong focus on neurologically-based approaches to learning and learning differences. It is written by Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide who recently posted a great piece on the Brain of the Blogger (Here are the key points)

1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.
2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.
3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.
4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.
5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.

So why don't you blog?

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Writing & Blogging

March 3, 2005

Neurotech Industry Update - Neurodevices

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Posted by Zack Lynch

The neurotechnology industry contains three sectors: neurodiagnostics, neuropharmaceuticals and neurodevices. The neurodevice sector includes medical devices, electronic implants and information technology solutions to treat neurological illnesses and psychiatric disorders.

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Neurodevices such as cochlear implants for the hearing impaired and neurostimulation devices for the treatment of pain have already improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of individuals, their further potential applicability to a broad range of neurological disorders such as stroke, paralysis, Parkinson's disease, and epilepsy will drive substantial growth over the next decade.

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