Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gregory Petsko, Brandeis University: Alzheimer epidemic

Biochemist Gregory Petsko of Brandeis University makes a convincing argument for the coming Alzheimer epidemic

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Damien Hirst makes $200 million in one evening: The Tiger Woods of the art world

Several years ago I registered emergingmarketart.com in anticipation of the coming art boom in India and China. Unfortunately life got in the way, so the domain name stayed shelved through the extraordinary art boom of the 90s.

While I still see emerging market art as an interesting investment play, this is a business where superstars generate the lion share of profits.

Damien Hirst first hit the limelight when I lived in London 15 years ago. Last September, he sold 233 works of art in a single evening and made $200 million.

Anish Kapoor, another Brit making waves with his mirrored steel exhibits may be headed in the same direction. Its incredible to imagine that a single artist could make more than a billion dollars in his or her own lifetime.

Unlike Tiger Woods, Damien doesn't even need to practice his craft himself. He can direct most of it and let a team do the hard work. Tiger is only as good as his coordination on the golf course.

Here's a video of Damien talking about his work.

Maldives: Will it last another 100 years ?

Maldives has always been the exotic destination for Indian honeymooners and Bollywood movie song scenes. Over the last 10 years its also become one of the world's most sought after tourist destinations with 600,000 visitors.

Unfortunately it may dissapear. Most Maldives islands are 3 feet above water. As our ice shelf melts, the water table gets raised, and salt waters wash over these pristine islands, making life unlivable.

The current President of Maldives is so worried that he's setting up a soveriegn fund to buy land in case much of the islands dissapear by 2100 AD as expected.

Global warming is a reality and unfortunately as the earth warms up and the permafrost melts, unleashing trapped methane and CO2 this process will simply accelerate, breaking off ice shelfs like the massive recent one that suddenly broke away.

Is it only a matter of time ? Will Maldives replace polar bears as the poster-case of global warming ?

The Electronic Rubikscube !

One of my 2009 resolutions (I have three) is to solve the Rubik's cube. I used to have to break it apart to solve it twenty years ago. Now the $150 rubik"s touchcube will save us the trouble of taking it apart.  Wait till the Chinese electronics manufacturers take it apart. I'm predicting $50 in a year and $20 in year 3.

Stroke: When in doubt, scan please !

There are two types of strokes - ischemic and haemorrhagic. The first is the result of a clot that blocks supply of blood to the brain. The second is due to a burst vessel. Both cause permanent brain damage. Haemorragic stroke has no fixes - once the brain is damaged the only thing really one can do is remove the blood and hope the patient will regain function if the brain rewires. Thankfully haemorrhagic stroke occurs in 17 percent of cases.

700,000 Americans experience a stroke every year, ending up with paralysis or hemiparalysis in large proportions. 1.6 millions are paralyzed today due to stroke.

Mostly people experience a shut off of blood supply - ischemic stroke, a condition that is potentially fixable within a 3-hour timeframe if detected. Detection needs a CT scan. If one can get it done in 45 minutes, there's time to get to a interventional neurologist or administer tpa, a clot-busting medicine that works in a minority of cases

Looks like a very important standard continues to hang in balance. Its an issue that could potentially save thousands from debilitating paralysis. Meanwhile, companies like InTouch, that had a breakthrough communication device being used for remote consults on stroke (amongst other diseases) will continue to be critical to get neurospecialists in front of patients in remote locations that need the help.

Did the late Carmelo Scuderi change the gasoline engine ?

Yesterday a new 4-piston gasoline engine was unveiled in Detroit. This engine is expected to convert 40% of gasoline into energy. Today's cars convert 33%. That may not seem like a lot, but it has the power to make gas-powered cars 25% more efficient. That does have a significant impact. Not surprising the industry is lining up to test and maybe build prototypes. We'll hear more in two years. Its a pity that Carmelo Scuderi announced his invention in 2001 but died a year later. It too another seven years to unveil the final product. Cars have so much incredible engineering and innovation packed into its steel frame, its hard for executives to get excited. This one's different.

Time for a new keyboard ?

The QWERTY keyboard was invented in 1872 when the typewriter was mechanical. Through trial and error it was discovered to be the best way to put keys together so they did not jam when typing. Having grown up in the typewriter age, I have actually experienced this problem when two mechanical arms came together at the same time. But now word processors are electronic. Is there a better design ? Should we go back to laying them out alphabetically ? Are there mathematical algorithms that have been used to get us to a better keyboard layout that allows us to type faster ?

One argument may be that we cannot afford to go up against the installed base ? As I move to typing with one finger on our iPhones lest we drop them (as opposed to the much easier blackberry) , I believe there is room to rethink this keyboard because on the iPhone, for example we could choose our keyboard layouts.

In fact if no one has done it, I woud propose an iPhone app that has a customizable keyboard one can use. Let's "test" if there is a market.

PS: There is a good article on DVORAK keyboards on wikipedia. Click here.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The January Letter from Steve Jobs

I was wondering about his health yesterday as I wandered around the world's largest apple store (its in Boston). I found this letter he wrote in January. Looks like he'll be ok, but we'll wait to see pictures of him having gained the weight.

January 5, 2009
Letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Corporate VC: New Kids on the Block - Google and Merck (Germany)

Two new VC firms are starting to make some waves. The news on Google Ventures isn't new, but with a new hire on the East Coast, they're back in the news. It would be interesting to see what Google invests in, but I am scratching my head as to why they would invest in the biotech industry. Its not like investing in lifesciences (outside of Healthcare IT) will teach them anything.

Merck of Germany is looking to enter the venture business with a new fund - Merck Serono Ventures. This firm is not to be confused with Merck Capital Ventures, which created a fund in 2000 to invest in tools and technologies outside, but not therapeutics. But Merck decided not to stay in the venture business. Instead, the Merck team is now raising a new fund at Pharma Capital Ventures after reportedly delivering top quartile returns at Merck.

Click here for Google Ventures
Click here for Merck Serono Ventures\