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Comment medicine and silicon valley aren't the same worlds (Score 1) 161

Ok, a $300M annual charity gift is a big deal, and that's great. But this is not going to drastically change things. Nationwide, the NIH annual R&D budget is about $30B. The USA as a whole has spent over $100B annually on medical research for several years now. This is ~60% more than the total VC investment across all fields in the USA last year.

Submission + - A Commercial Nanoelectronic Device (

Goldsmith writes: For about 20 years we've been hearing about nanotechnology. The promises have been sky high, but the reality has been disappointing. We might finally see some progress from a group of nanotechnologists at Nanomedical Diagnostics. They have an actual manufactured, advanced graphene device. It's not a nanobot (yet), but it is mass produced and does combine nanotech, electronics, and biology. If you're a drug developer, it may even be useful.

Comment Re:Marketing, not monopoly (Score 1) 396

Maybe you should look at that a bit. Also, you may want to actually find out how Medicare and Medicaid work.

Medicare pays for nearly all drugs, generic or brand name. The catch is that Medicare pays what it wants, not what the companies charge. Epinephrine (the drug used in EpiPen) is a generic. The delivery mechanism (the pen) is a device with a separate set of rules. The competition in the market is about the pens, not the drug.

Medicaid has formularies that are managed by plan (i.e. by local committees or a company running a plan). Not all drugs/devices end up on the formularies. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is people asking for brand names (i.e. "My patient needs an EpiPen." rather than "My patient needs an epinephrine auto-injector.") Depending on your local plan, Medicaid may (North Carolina) or may not (Colorado) include an alternative to "EpiPen".

So, yes. "Medicaid" does have a generic alternative to "EpiPen", you just may not be able to get it where you are.

Now, I pointed out in my original post that a simple Google search would find this information for you. It is telling that the "EpiPen" brand is so strong that people (you, for example) continue to assume a real monopoly even when told how to prove to yourself that this is not true.

Comment Marketing, not monopoly (Score 1) 396

There are other epinephrine auto-injectors on the market in the US, cleared by the FDA. A simple Google search will show Adrenaclick at the top of page 1 (FDA cleared, available, and cheaper than EpiPen). It's not hard to find.

The problem here is that people want an "EpiPen", which is a BRAND, not a drug. These guys do not have a monopoly on epinephrine auto-injectors (the thing people need), they have a trademark on "EpiPen" (their product name), which is totally reasonable.

This is not an FDA issue, a generic drug access issue, or an issue with the pharma industry's reduction of effective R&D everywhere but the US. This is about people being susceptible to marketing and branding.

Comment missing the point (Score 2) 294

Equal pay for equal work is a nice phrase, but this is not the way the world works. Forget gender for a minute, and think about whether this approach has a chance to work in any situation where we're trying to equalize economic outcomes.

You don't get paid just based on the work you do. The risks you take, your ability to negotiate, and your ability to leverage your existing finances can play a much bigger role in how much money you make than your actual work. This is why investors make more money than management, who make more money than the people doing the work.

This policy of focusing on salary, standardized benefits, and career development worked in the economy a generation or two removed from today. Now, wealth and advancement are generated through job-hopping or maintaining ownership of your work, not annualized salary. I think telling women they'll do well by sticking with one company and fighting for raises and career development is a recipe to create a gender wage gap.

Comment Re:fubding (Score 1) 387

It's really interesting that you and I agree on the problem so closely, but we disagree on the economic system that's the root of the issue. I agree even that at the root, the problem we're discussing with science comes from what are essentially subsidies for already rich people and organizations at the expense of the workers. The difference is that I think that scientific research, as a market, has been socialized rather than left too open to the pressure of capitalist competition. The government controls every detail from the total size of the market down to how much lab techs are paid. The NIH, for example, had to be ordered by Congress to raise postdoc salaries (which they kind-of did) because the bureaucratic goal of maximizing the scientific workforce and productivity was at odds with their responsibility to pay people a fair salary.

I'm with you on the idea that modern states really use a mix of capitalism and communism. I really don't care how we describe the problem: I call it overly socialized, but I'd be just as happy to call it "crony capitalism." What I'd like is to see us improve the quality of science and the way we treat our young scientists.

Comment fubding (Score 1) 387

The physics analysis is not a controversial at all. The big controversy here is over what should be funded.

Cosmologists and quantum theorists are in good company when it comes to leveraging popular fantasies for fame and fortune. I'm a condensed matter physicist, and about every five years for a very long time we have discovered a material "stronger than steel," or that "will replace silicon."

This is now the culture of science (not just physics) because we have allowed basic research to become a profit center. Universities and (to a lesser extent) companies do not pay for scientific research any more, they get paid to do scientific research. Dig in to a university budget some time. The government is the only customer that matters in this world, and that all-important customer only cares about publications (peer reviewed articles, mass media, whatever). To keep our jobs, we have to be very good at telling stories and painting a picture of the future.

This is key because the customers for basic research used to care about actionable information first, and publicity second. We've reversed that.

The result is that most basic researchers are essentially professional science bloggers. Illuminating possibilities is a lot more interesting and lucrative than proving (or disproving) things.

Comment imperfect information (Score 1) 609

I am a physicist. What makes my job interesting is not endless connect-the-dots logical connections, but the opposite: my job is to make (educated) guesses based on imperfect information.

The interesting part comes in figuring out when there's enough evidence to make a reasonable conclusion. We (the other scientists and I) debate whether a piece of data is really "true," what conclusions could be supported by collected evidence, and what "reasonable" means in "reasonable conclusion." I work with two other physicists, one of whom I trained, and one was trained by my grad school mentor. Even with such similar backgrounds, we disagree on all of these seemingly logical and mathematically calculable things daily. We work at a company, and can't afford to continue gathering data until we all agree. So, I have to make decisions based on incomplete information and logical disagreement all the time.

My dad is a lawyer/politician who has held elected office for most of my life. As an elected official, his job is to make decisions with a very controlled timeline, and somewhat controlled budget. This means he's routinely making decisions without all the information one would wish. While law lacks the rigor of the statistical calculations we use in science, the idea of gradations of certainty is there, and is used in politics.

Essentially, the argument that evidence can be gathered until a logical political conclusion can be reached is impractical and not rooted in reality. We do not even do that in science. Further, the suggestion that scientists have a monopoly on logic and evidence determination is wrong. The implication that politicians and government officials broadly do not currently desire to make logical conclusions based on evidence is counter-productive and incorrect. Certainly there are corrupt officials who do not desire this, but to imply that our government as a whole is illogical is dangerous.

Comment Re:No justice (Score 2) 801

I don't think that's what the FBI statement is saying at all, and I think you're looking at something that's not the statement...

It's very clear that the FBI found that classified information was exposed, but not "in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice." The FBI characterization of what was done is "extremely careless." This is interesting wording because that is not a legal term associated with disclosure of classified material; "grossly negligent" is the legal term associated with the threshold for felony mishandling of classified information.

The FBI statement is also very clear on the security classification of what they found, which is why I think you're reading something else.

110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received. Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification.

That's pretty darn specific. If it was just the confidential stuff, I think your implication that the government classifies everything and this isn't a big deal would be very strong. Multiple accidental Top Secret information leaks is a bit different, though. In the last 15 years, we have sent many government workers to jail for leaking information like this, or even just having it stored at their house.

Comment Re:Skipped at the shareholders' meeting? (Score 1) 232

Thanks for sharing.

One thing stands out in your recollection for me: the inspirational focus on product innovation. Setting the circuses aside, that sounds very different from board meetings I'm used to (in the USA). I can see the appeal of that. While very profitable, innovations in marketing are not so inspirational.

Comment Re:He really hates Google (Score 1) 246

In an abstract way, this is true. Practically though, no one can effectively compete with Google.

There is not much difference in the effective power Google has compared to AT&T prior to being broken up. Both AT&T (then) and Google (now) use intense vertical integration, bundling of various services at below a-la-carte market prices, and large R&D efforts to maintain dominance. While people (such as Sprint) were free to compete with AT&T prior to 1982, the (legal) fact is that there was no economic way to effectively compete with them. The same is nearly true of Yahoo and Bing in contrast with Google today.

Comment Re:Skipped at the shareholders' meeting? (Score 1) 232

Ok, I actually do have a sincere (and off-topic) question for you.

Why do you go to these meetings?

I present for my company at meetings. It seems phone calls are much preferred to face to face meetings unless there's something really critical (bad) going on. Certainly, we don't get anyone who isn't fluent in English. So... why do you go to the Japanese shareholder meetings?

Maybe they're entertaining? I've never seen any ruckii at our meetings. To have that happen almost annually would be incredible. Now, the on-topic discussion is Sony's ethical mis-steps, so maybe they've earned these disruptions.

In my view, good investor management nearly demands that shareholder meetings are boring and predictable. If there's something good happening that you can raise money on, don't sit on it! If there's something bad going on, don't surprise your investors with it. A formal meeting recaps communications that have been going on since the last formal meeting.

Comment good luck (Score 2) 85

I'm a scientist and have worked in the sensor field for a long time. I have had students I've trained attempt this (commercial breath detection of cancer) with promising initial results. It's pretty easy to do the demo these guys are doing. It's very hard to do this with real people. The gap between cool academic demo and manufactured product is huge. The gap between product and FDA cleared diagnostic is even larger.

Comment typical san diego (Score 1) 113

My favorite part of this is the tortured logic around the (lack of) funding for anything. The budget for 2017 plans on $106M being spent on street repairs. For the climate action plan, they hope that 10% of the street repairs are helpful for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. So, that's a $10.6M expenditure on the CAP plan! The vast majority of the people being "hired" on this plan are being hired into the sewer repair project. This is a long-term program that was going to hire those people anyway. Also, this is part of the reason the roads need to be repaired so badly, they're being torn up all over town, and then "repaired" when the sewer guys move on.

These are both good things to do, but we were doing them anyway, and not because we're trying to fight climate change. They money being "spent" in this plan, and the people being "hired" have nothing to do at all with the headline.

Comment commercialization is the challenge (Score 1) 154

Since 1999 the US government has paid more for basic research to universities than the combined private and public investment in early stage commercialization (government research grants vs angel investing + venture capital + SBIR). We've built our R&D system such that it costs more to commercialize a good idea than it does to do the basic research. Basic research costs are kept low by subsidies from the researchers who accept degrees, PhDs, postdoctoral fellowships, and tenure in lieu of money.

So, now we have an overabundance of basic research ideas and projects, and a shortage of commercialization opportunities and industry funding.

How does that lead to the government needing to spend more? The government is spending enough.

1) Let's go back to requiring DoD contractors spend 15% of their overhead funding on internal R&D.
2) Let's require SBIR recipients to work on their funded projects full time.
3) Let's require that "diversified investments" advertised to the general public include 0.5% of total funds invested in companies less than 5 years old.

The money is out there, and the researchers are out there. The government doesn't need to pay for everything, nor the scientific community accept the expansive view of "basic" research to include everything up to sales (and in some cases, past that). There needs to be a nudge in the right direction though.

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