Neal F. Kassell, MD, the Founder and Chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, recently sat down (albeit virtually) with Chase Koch, the President of Koch Disruptive Technologies, for an in-depth discussion about the field of focused ultrasound and how their organizations are working together to revolutionize therapy with this highly disruptive technology.
Below is the first in a three-part blog series edited and condensed from their conversation. Read on to learn more about KDT and Koch Industries, why they are excited about focused ultrasound, and their message to the community at large. The second article in the series will explore the state of the field as it transitions from research to commercialization, and KDT's relationship with the Foundation as they pursue their shared goal of improving the lives of millions around the world with focused ultrasound in the shortest time possible. And in the final installment, Dr. Kassell and Mr. Koch will discuss KDT's current position in the field, future investment plans, and how they feel about spawning the first focused ultrasound "unicorn" (a privately held company with a valuation of more than one billion dollars) via Israeli manufacturer Insightec.
It's a shame that none of you will ever meet Maryanne, a mother of four, who made blankets for other cancer patients even as she was losing her own battle with a malignant brain tumor five years ago. Then there is Zoraida, a beautiful woman inside and out, who is bravely combating her formidable opponent – a glioblastoma – better than any superhero.
Zoraida is one of 700,000 people currently living with a brain tumor in the United States. It is projected that in 2020, there will be 87,240 new diagnoses of primary brain tumors and somewhere between 70,000 and 170,000 new diagnoses of brain metastases in adults. Sadly, with incidences on the rise, about 100,000 people will die with brain metastases each year. The five-year survival for glioblastoma patients is only 6.8 percent.
The Foundation receives many inquiries about the various applications of focused ultrasound. We want to share some of the most commonly asked questions to help our community quickly locate the information they need.
Does the Foundation conduct patient consultations or treat patients?
Our main function is to identify and fund research projects in order to make focused ultrasound therapies more readily available to treat patients. We do not conduct patient consultations, nor do we treat patients. We are sometimes able to help connect people with physicians who can either consult with them and their families or provide focused ultrasound treatments.
Is the Foundation operated by the government or owned by manufacturers?
No, the Foundation is an independent, tax-exempt organization that is entirely supported by donations with the goal of helping advance focused ultrasound to be available to treat patients in the shortest time possible. We are a small organization, and we do our best to steward our resources to advance the field of focused ultrasound. Read more about the Foundation.
The opioid epidemic is a national crisis. Every day, an estimated 130 people die in the United States from an opiate related overdose. Many of these deaths can be attributed to an initial or current misuse of prescription opioids, often prescribed to treat acute and chronic pain. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the annual economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States alone is $78.5 billion, which includes the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. About 80 percent of people who use heroin have misused a prescription opiate first. These types of staggering statistics go on, but the point is that the opioid epidemic is a real problem requiring realistic, effective, and timely solutions.
A Multi-faceted Approach
Many different areas need improvement when considering potential solutions to the opioid crisis, and it will likely be advancement in all of them that results in a real progress. Those who already suffer from an opioid misuse disorder need improved access to evidence-based treatment. It is imperative to advance research in overdose therapy, medication-assisted therapy, and opiate abuse risk reduction. Most relevant to the field of focused ultrasound is the establishment and promotion of alternatives to opiate-based medications for the treatment of pain. Another area that has the potential to use focused ultrasound is in the identification and development of new therapies to aid in abstinence from opiates.
On a brilliant fall day in 2015, I cringed as I watched my then 7-year-old horse limp towards my veterinarian.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"I can inject that joint, but we’ll have to watch it," he replied.