Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which owns and produces CES, the global stage for innovation. In January 2018, Shapiro interviewed Dr. Kassell and John Grisham from the CES stage about focused ultrasound.
On Oct. 23, Shapiro will deliver a keynote speech on the importance of innovation at the intersection of technology, business, and healthcare at the 6th International Symposium on Focused Ultrasound. The following is a conversation we had with Shapiro about what excites him about focused ultrasound, how it fits into the landscape of technology disruption, and what he sees ahead in medical and healthcare innovation.
What excites you most about focused ultrasound technology?
Focused ultrasound is as significant as anything I have ever seen in my lifetime in terms of changing human pain and suffering and healing people. This is technology for good. This is an innovation solving major problems in the world.
There are few diagnoses in medicine as dreaded for patients to receive, and for physicians to give, as brain cancer. Having shared this news countless times with patients, I can say two things with certainty: The responses are as varied as the patients themselves, and after the initial shock, the questions are almost universal: "How long do I have left?" "What do I do next?" and "How can I fight this?"
In medical school, we are taught to master knowledge of the common and the deadly. In the world of brain tumours, the two are one and the same with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common primary brain tumour in adults, and also the most aggressive. The last two decades, however, have seen major advances in imaging, genetics, neurosurgery, and adjuvant therapy that are now reshaping how we understand and treat these tumours. There is reason to believe that the next few years will offer hope to the many patients and families with this disease – a disorder that crosses all social, socioeconomic, educational, racial, and gender lines, and is able to fell even the most heroic among us.
Parkinson’s disease is an increasingly common nervous system disorder, with a growing list of high profile patients who are helping to lead the fight for better treatment options and creating hope for a cure.
Focused ultrasound is an early-stage, noninvasive therapy that is now in clinical trials to treat the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. The Focused Ultrasound Foundation has funded and been involved with many clinical trials over the past 12 years, including a successful effort to find a treatment for essential tremor (ET), which is a movement disorder with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. Our experience with ET has provided a base of knowledge that may be helpful as patients consider participating in a new clinical trial for Parkinson’s disease.
Today at the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science – the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) in Chicago – thousands of attendees from around the world were among the first to hear the results of a landmark clinical trial of focused ultrasound to open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to facilitate drug therapy in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. These pilot trial results were also published today in the prestigious, high-impact journal, Nature Communications.
Nir Lipsman, MD, PhD, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, presented the findings of this first-of-its-kind study – Blood-Brain Barrier Opening in Alzheimer’s Disease Using MR-guided Focused Ultrasound – that demonstrated the feasibility and preliminary safety of focally, reversibly and repetitively opening the BBB. This is the first small, but critically important, step in a process that could potentially lead to a novel approach to delivering drugs to the brain to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
Recently, founder and chairman of the Foundation Neal F. Kassell, MD, spoke with Melanie Crandall, head of content at tech communications firm Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, to discuss why CES 2018 was such a great venue to showcase focused ultrasound technology and where he thinks the field is headed, particularly in regards to the treatment of essential tremor.
You were recently at CES with John Grisham. Was this your first time at the show and how was the technology received?
Yes, it was our first time. We were somewhat anxious going into this, as we are definitely not consumer electronics. But our expectations of a positive reception were wildly exceeded. The response from show attendees was nothing short of astonishing. People came by the booth eager for more information and expressing enthusiasm about the potential of the technology. Attention from the senior leadership of CES was amazing. The panels we were part of and participating in Gary’s Book Club with John Grisham were incredible experiences. On a scale of 0 to 10, I would rate it a 16.