The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Mar 5, 2017 ⋅ #263

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I made this announcement to 54,400 members of the Digital Health group on LinkedIn. If you’re on LinkedIn, please do join the group, which allows you to opt in to receiving these announcements in addition to connecting with thousands of other global stakeholders in digital health. Note that I will continue to update this announcement up until sending out the final version via LinkedIn.

The Digital Health Update by Paul Sonnier ⋅ Mar 5, 2017 ⋅ #263

Dear Group,

The Economist ran an excellent article on digital health entitled “A digital revolution in health care is speeding up“. It’s a shame that there’s no author byline, as whoever wrote it did a comprehensive job capturing the essence of digital health and the key opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses for most major stakeholders, including consumers. My only criticism is that genomics was only mentioned once, and in an ancillary fashion. Granted, to have done justice to the subject would have likely grown the article a bit. But genomics is a major part of digital health, not a side note. As I often point out, DNA is a digital molecule, comprised of a 4-base chemical code of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts, as opposed to the 2-base digital code, which is comprised of 1s and 0s. Moreover, computers and robotics are necessary to, among other things, scale genomic sequencing and enable gene editing, with the latter having applications from so-called ‘designer babies’ to increasing crop yields (which can address food security). This is why I emphasize both the digital and the genomics revolutions in my definition of digital health.

Francis DeSouza, CEO at Illumina, reinforces my point in his recent op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune: “Genomics literacy critical to San Diego and nation“. As Francis states, “teachings about genetics are fairly limited and provide only a basic introduction to the chemical structure of DNA and Mendelian inheritance patterns. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more educational resources directed toward genetics and genomics, especially in San Diego, because this is a field that is critically important to continuing our region’s legacy of scientific innovation, contributing to responsible science policymaking and to the continued growth of our local economy.” He adds that “by engaging in genomics, its social impacts and the opportunities it creates, we have the potential to dramatically improve human health and the human condition as we step forward into the future.” Well said!

A new strategy for storing digital data (the computer variety) in DNA has been developed by Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University. By converting the 1s and 0s of digital code into the As, Cs, Gs, and Ts of genetic code—plus adding a new twist modeled on techniques used to stream movies across the Internet—it would be possible, using their methodology, to fit all of the world’s data into two large suitcases.

A French teen who received gene therapy for sickle cell disease now has enough properly working red blood cells to effectively dodge the serious effects of the disease. While not a cure, after more than two years, the therapy has resulted in about half of his red blood cells having normal hemoglobin, he no longer requires transfusions, nor does he require special medicines. Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutated version of the gene that helps make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells.

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Paul Sonnier
Keynote Speaker ⋅ Management Consultant ⋅ Social Entrepreneur
Founder, Digital Health group on LinkedIn ⋅ 50,000+ members
Creator, Story of Digital Health
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Twitter: @Paul_Sonnier
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