Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Is DNA the Key to Preventing a Digital Dark Age?

Posted on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

The image accompanying this post is of the Phaistos Disk. It was created in about 2000 BCE in Crete. Its front and back surfaces are covered with nearly perfectly preserved etchings, but we don't have much of a clue about what it all means. Why does this matter? It matters because the photos, data, research, and other information that matters to us today barely has a chance of lasting 2 decades, much less 2 millennia. 

Experts, including Vint Cerf who is widely credited as the "father of the internet" and who is now Google's Vice President and Chief Evangelist, believe that much of the information that distinguishes the 21st century is at risk of being lost to future generations. A gaping chasm in humankind's understanding of our era could be called a digital dark age. 

So how would this happen?

The 21st century could become a victim of its own remarkable technological advancement. We've made tremendous progess in data storage over the past few decades. The smartphone in your pocket, for instance, holds far more data than did PCs from even a decade ago, and the price of that storage has fallen dramatically. However, the ability to hold onto that data for -- in optimal cases -- more than twenty years is incredibly rare, and even when the data is pristine, it's not always easy to make sense of it. If you've stumbled upon a cache of floppy disks recently, it is unlikely that your current computer can do anything with them. 

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Tags: Big Data, DNA, health data

Banking on a Cancer "Off Switch"

Posted on Tue, Feb 24, 2015 @ 03:30 PM

On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal published a business story (login required for the full story) about a new approach to treating cancer, and particularly a few late stage cancers. According to the story, investors like Michael Milken, George Soros, Jeff Bezos and Paul Allen are among best-known names betting on an emerging sector of cancer drug development called immunotherapy

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Tags: cancer, Innovations, drug development, immunotherapy

Potentially, A Key to HIV

Posted on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

A team of researchers led by Michael Farzan from The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL may be on the cusp of identifying the biggest drug threat to HIV in the 30-year struggle against AIDS. Farzan and his team exploited the AIDS virus' own biomechanics to prevent it from invading healthy white blood cells. 

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Tags: HIV, AIDS, drug development

Despite Cure, Leprosy Hangs On

Posted on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made safe, effective multidrug therapies (MDT) to cure leprosy Leprosy_deformities_handsavailable free of charge worldwide, and has been largely eliminated in the world. Largely, but not completely.

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Tags: Cure, rare diseases

Big Data: Friend or Foe?

Posted on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 03:55 PM

Despite a much-covered data hack on health insurer Anthem, the answer to the title question is "friend", though we're still navigating the early, halcyon days of the relationship. 

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Tags: Big Data

Managing Technical Debt

Posted on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

In a previous article, I introduced technical debt as a system with a positive feedback loop. In this one, I discuss using Agile Practices to tackle not only the debt, but also the Technical Debt System in order to minimize and break the positive feedback loop. Let’s talk about the how and the when, on the following fronts:

  • Business Pressure, Inadequate Review, Definition of Done, Delayed Refactoring, Fear.


Labels and Filters

Hopefully you’re using an issue tracking system. Track technical debt just as you would any other task or bug. Use labels and filters so that you can bring up a Technical Debt Dashboard. Simply by tracking technical debt we have removed fear and promoted transparency in order to have better conversations that help alleviate business pressure. Now we’re in a good position to tackle it.

Definition of Done

You have a Definition of Done right? Having an adequate definition of done is a key component in constraining the accumulation of technical debt. Your definition of done could include but not be limited to:

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Clinical Trial for Ebola Drug Canceled, But That's Not Terrible News

Posted on Thu, Feb 05, 2015 @ 03:49 PM

There is some good news in West Africa, as cases of Ebola are on the decline,  even in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the continent's hardest hit areas.

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Tags: clinical trials, vaccines, ebola

NIH Has a $150M to Spend on Pediatric Research this Year

Posted on Tue, Feb 03, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

It seems like a nice problem to have: an additional $150 million for important research. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found itself in this very position. The agency has a bit more than $150 million to spend on pediatric studies from two sources this year. 

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Tags: cancer, research, EHR, NCS


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