Health Makers … from gene editing to brain stimulation, and 3D printed hearts

January 14, 2016

“Health Makers” focus on the exciting growth markets of healthcare, biotech and medicine.

We all recognise the challenges for healthcare. Growing and ageing population, the speed at which contagious diseases can spread, the cost of new drugs and treatments, of unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles, and the aspiration of the best level of care for each person. We also see the opportunities of living a long healthy life. New science and technologies allow us to predict futures health conditions so we can adapt or mitigate them, monitor our bodies in realtime to respond quickly, overcome the most difficult conditions such as blindness, and fight the most terrible diseases. Digital technologies have empowered doctors, and more fundamentally, patients like never. Pharma companies, doctors, insurers, and pharmacists are all seeking to innovate patient-centric experiences.

Like other “Market Makers” these Health Makers create and shape markets in their own vision.

They are not content to play the game of marginal gains – competing on small differences or price discounts, in mature and stagnant markets. They see the future world, they look for the new growth markets, and in particular those which are still emerging, which they can shape to their own advantage. They are “gamechangers” in the biggest sense, in that they create new games (markets), with new audiences (customers and needs), new rules (process and behaviours), and new possibilities (perceived value and profit potential) for business success.

Here are some of the most phenomenal Health Makers who are creating and shaping the fast-emerging robotics markets to their advantage. Whilst there are many others developing sophisticated drugs and therapies, these are examples of companies who are already out there, making money and shaping the attitudes and behaviours of customers right now:


DNA profiling to predict your future

23andMe can transform our attitudes to health, diet and mortality … but also entire industries, drugs driven by future needs, healthcare refocused on prevention, insurance premiums to reflecting new risks. Pharma companies believe that genetic data could be instrumental in creating better, more targeted treatments for diseases. Genentech is working with 23andMe to learn if genetic factors influence a person’s response to the cancer drug Avastin, whilst Amgen recently bought DeCode, a company that explores the link between genes and diseases, for $415 million. Read the Gamechangers case study of 23andMe


Your personal medical diagnostics lab

Cue, a revolutionary device for tracking health information at the molecular level. For the first time, users can track 5 key health and lifestyle indicators: inflammation, vitamin D, fertility, influenza, and testosterone in just minutes, at home. Cue sends the data via Bluetooth 4.0 to the user’s smartphone, where the free Cue app reveals the interplay of activity, food, and sleep shaping the user at a molecular level.


Gene editing to deliver personalised medicines

Editas was founded in 2013 with $43 million in Series A venture capital financing led by leading health care venture capital firms. The company’s mission is to translate its genome editing technology into a novel class of human therapeutics that enable precise and corrective molecular modification to treat the underlying cause of a broad range of diseases at the genetic level. Interesting Forbes article on gene editing


Grow your own bones from stem cells

Today people in need of bone replacement — whether because of disease, defect or injury — can turn to synthetic replacements or they can have another bone in their body cut down so as to supply material for the missing bone. In either case the procedure is extremely painful and not without risk of failure. Epibone is attempting to disrupt this process by growing human bone from stem cells.

Intuitive Surgical

More accurate surgery with a joystick

Intuitive Surgical manufactures robotic surgical systems, most notably the da Vinci system that allows surgery to be performed using robotic manipulators. Almost every heart surgeon now uses the system, sitting in a corner of the operating theatre (or anywhere potentially), operating remotely with a video camera and joystick. The operation is much more accurate, and because of the smaller incision, recovery is much faster.

See the Intuitive Surgical case study in the Gamechangers book.


3D printing of human organs

Imagine the long wait for a kidney, lung or even heart transplant – the years of anguish waiting for a suitable donor, and then to see whether the match works. Instead you can just press print. Organovo designs and creates multi-cellular, dynamic and functional human tissues for use in drug discovery and medical research. The proprietary 3D bioprinting technology enables the creation of tissues that mimic key aspects of native tissues.

See the Organova case study in the Gamechangers book.


Dr Spock’s wearable body scanner comes to life

When Walter De Brouwer puts his head to something, he can produce single-handedly what usually takes several hospital machines and labs. His single hand, it should be said, holds a small and promising device with which Mr. De Brouwer, the co-founder and CEO of Scanadu hopes to remake medicine. With initial crowdfunding on Indiegogo and more recently $35m from Chinese tech giant Tencent, Star Trek devices are now a reality. The Scout device is a small, disc-shaped gadget that has its own tiny operating system inside, as well as gyroscopes, electrodes, reflective light-emitting diodes, accelerometers and other sensors. The Scanadu Scout is meant to be pressed against the side of a user’s head, near the temple.

See the Scanadu case study in the Gamechangers book.

Second Sight

The bionic eye to “cure” blindness

In 2015 Allen Zderad was able to see his wife of 45 years for the first time in a decade. The Minnesota man seemed to burst into simultaneous laughter and tears as he caught a glimpse of her with his new “bionic eye.” Zderad, who is 68, has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that began to progress at a rapid pace 20 years ago. The disease causes deterioration of the part of the retina that turns light into vision, and eventually leads to total blindness.

Read the latest new updates, including first California man to have two bionic eyes

See the Second Sight case study in the Gamechangers book.


Mood-altering brain stimulation

Thync recently launched its mood-altering headset, letting you find a state of calm or boost your energy with controls on your smartphone. Thync’s gadget is more of a module than a headset. It’s small, plastic, and contains a Bluetooth radio for connecting to your phone. You attach it to a disposable adhesive strip, which you apply to your temple and neck. The device is aimed at those who want to zap their brains with calming or energizing vibes. With so many wearables coming out to track physical health, Thync’s goal was to create a device that created a kind of emotional or mental health.


You can read more about my ideas, research and experiences on Future Health, including keynotes, workshops and consulting projects to drive more patient-centric innovation and growth, at:

I am also currently researching my next book about Market Makers:

  • Gamechangers … introduction to my recent book on disruptive innovation
  • Market Makers … new strategies for creating and shaping markets
  • Innolab … fast and collaborative strategic innovation process

If you’d like to suggest ideas for inclusion in my next book, please email me at

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