Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Wanderers 2009.11.4

Bill Soldering
:: soldering job ::

Steve Mastin had just attended a conference organized by ICO (Innovate | Collaborate | Oregon) and is talking about medical research companies involved in brain research and so forth. The Vollum Institute gives OHSU an international reputation. Electrical Geodesics, based in Eugene, makes those "hair net" EEG devices with 256 receptors, now being used in sleep disorder research and so forth.

However, Oregon has a hard time retaining its top researchers, who tend to get hired away by companies with better facilities. Oregon is more a way station than a final destination in the medical research biz at this point in its history. A lot of the research simply happens overseas e.g. the AIDS vaccine is being researched in Thailand.

Some brain researchers are focused on nematodes, creatures with only about 5000 neurons in their brains. Understanding the human brain requires starting with simpler models.

Some nematodes cause serious diseases although there's hardly any commercial activity around curing these because the tropical regions where these occur are too poor to fund and buy the drugs. Resulting from nematode research is a microscope stage that adjusts its positions hundreds of times a second to hold a wiggling specimen steady relative to the microscope eye.

Steve had heard an impressive talk at the World Trade Center downtown by Larry Sherman with OHSU and the Primate Center out near OGI. The brain continues to rewire itself throughout life, retains its plasticity. Music, both performing it and listening to it, helps the brain resist degradation through aging. Glenn saw the link to Oliver Sacks and his Musicophilia presentation, which I managed to miss. The poster for that event is in front of the one about Moira Gunn's presentation and her Biotech Nation, which is what today's session is all about.

Mastin focuses on technology transfer, getting results from research in a university setting moved into the private sector for commercial applications. Oregon has had some nasty barriers to this happening in the public sector, however there's been a sea change and more transfer is happening. Oregon's small biomedical firms still lack managerial experience in Steve's assessment, meaning we still see a lot of failures and missed opportunities as people try to learn on the job.

Flipping through the conference materials, I'm seeing a lot of emphasis on early detection of brain function degradation through home monitoring systems. I'm reminded of CareWheels and Ron Braithwaite's presentation. Older people wanting to stay in their own homes might be assisted with non-intrusive, non-invasive monitoring with a layer of software for flagging possible episodes in need of a response or intervention. These care systems would include a lot of humans in the loop. In Ron's model, some of the monitors might likewise be home bound.

Bill Shepard remembered to bring his soldering gear, based on last week's discussion. I'd found a lot of lore on the Web about my specific model of DVD player and the capacitor that tends to go out. Just buy a 1000 micro-farad replacement at Radio Shack, rated to higher voltage, and replace the defective one. Bill did that and indeed, the DVD player sprang to life. A farad, a unit of capacitance, defines a 1 volt difference when charged up by one coulomb (one amp flowing for one second).

Wanderers is planning a field trip to ONAMI, the nanotechnology research center, in about three weeks.

Buzz showed up towards the end, exultant that Tim's Green Lite Motors had achieved semi-finalist status in the Clean Tech Open in Seattle, a $50K prize. Now it's on to the national championship contest. Tim and Kym are Wanderers as well.

Jim Buxton wonders if Frank Baum's Tin Man character in the Wizard of Oz might've drawn on the fact that woodsmen actually wore "tin cloth" (a marketing term, as tin connoted "durable"). Although Dick Pugh isn't here, he's much in our conversation about meteorites. Steve might bring some moldavite aka Libyan desert glass to Duane's gemology presentation next time.