Less than three weeks ago, the Gary and Mary West foundation helped establish San Diego’s new West Wireless Health Institute, one of the first medical research organizations devoted to the development of new wireless healthcare technologies. As a result, in the not-too-distant-future, you could get a warning on your cell phone before you suffer a heart attack. You also will likely see your doctors less often and spend less time in the hospital. Yet, you will likely have more precise and immediate knowledge of your vital signs.
The key words that embody such advances are “remote monitoring.” Instead of seeing your doctor for a regular check up, you might simply wear different wireless sensing devices.
Gary West, who made his fortune in the telemarketing business, donated $45 million through his family foundation to create the institute in La Jolla. He also will serve as the institute’s founding chairman. According to West, a global search is underway for the institute’s CEO. He anticipates the institute will have approximately 25 employees by the end of the year, and more than 100 employees within the first eighteen months.
West, who intends to make the institute fully operational by this summer, recently agreed to answer some questions from Xconomy.
Why did you get involved in launching this institute?
West: We want to be a catalyst for wireless health and provide optimism for the future of healthcare. I began to believe at least a decade ago that wireless technology could be the way to help accelerate change and improvement in healthcare. When you think about the reach of wireless technology and its ability to connect people, it isn’t hard to fathom that we can have that breakthrough impact on healthcare.
It was the connection with Dr. Eric Topol from Scripps Health and Don Jones from Qualcomm that solidified for me that this was the right thing to do at the right moment in time. Discussions between the three of us about launching the West Wireless Health Institute began late last year and the team has been working on bringing the institute to life ever since.
What activities will the institute include?
West: The institute is focused on innovating, conducting clinical trials, producing evidence for validation, growing the next generation of leaders in this emerging field, and offering expertise. It will cover the entire continuum, from unmet medical need to changing medicine as we know it. Our objective is three-fold—to help entrepreneurs bring concept to reality, to help serve existing organizations in this space to conduct clinical trials and increase their speed to market with wireless health care solutions, and to enable internal innovation within the Institute.
We’ve secured a terrific location for the institute. The facility exists today and is located on the Torrey Pines Mesa in the heart of the biotech and engineering hub of San Diego. The facilities will be fully complete by mid- to late summer. We believe the institute and San Diego will become the “epicenter of wireless health.”
Who are the patients you think will benefit the most?
West: We are not only looking to help those suffering from existing conditions, but to help prevent people from getting sick in the first place. However, in order to be effective, we have to have a certain level of focus to ensure we are actually accomplishing results. We’ve identified four areas of focus that we believe will have a real impact on large populations of people around the world. These areas are preempting disease, disease management, aging in place and underserved populations.
How do you think we all will benefit from wireless health?
West: If wireless health can help increase the effectiveness of health care and lower the exorbitant costs associated with health care, everyone wins. I believe wireless health will do this. Wireless health solutions will help promote wellness and reduce the tremendous costs of health care through disease prevention and many other benefits. Wireless health solutions will help people self-manage medical treatments and enable a much higher quality of life by eliminating the need for extended and frequent hospitalization. Wireless health solutions will help the aging population stay in their homes and remain independent much longer. Wireless health solutions can help supplement the lack of a health care infrastructure and the shortage of doctors and medical providers in many regions around the world. The possibilities are endless.
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