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West Wireless Health Institute Distances Itself from Qualcomm, Seeks to Recast its Role

Opinion

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much more definitive in our communications that we are solely funded by Gary and Mary West.”

The Wests’ contributions have created an endowment that now totals more than $100 million for what is officially known as the Gary and Mary West Wireless Health Institute. Casey says the institute not only emphasizes that their philanthropy is the sole source of institute funding, but also that it accepts “no funding from private industry, government agencies, or trade associations, nor does it join or support any outside business or trade organizations.”

Casey, who says he was “employee No. 6” when he joined the institute on March 1, 2010, says the nonprofit institute has grown rapidly during his tenure as CEO. It is now at employee No. 58—and plans to fill a dozen additional job openings over the next two months.

Casey also confirmed some notable departures, however, including Amir Jafri, who was recruited from Cardinal Health last year to serve as the institute’s chief operating officer, and Mehran Mehregany, who was named as the institute’s executive vice president of engineering and the chief of engineering research.

“Mehran’s passion is pursuing academic and educational training [in wireless technologies],” Casey said. “And as we focused more and more on cost savings, he felt he could better achieve his objectives outside the institute.”

“Amir wanted to pursue a specific entrepreneurial activity,” Casey added. “He’s very interested in creating some wireless applications that he thought he could do faster outside the institute than inside.”

By winnowing certain commercial initiatives and refining its mission, Casey says the institute intends to open a more productive dialog with both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, which are both asserting regulatory authority over many areas in the converging fields of healthcare and wireless technology.

“The FDA is one of the core places that needs to come to grips with how regulation is going to help or hurt industry,” says Casey, who adds that as a facilitator of the discussion, the institute doesn’t represent a viewpoint. “We would serve as an honest broker between the venture folks, the policy makers, the government folks, and industry,” Casey says.

In the meantime, Casey says he still sees a role for the institute in terms of “innovating, validating, advocating for, investing in, and commercializing the use of wireless technologies to transform medicine.” And he says he still wants to push the internal development of wireless health products that will clearly lower the cost of health care.

In September, the institute named Mohit Kaushal, who previously led the connected health team at the Federal Communications Commission, as its new executive vice president of business development and chief strategy officer. In February, the institute appointed Ed Cantwell, who had previously served as director of 3M’s wireless business unit, as a senior vice president responsible for leading development of a new low-cost platform for delivering wireless health care services within hospitals and other medical facilities.

“A year ago, we were very focused on just wireless sensors,” Casey says. “Now we’re focused more broadly on technology-enabled care and coordination. We look at it as more of a solution to a challenge.”

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