Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Idea 2015: Haute Apothicaire

There are medicines & then there is Haute Apothicaire
From what’s written on the wall, 2015 could well be the year when good old medicine finally goes designer chic. Even if not for the masses just yet, a privileged few could soon have their meds custom made to match their genes - well, just as soon as the fitting trials are done & the master says aye!
For those who didn't quite get my pun, I am indeed talking about personalized medicine going mainstream in 2015 - From Novartis making the first move to bring protocol to patient through its series of #SIGNATURE trials & JnJ opening up its clinical data vaults to Yale for open research to #Google #Calico aiming to tackleageing through big data & bigger collaborations, it's clear there's this huge trend of big pharma going all guns blazing after the alluring promise of personalized medicine.
This alliance with big data is in some way an existential manoeuvre by big pharma poised precariously on the patent-cliff & thus most initial approvals of designer drugs would be those that have been pulled up from the gorges of failed/failing PII/ PIII trials. Either which way, there is no doubt that the best use of cutting-edge drug design capability is only when it is coupled with the invaluable human genomic & proteomic data decoded in the past decade and using the #bigdata analytics to throw up the statistically best therapeutic match for an individual patient.
If one goes by the regularity with which FDA has been approving companion diagnostics and genetic tests over past few years; the apparent merit they see in the label of an approved drug referencing the genomic biomarker(s) & the pragmatic use of conditional approvals such as the recent one for Translarna by the EMA, it appears the regulators too are in sync with this new reality & have been gearing upto deal with the potential multitudes of personalized therapeutic applications & evolve an approval mechanism that's applicable despite the indication not being orphan enough.
Even as connoisseurs may not quite like it, high fashion attains scale only when it goes mainstream & by analogy the designer drugs too would find their way to the masses eventually, I only hope sooner & safer.
#BigIdeas2015 #Google #Calico #Bigdata

Friday, December 12, 2014

Overwhelmed by an underwhelming existence

This piece is negative, dark, demotivating and has been scripted in a loathsome moment of existential angst.
Well, you've been warned.
Whenever I read articles that appeal to the conscience of an average citizen on various issues such as terrorism, jingoism, war-on-terror, environment, livelihoods, ethics etc. & exhort them to find their voice, I do feel like picking up the baton & jump in headlong yelling 'yes absolutely'. But alas, my motivation to do so takes a nose-dive when I try and count on my fingers where at all my voice matters, forget macro, within my microcosm representing my country, my province, my city, my company, my neighborhood - the fist remains closed & limp.
Most average Joes' (& Jennis') as me are so overwhelmed by their underwhelming existence that they don't really care or bother about changing the world & merely survive by taking things as they are served.
I really hope this changes for good for me & all else, but as of now my utopia is all make believe & I shudder at the prospect of a damning expose’

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Don't worry folks, this isn't yet another Uber bashing or defending article. Since so many are already on that job, I'd rather pass the blame up & rile the investor universe a little instead :-)
First a disclaimer:
Conceptually I admire Uber - I dig the fact that something as mundane as local commute can have such disruptive business potential. As a user I loved the sheer convenience & practicality of an app based cab service that eliminates the fuss of 'booking' a chauffeured cab & thrilled that I'd always know how far my ride is & jus' how many more are creeping around near where I am. I liked it that this company made it possible for quite a few folks in the recession hit USA to make a decent living without looking too bad doing that.
Okay the real poser now
Among all the financial greats such as Fidelity Investments, Wellington Management, Black Rock Inc, Summit Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Menlo Ventures et al who poured in a whopping $1.2 billion into Uber merely a few months ago, is there one that had raised/ browsed over the possibility that Uber with it's now famous thumbing-its-nose-at-rules approach is potentially waltzing each day into a new & huge regulatory risk?
Is it possible at all that there were absolutely no indicators of this looming risk in July 2014 considering that by December 2014 Uber managed to get into trouble in 15 different countries ranging from USA (California, Nevada, Portland); Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan and India?
Are the PE, VC organizations in their quest to go after high potential start-ups not sufficiently factoring in any ethical, livelihood & regulatory aspects, that could turn into risks, before unloading truck loads of money? If indeed these aspects were overlooked by them, is it that in their over-enthusiastic support of Uber & it's disruptive enterprise model, the investing universe did a major disservice to them by not letting them get aware of a potential risk they're aggregating (pun intended) with each city they are expanding into?
I really hope Uber cleans-up & pursues its definitive potential so I could hail my fav' cab again soon within my city and elsewhere too - I could be dead-wrong but I feel though that the investor organizations need to do some soul-searching into what exactly their due-diligence is all about or not & if their multibillion valuations are indeed less market regulatory risk.
Post Thought - 11th December
The banning of Uber in India is akin to a parent banishing the teenager from home just because she/ he is caught smoking for the very first-time. The normal approach would be to tell em' 'you are grounded' & proceed to put some sense in the kid which in case of Uber would be asking them to suspend their operations till all aspects are cleared out - I hope Mr. PM will raise above petty politicking and be the stern nurturer of progress people expect him to be.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The eleventh commandment: Share thy health data

You know you've got one compelling business plan when your investor starts promoting your wares even before you hit production. Like I've said here earlier, at the base of Google's healthcare ambitions is the health data of its users & now one of their earliest believers is bearing the torch to its data quest & how!
Beth Seidenberg, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (@KPCB) that famously invested 25mio USD (along with Sequoia) for a 20% stake in Google way back in 1999, in a recent blog piece of her's exhorts the users saying "You Should Share Your Health Data: Its Value Outweighs the Privacy Risk". Beth of course invests in digital health start-ups and hence could be speaking for those too, but it's anybody's guess which of KPCB's investments this would help the most.
Not that people need to be pressurized much these days to voluntarily part with their data, health or otherwise, but this dictat by the good doctor will surely makes 'em feel good about the 'why' part of it.
Update: 15th Nov 2014
allrighty...... now Accel's Rich Wong is going bullish on Android platform over IOS for investments in mobile health technologies. From making appeals of voluntary data disclosure to enabling automated data recovery through internet of things, the (investing) universe is truly conspiring to give it all to Larry & Sergei :-))

Friday, October 31, 2014

Why did Scott Adams give up on Venture Capital?

More than the brilliant humor & the tough to ignore desi-connect called Vijay, what caught my attention in today's DILBERT section of Times-of-India was the date of strip itself viz., 1.20.09 - Now that's pretty dated even for an average Indian newspaper that's stuck in a time-warp when it comes to being current on syndicated comic content.
My subsequent query on the website revealed that there're no strips on either 'venture capital' or 'venture capitalist' after the above strip of 2009 – Whoa! If that isn't disillusionment what is? particularly considering how the age-old crib of 'VC model being broken' got a lot more traction post the recession-wreaked 2009 and that would've meant a lot more meat for Scott to chew on!
I wonder why Scott gave up on this wonderful pun-amenable character called VC so very unceremoniously.
VC = Vijay = No good?
Of course I did search for more strips of my compatriot Vijay too. It was rather interesting to note how this chap’s tagline/ descriptor changed from "Vijay, the world's most desperate venture capitalist" in 2005 to "Vijay the venture capitalist" in 2008 to "Vijay, the world's worst venture capitalist" in 2009 ---- Despite my respect & awe for Scott Adams, I can't help but wonder if there's a botched-up fundraising behind this obvious gripe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Satya Nadella - A defense that is not one

One more treatise on the Karma guy’s woes - couldn't resist the temptation to jump on to the bandwagon, my bad!
One cannot discount for the fact that as a male he could potentially have some level of bias and foggy view of gender-equality which may have influenced his initial response which in hindsight does sound a tad too casual for the kind of platform it was – I’m not still going to pursue that angle here since enough debate is already happening out there.
My focus here is on some obvious racial backlash against Nadella using this incident as a ruse/ excuse & what's said here is relevant only to the section of netizens whose foremost view of Nadella seems to be that of an Asian-Indian & not as a successful, self-made American corporate/tech executive.
This current racial slur is evident in the following refrains;
  • Calling into question his competence (Indian) to handle the top-job of an American corporation vis-à-vis other more 'deserving' (European?) contenders
  • His ethno-cultural, rustic! (India, Hindu?) roots perpetuating his patriarchal, rigid approach to gender
  • His (in)ability to articulate his position well during the initial comment & in his subsequent explanation (non-native English speaker?)
Ironically, many pursuing this angle seem more cock-sure about the meaning of 'Karma' than Nadella himself who, whether or not a practicing Hindu, will still understand better the context & consequence of Karma at a subconscious level given the all pervasiveness of it in an Indian context – this is not to say he’s a saint who knows his pearls of wisdom, but to underscore that misinterpretation of karma is a distinct possibility if the meaning has been merely googled up.
Given his upbringing in an multicultural urban set-up, in a socially sensitized & progressive familial environment; my own understanding of the shared cultural ethos & social metric he'd have been exposed to & going by the fact that he made it to top on his own steam in a foreign country, I'd believe Satya Nadella understands the implications of discrimination at work of different types, is perhaps more gender sensitive than many mono-cultural tech-executives in the US of A and as articulate in English, if not more, than most native speakers of that language. Ponder this, if the Indian, Hindu angle were absent from his profile, he'd surely have been interpreted far more reasonably by the currently raving minority out there & here.
By all means, rip him apart on what he said or didn't for weeks & months to come, but only while treating him an ‘American male tech-CEO’ & NOT as a ‘Indian-Hindu male & a compromise CEO of an American corporation’
Like any, this too shall pass. But let this not leave a bitter aftertaste of racial prejudice for the hard-working aliens in the land of opportunity.
POST THOUGHT: 16 October 2014
In Telugu, which is Satya Nadella's native tongue (also mine), the term 'Karma/ Kharma' is typically used in the context of acknowledging consequences of one’s action. The most commonly used phrase is Naa kharma, anubhavinchaka tappadu, which can be translated as 'I have to bear the consequences that come my way' – It should be noted here that the individual doesn't clarify if the consequences are of his/her actions or someone else’s. Another common usage is Evari karma ki vaarey baadhyulu which translates as 'an individual owns complete responsibility of dealing with consequences of his karma'.
Effectively, in Telugu, the term Karma is used as a philosophical refrain/ reproach (to self or others) that conveys the sense that "an individual has to own up & deal with the consequences of his karma, be it good or bad". So after all, If not his initial botched-up response, Nadella's subsequent patch-up message to his employees does seem to have some influence of his linguistic roots :-)
Image Courtesy: Seattle Times

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

May the satellites watch over you!

I don't text-drive!
But text-walk I do an awful lot & I realize this could be equally dangerous when done outdoors (read: roads). It so figures that big brother G too is pretty worried over the gory implications of text-walking and started to ideate-on (& patent...) some potential solutions that'll likely result in a new app which could make stuff like alertnesscaution & looking-up pretty much passe'
An app that can save me from walking into trouble? - I'm sold!