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December 8th, 2011
12:17 PM ET

How $10 million sparks innovation

Editor's note: CNN.com will be bringing you a series of interviews with amazing individuals who were at the TEDMED conference in October 2011. Read more here.

Dr. Peter Diamandis wants you to be the CEO of your own health care.

You should be able to make decisions based on technology that analyzes your body and gives you personalized feedback and treatment recommendations, he says. And Diamandis wants to speed the development of that technology along by offering prizes for the people who can make it happen.

Diamandis is the founder and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, which offers $10 million prizes for various technological feats.

In October, he announced the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE presented by Medco, which is a challenge to sequence 100 genomes of centenarians quickly, cheaply and accurately.

Such sequencing is getting more accurate and inexpensive all the time. And data collected from sequencing specific groups of people – those who have had specific diseases, for instance – will help scientists gain a better understanding of those conditions and how to treat them.

“We’re about to enter a data explosion,” Diamandis said. “We finally have enough low cost, fast, ubiquitous computing to help us crunch these numbers.”

As if that’s not futuristic enough, he also wants to take a hint from “Star Trek” in reimagining health care. Characters from that sci-fi hit used a tricordor, a device that can analyze and record data. One variant of a tricorder is specialized for medical purposes to diagnose diseases and get other patient information.

Diamandis wants to have a $10 million prize to make a tricorder in real life. The prize would anyone who develops a mobile device that can match or beat a panel of board certified physicians in diagnosis. He envisions a hand-held device that has artificial intelligence, so you could talk to it. And you could cough on it to see if you have a cold, or prick your finger to test your blood.

It’s called, appropriately, the Tricorder X Prize, partly funded by Qualcomm, and is still in development.

Diamandis just finished a book with science writer Steven Kotler called “Abundance,” which is coming out in February. By his account the world is getting better at an accelerating pace. A “rising billion” people will be gaining access to the internet this decade, becoming interconnected through low-cost handsets and tablets. They will gain access to health care information and education that will help them become true innovators. Their passions and time investment will lead them to solve big problems.

“As these problems get solved in the developing world at a very low-cost rate, it’ll come back here to the United States and give us amazing benefits,” he said.

Diamandis and Kotler’s book introduces innovators such as Steve Hawking, Larry Page, Dean Kamen and others who are making strides in some of the biggest problems of our time.

The X Prize Foundation is probably best known for the Ansari X Prize in space flight. The challenge was to fly two people 100 kilometers (62 miles) up – one notion of “where outer space begins” – twice in two weeks. In October 2004, SpaceShipOne was named the winner of the $10 million prize.

The prize gave innovators a clear goal, and gave legitimacy to the undertaking of private space flight. In the five years after SpaceShipOne won this prize, $1 billion was invested in the personal spaceflight industry, Diamandis has said. Diamandis, who wanted to be an astronaut as a child, has not personally been to space. But he holds two tickets – one with Space Adventures and one with Virgin Atlantic. He plans to be on one of these early commercial flights to space and fulfill his passion.

“But it’s not just about going on a trip,” he says. “It’s the fact that we are on the verge of the greatest exploration humanity’s ever undertaken.”


soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. sam

    Just tax Alcohol like smoking,You'll have trillions

    December 8, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kevin Mako of Mako International Corp.

    Very inspired by how Peter utilizes this prize to push smart people and companies to make incredible leaps in technology. On a smaller scale, at our invention development firm for home inventors, we have found that small prize platforms, even if just directed at students, fosters a great deal of innovative spirit. Smart innovations sometimes just need a little incentive, or a big incentive as per X Prize.

    -
    Kevin Mako
    Mako International Corp.
    http://www.makocorp.com

    December 8, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. thelazy1

    I wish all rich people were this generous. If they were, the 99% thing would never happen, and we would all be productive, and hopefully all have jobs, not to mention a first rate tech country...

    December 8, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Portland tony

    Money brings out the best in some. For $10M, I'd invent world peace?

    December 8, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. c s

    I have been informed that my post is a duplicate but I do not see it posted. Is something wrong?

    December 8, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ray

    Great idea. But Diamandis has not considered one serious problem. The FDA. To get any medical device approved, and that includes a smart phone app, requires on average 10 years and 1/2 billion dollars. There are already plenty of good ideas for medical technology that cannot get through the FDA roadblock.

    December 9, 2011 at 06:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. ADVOCATE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

    DIAGNOSIS ARE FOREVER ALTERNATING THE HUMAN GENETIC SYSTEM AS WE SPEAK AND NOT EVEN 10 MILLION IDEA WILL EVER CHANGE THAT! WHEN THEY CURE THE COMMON COLD GIVE ME A HOLLAR & BY THE WAY HUMAN BEINGS ARENT GUNIE PIGS FOR TESTING NEW IDEAS THAT HAVENT HAD ENOUGH TIME TO PROVE TO BE AN EFFECTIVE TREATMENT THATS WHAT STUDIES ARE FOR AND MONIES ALLOCATED IN MEDICINE.

    December 9, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Carlos

    Hi Westerly,Thanks! In the end I was able to trade the tea set for the big plate. It's not particularly excinitg enough to blog about though.I have to admit I haven't been keeping up with little Sofia's blog either, but it's now added to my google rss feed reader. Sofia's getting big! Looks like she's walking around and making a fine mess of her food :-)Do you get to be a stay at home Mom? Or do you have to go back to work?

    October 11, 2012 at 12:05 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.