Dean Kamen
Co-founder, FIRST; President, DEKA Research and Development

Eliminating the Guesswork of Designer Pills

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In our lifetime we’re going to start to see individual therapies customized for individual patients, and it’s going to change the way people get health care.

Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen is an American scientist and inventor whose products include the Segway human transporter (HT) and the iBOT battery-powered wheelchair. His inventions include medical devices and futuristic gizmos that Kamen hopes will revolutionize the way we live and travel.

In 1989, Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics competition for high school students. In 2007, it held 37 competitions in countries such as Israel, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

Kamen is the President of DEKA Research and Development.

Kamen was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1997 for his biomedical devices and for making engineering more popular among high school students. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 2000 by then President Clinton for inventions that have advanced medical care worldwide. In 2002, Kamen was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Prize for inventors, for his invention of the Segway and of an infusion pump for diabetics. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the AutoSyringe. In 2006 Kamen was awarded the Global Humanitarian Action Award by the United Nations.


Question: How important will personalized medicine become in the future?

Dean Kamen: In some cases the medical technology is now allowing people to diagnose long before there are any symptoms. What might happen if we don’t intercede, or even if it’s going to happen, and we can’t intercede yet, how we can prepare for it.

A world in which you can get a therapy designed to improve your personal quality of life, it doesn’t have to be a pill that was tested against a broad-based of statistical people that are presumed to be somewhat similar to you, in which 30% were cured, and 30% were uncured, and 40% had terrible side effects, and you’re supposed to swallow this pill hoping you’re on the right 30%.

I think in our lifetime, that level of acceptance of “well, we couldn’t do any better,” won’t be tolerated. We’re going to start to see individual therapies customized for individual patients, and it’s going to change the way people get healthcare.

Conducted on: June 9, 2009.