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Diclofenac kills 99.9% of all known…..vultures?

This is not new (e.g. National Geographic, 2004), and I heard it again last night on a Radio 4 programme – Saving Species – vets in India, Pakistan and Nepal prescribe the common anti-inflammatory to cattle, some of these animals die, the birds eat the carcasses that contain diclofenac residue which affects their kidneys and they get visceral gout and die.

Since the mid 90’s the population of three species of vultures has dropped from about 40 million to just a few thousand today – decimating the numbers of the Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), and slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) by more than 99.9%.

What’s the effect – nobody around to clean up carcasses leading to a proliferation in packs of feral dogs and increased possibilities for spreading rabies.

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to spin our ecology off it’s axis. Let’s hope we can fix it.


iPad to access EDC and EHR systems reports that Nextrials showed off their new iPad app to access their data management technology – Prism™ – a fully integrated clinical trial management and EDC product – at the recent DIA meeting in Washington.

Reportedly the app will also be available for the iPhone when it is made available this year.

Good work from a company that seems to be striving to get its arms around extracting data from EHR and EMR systems used by healthcare providers (Mar 2009) and making their product compatible with both the iPad’s Safari (April 2010) and Google’s Chrome (May 2010) browsers.

Software development tools and drive

Now I am not a developer, but I have worked closely enough with Business Analysts, Project Managers and Developers to be intrigued by an Australian company called Atlassian.

They provide

issue tracking, collaboration and software development tools

that support Agile development, integrate with Google Apps + Studio and Sharepoint and have a wide range of customers from Adobe, BMW, and Boeing to Johns Hopkins University and Yahoo!

I like the look of their issue tracking and project management tools in their JIRA product.

In yesterday’s post I reported what Dan Pink believes drives people. In his video he cited Atlassian’s novel approach to providing autonomy and engagement. Once a quarter the firm gives it’s employees beer and cakes and 24 hours to work on any of the products they have in the software portfolio so long as they show the output of their work at the end.

This ‘let me get out of your way approach’ by management results in significant bug fixes and innovations to their product line.

No connection.

Take money off the table….

….and what motivates us is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

According to a talk given by Dan Pink at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures [ sic ] and Commerce (RSA).

Paraphrasing Pink, employees want to have an overall purpose and when the profit motive is unhitched from the purpose motive ‘bad’ things can happen. I had most experience and understanding of this point. He states that people want to feel that they are making a contribution.

I was quite enthralled with his thoughts on autonomy and mastery. He states you can expect better engagement with more autonomy. Makes sense. Employers should get out of the way of their employees. I have been conscious of this but in a different way – maybe we used to call this ’empowerment’?

And mastery – it’s obvious really. He cites the case of people spending hours of their free time learning the guitar. You do it, because it’s fun, because it’s a challenge and because you get better at it.

Apple bigger than Microsoft

Sorry if I am late to the party here, I was on vacation and went ‘off the grid’.

So what did I miss? AFP reports that

Microsoft …………………… had been overtaken by rival Apple as the world’s biggest technology firm in terms of market value

and goes on to to explain

Microsoft shares shed 4.07 percent on Wednesday to close at 25.01 dollars, dropping its market capitalisation — the number of shares outstanding multiplied by the stock price — to 219.18 billion dollars.
Apple shares lost 0.45 percent meanwhile to close at 244.05 dollars, giving the company a market value of 222.07 billion dollars.

Makes me happy.

Bar-code system lowers medication errors

Well that’s good to hear and vindicates a decision to use barcoding made long ago by companies like PAREXEL with it’s ClinBase® bedside data capture and trial management system designed for early phase trials.

There’s always a lot of talk about reducing costs and saving time to database lock with these kinds of true EDC systems, but compliance management in the clinic is just as important to consider if you step back and take the helicopter view.

Thanks to Wm. J. Martin over at LinkedIn’s EDC-Clinical Trials group for posting the link.

Am I the only person that’s not heard of Google Health?

This, in the nature of the web, is a convoluted one.

It confirms that the web is very……well, webby.

I saw a nice review to a very smart iPhone app called Pastebot that takes copy and paste to another level. Mac users will be particularly pleased as they have a free syncing app that is just genius. The same company also produces Weightbot – not surprisingly an app to record your weight/BMI etc. And before you ask, yes, I did buy it and I am starting to track my weight.

Well, interestingly Weightbot can pull data pushed to the internet by some wifi enabled bathroom scales from a company called Withings. These scales can also push data to Google Health. Got there in the end.

So, Google Health, which is only available to US users, allows one to create your own medical profile including conditions, medications. allergies, procedures, test results and immunisations. Profiles can also be created for family members and shared with others. There is of course a huge raft of privacy issues here – but I don’t think we should be scared to examine this usage.

Naturally, because the folks at Google are pretty clever, it’s possible to pull data from healthcare providers such as pharmacies, radiologists and labs such as Quest Diagnostics. There are even services that will find your medical records from around the globe and convert them to Google Health format. Another provider accepts faxed records and converts them for you.

Another feature is the ability to authorise specialist diagnostic services to monitor your glucose levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI etc. so that they can provide you with alerts and reminders.

Famously one of Google’s tenet’s is to ‘do no evil’. They could do significant good if they continued to develop their electronic health records into a freely available global standard.

Having a global standard that became widely adopted could significantly improve protocol feasibility evaluation, facilitate the identification of suitable subjects for clinical trials, allow data exchange with EDC systems and ultimately reduce the SDV burden.

Thanks for staying with me on this one!

Cleaner water by using the seeds of the Drumstick Tree

Browsing the papers in my local news agent the day before the recent election I picked up a copy of the Times because it contained a magazine called ‘Eureka: Science. Life. The Planet’.

It featured a short article on the Moringa or Ben Oil Tree Moringa oleifera Lam. and refers to an article in Current Protocols in Microbiology (Feb 2010) that published a downloadable, step by step extraction and treatment procedure to produce “90.00% to 99.99%” bacterial reduction.

The crushed seeds of the tree, or the remaining cake after useful oil has been extracted, contain basic polypeptides that are an effective natural flocculating agent that significantly reduces turbidity and colour of untreated surface water. Pathogenic microorganisms are bound together in a colloidal suspension and fall to the bottom of the vessel. Treated water can be decanted or siphoned off.

The paper is careful to point out that using the process does not guarantee the elimination of pathogens and that further treatment may be necessary.

The tree itself originates from the Indian Himalayas, is tolerant of poor soil conditions and is drought resistant and has multiple nutritional and supposed medicinal uses.

Well done to Current Protocols for publishing the method.

Archiving our popular science legacy

UK residents will probably be familiar with the long standing BBC TV series – Horizon.

Wikipedia describes it’s mission statement as….

The aim of Horizon is to provide a platform from which some of the world’s greatest scientists and philosophers can communicate their curiosity, observations and reflections, and infuse into our common knowledge their changing views of the universe.

….and the program has been running since 1965 and shown close to 1100 episodes.

I finally got around to watching an episode I had recorded from Nov 2009 – Why do we talk? – and wanted to see if the episode was still available on the website so that I could recommend it to others.

It isn’t.

We seem to hear all the time that valuable news and other TV footage that was recorded on traditional media has been lost or destroyed. With digital formats isn’t it time that this stuff was permanently archived and made available to all for ever?

I know it costs money to store it but somebody has got to do this.

Is your preferred eClinical solution iPad ready?

With Apple’s iPad due for release to ‘rest of world’ before the end of May it’s very promising to see eClinical provider’s such as DATATRAK ensuring that their application suites are compatible with modern standards-compliant browsers such as the Safari browser that runs on the iPad. DATATRAK provides randomization, drug inventory management, data collection, medical coding and reporting functions through its DATATRAK eClinical™ suite.

I am convinced that the iPad is going to be big in the healthcare and clinical research spaces.

However, many web-based eClinical solutions have traditionally been ‘validated’ and tested to run only on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Big companies are still using versions of Internet Explorer (such as IE 6) that are over nine years old.

Solutions providers that don’t develop to fit the iPad are going to fall behind.

Let’s hope that corporate IT can keep up too.