Unleashing Innovation to Combat COVID-19 with Mike Grandinetti

Unleashing Innovation to Combat COVID-19 with Mike Grandinetti
COVID-19

 
 
00:00 / 25:31
 
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Transcript

April 8, 2020

Mark Bayer

Thanks everyone so much for being here on this special coronavirus edition of “When Science Speaks.” This is Mark Bayer. I’m just so glad that you’re here and you’re joining us. Today’s episode is brought to you by Bayer Strategic Consulting, a unique advocacy and training firm in the Washington DC area that helps scientists and engineers communicate effectively with their most important stakeholders – investors, policymakers and the public. And we’re just so fortunate, amid these unprecedented times, to have Mike Grandinetti on the show today. Mike has spent his entire 25 year career immersed in innovation and entrepreneurship, solving these major problems as a serial tech entrepreneur, as a board member, as a professor, as a mentor, as a consultant and he’s an internationally recognized expert in innovation and entrepreneurship. He’s a contributor at Forbes and Money Magazine and the host of the “Disruptive Innovation” podcast. And I wanted Mike to come on the show today to talk about – to shine a light on – some of these programs, these initiatives that are happening in labs and in neighborhoods all across the country and in some parts of the world to try to respond to the lack of the lack of equipment that we’re seeing in a lot of these places. And just the innovation that is out there, this pandemic obviously has caused so much pain and suffering and it’s also ignited this entrepreneurism and this creativity around scientists and engineers – this is Mike’s domain. So I’m so glad to have you on the show Mike and just really eager for you to share with our listeners what you see out there when you look across the landscape.

Mike Grandinetti

Mark, thank you so much for having me and really looking forward to having a good discussion with you and having a chance to, you know, get some really positive news out to your listeners, right? We’ve been hearing from many public sources that this will be one of the hardest weeks in US history. And you know, all of the major mainstream news outlets have been mostly discussing pretty grim news. And one of the things that I’d really like to do is I want to share just a series of very inspiring examples of innovation that is taking place across this great country, taking place at academic institutions at research hospitals, in small communities, both in the traditional innovation clusters like Silicon Valley in Boston and New York but also in small town America and what I would say is the response of the Americans citizen has been extraordinary. And so I think the real question, of course, is how did we wind up here?

Mike Grandinetti

And although this is truly a black swan event, right, truly it’s a reset button on history. There’s no question that there were warnings from prior pandemics and almost pandemics. And there were a lot of plans that were put in place. And a lot of those plans were discarded. So here we are with the most expensive health care system in the world. And we find ourselves today with an incredibly, incredibly depleted National Stockpile, especially when it comes to the most critical types of equipment like ventilators which are truly life and death. And then a lot of this protective equipment which is the difference between a doctor or a health care worker, you know, potentially contacting this virus themselves and not being able to help others or, you know, being so sick that they can pass away.

So, what I’d love to do today, you know, as part of our discussion is to focus primarily on what I’ll call the more urgent innovation initiatives that are happening around ventilators around masks and face shields, and some very innovative things that are filling the gap for a lack and some of this PPE you know, because I think these are the things that are just critically needed today. And what I would say is, as I’ve looked around the country and the globe, there’s an endless number of positive stories. And, I know we talked about maybe sharing some other stories on a future podcast and also having the opportunity to have your listeners understand how they may get involved themselves, even from the comfort and the safety. have their own homes. Exactly. But I think today we’ll focus largely on sort of the the ventilator and the PP initiatives that are so critically important and so inspiring and what’s happened. So why don’t we get to it then? So I mean, one of the things that most people may be wondering is how did we wind up in this mess when it comes to a lack of ventilators? And it turns out, right and Pro Publica has done a great job of reporting on this.

Mike Grandinetti

It turns out that several years ago, the Health and Human Services Administration entered into a contractual relationship with a Pennsylvania based ventilator maker and there was supposed to be a significant number of ventilators. This company is known as trilogy and they created the EVO universal ventilator It was developed with US government funds. There was a $14 billion contract that was established with the Health and Human Services Department. But yet not a single one of those ventilators ever was created or made it into the strategic stockpile. Now, this company became a part of Philips, the global, you know, electronics and medical device company. And Philips wound up taking this device or this design, this relatively economic design and actually creating higher end more expensive equipment that they’ve sold into commercial markets and essentially avoided, you know, fulfilling the contract. And it turns out, contractually, they had a right to do that. So, as we sit here today, I think there are lessons for the future about where, you know, where these strategic stockpiles need to be manufactured, how they need to be managed, but regardless, we are where we are. So what Let’s talk about a handful of projects. Right right now there’s a projection that we’re going to wind up between 750,000 and a million ventilators short of what is needed.

Mike Grandinetti

Now, these are very complex devices. They are truly sophisticated devices. And unlike a lot of the Silicon Valley mindset move fast break things. You can’t have that mindset when you build a ventilator. It has to work perfectly. And there needs to be very well trained staff to operate these ventilators into intubate. So one of the first projects that I’d like to shine a light on isn’t a student led project coming out of MIT. And not surprisingly, MIT has been an incredibly powerful leader on many initiatives, and we’ll cover a few of them, but this is a critical one. So this student group created an emergency ventilator and it’s called the E-vent. Project. Now they’re trying to do what we’ll call frugal design. And they’re trying to take advantage of existing equipment. And many of your listeners may have been personally, you know, either intubated or seeing a family member intubated with a bag.

Mike Grandinetti

And the bag is a very, very inexpensive device that is used to help pump oxygen into patient’s lungs when they need to be intubated. Right, and they’re found in every hospital room, every ambulance on the planet literally. And so what the MIT team did is say let’s take advantage of something that’s already ubiquitous. And let’s make it a key component. And so, you know, this is not the first time that a bag mask valve oriented device was created. And in less than 14 days, they created a prototype of working prototype, right. And the initial intent was that it would be only for true emergency purposes when there was nothing else available. But the belief is that it’s actually, you know, much more useful than that. So the, at this point, right, and I think a very important part of the message that I want to send out is that a lot of the projects that I’m going to highlight will be designs that have been tested, and that are available to be used by any healthcare organization, anywhere on the planet. So there’s a group of there’s a group of manufacturing people right now focused on getting this into high scale production. And the plan is to produce this literally as soon as possible. Now, it leads to a really interesting story of just how remarkable it has been to see the world come together. So of course, and you know this very well given what you do.

Mike Grandinetti

But normally University IP is considered quite sacred. Well, just yesterday, Harvard, MIT and Stanford announced this COVID-19 technology access framework. And so what they’re basically doing is we’re near as, as a very powerful group of research institutions of global renown. They’re establishing a set of licensing principles that are going to incentivize and allow for the most broad and equitable access of, you know, to these University innovations that can be used anywhere in the world. And they’re going to allow this to continue for as long as the pandemic exists and for some period thereafter. Okay. And then there’s a second initiative called the open COVID pledge. And this is developed by a consortium of scientists and lawyers and entrepreneurs, right, and they’re also trying to remove obstacles that would prevent the sharing of IP. So what we’re seeing is this massive have global, you know, openness to sharing anything and everything that can help in the fight. And so this is the first example right now, on the other coast, you Cal Berkeley, you Cal Berkeley is also inspired by, you know, a very common device.

Mike Grandinetti

So for people out there if you know what sleep apnea is, it’s an increasingly common, you know, ailment and you see so many people today traveling through airports with their c pap and their bipap machines that they bring with them on airplanes, right. So C pap machines are everywhere. And so the you Cal Berkeley team is working on a project which they’re calling ventilator s o s. And what they’re doing is they are gathering donated c pap and bipap machines, okay, for, you know, for conversion for non ICU patients. So in many ways you could say it would be somewhat equivalent Its capabilities to the MIT event project, right? And it needs to be converted for safe use. So on top of the traditional off the shelf seat pack that you might get from resume or a lot of other people, they put two additional filters, one filter oxygenates air that is delivered to the patient. And then a second filter is being used to filter air that is being released by the patient before being released back into the surrounding environment. So was not to infect, you know, the healthcare workers. And this was something that unfortunately was an issue that was really overlooked in Washington at the you know, the infamous nursing home where the first major cluster really started. So here you have two, very low cost, very easily manufactured ventilator projects, designs that have been released into open source and Where the, you know, where it can fill a critical need, but for all but the most seriously ill patients.

Mark Bayer

Mike just to chime in here. I mean, those machines, as you suggest, are really ubiquitous and people also tend to use them for a while and then when it needs repair or something like that, and then they need another one. So as far as Yeah, all over all over the place. That’s, that’s an encouraging level as far as getting those out to people who can, can make these adjustments so it can be used for this new purpose.

Mike Grandinetti

Absolutely, because when you think about the seat pet, most health care plans will replace someone keep that machine every five years. And so you can imagine, you know, millions of seat pet machines that have served a useful purpose probably still very functional. Hmm. But you know, like everything else with Moore’s Law, there’s newer, smaller lighter, right you know, cheaper devices that out there now. So absolutely. And then here’s, I think something quite interesting, right? And this is this one is really inspiring to me. So Mass General Hospital, one of the great teaching hospitals in the world associated with Harvard Medical School. They’ve launched something called the CO vent 19th challenge. And I want to give a shout out to the the initiator in the head of the project. Dr. Richard Boyer, rich Boyer is both a medical doctor and a PhD in biomedical engineering. So this is one well educated man. And I also want to give a shout out to john Stevenson. John, very successful longtime Boston tech entrepreneur who was taken on the job of Chair of the advisory board. And so, what Dr. Boyer recognized right he saw this major gap looming. And this is a this is an anesthesiologist who is working shifts, you know, under horrific conditions right now at Mass General. And in his spare time, to the extent that he has any spare time, he’s been working on, you know, creating this global challenge.

Mike Grandinetti

So this is a this is an eight week design challenge to produce rapidly deployable designs for two different kinds of devices. Okay. And so this, to me is about as inspiring as anything that you can imagine. And the goal for this team is to finalize these two designs that can go into full scale production very rapidly. And so the, you know, they’re looking at a whole range of designs, and they’re trying to really understand, you know, because I mean, everyone’s sharing IP right now. So, they’re trying to say, Okay, so what are the designs that are going to be able to be, you know, both, you know, just hit all of the right requirements, they’re, they’re relatively easy to build. They’re not insanely expensive. They’re relatively easy to operate. And so that’s kind of what they’re working on right now. So this is a huge design sprint. And you know, it’s being run out of Mass General Hospital. So this is, this is something that I think people should be keeping their eye on, because I love the level of collaboration. And you know, and john Stevenson is a great connector to the mechanical engineering world, given what he’s done. So he’s a perfect person to kind of head up the commercial side of that. Right? So these are these are operations underway for ventilators. And then just it would I don’t want to leave out Tesla. So there’s a very interesting video for your listeners. Tesla, you know, without being asked, has gone off. And they’ve also been working on creating their own ventilator. Now, what’s interesting about Tesla is they too, are trying to leverage parts that they’re familiar with. So since they build cars, they’re leveraging a lot of parts that are You know, part of the bill of material of Tesla automobiles because they know these materials, they know how these parts work, how they hold up. So if your listeners are interested, just search on Tesla ventilator, they’ll come up with about a three and a half minute video, and you’ll see a team of five different Tesla engineers all messed up. And I’ll walk you through the schematic and they’ll show you a working prototype. But you know, just, you know, it’s all hands on deck right now. Yep. So this is kind of the, you know, the first wave. And, of course, what we hear on the news is one of the most critical of all innovation initiatives and I don’t want to say that there aren’t a lot of other ventilator projects going on, but I think these are some of the most prominent and some of the most promising so yeah, so so inspiring.

Mark Bayer

And you know, Mike, we’ve had a chance to talk offline about you know, your, your incredible experiencing career all all over the world and and you’re seeing you know, Sort of activity now whether it’s in Canada, you were talking about a project, you know, there and people changing their, you know, production lines and we’ve been hearing some of that in the news, but you really, you know, I think that part of this it’s so it’s unprecedented and it’s, it’s scary and it’s and it’s really disrupted completely, you know, the normal way of things even going out of your house which were recommended, you know, not to do on a regular on a regular basis and that can be very disabling for people. And you know, some listeners may be wondering, you know, in the face of this so sometimes a good way to kind of cope with situations like this is is to is to kind of do a deep dive and and to try to figure out well how can I contribute to the solution in a world so right out of control in a way I know we’re going to get back and we’re gonna, you know, things are gonna get to improve we know that the the experts are telling us that we stick to the plan but in the meantime, You know what some people do wherever they happen to be in whatever their level of expertise happens to be if they’re just motivated to want to make a difference, what are some of the things that they should be thinking about?

Mike Grandinetti

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, a lot of these initiatives that, you know, I’ve talked about and that I will talk about a lot of the innovators I’ve, I’ve interviewed sort of to get a little bit more detail and color before we had our discussion today. Most of them are doing this from their homes, and most of them are working out of their home. So the fact that these people are at home has not in any way prevented them from contributing. But you know, for citizens, let me let me share a couple of examples. Right. So one of the great acts of generosity that I’ve seen, comes from a company known as stratasys. And Stratos is a company that is making. It makes more 3d printers than any company on the planet. And they have donated for the length of the pandemic the their entire service. This Bureau, which means the all of their 3d printing capacity, they have donated, so anybody can send design files. And they will create, you know, these innovation products.

Mike Grandinetti

So speaking to the head of their healthcare business last night on the telephone, they are getting designs from even Cub Scout troops that are, you know, saying that we want to help we’re coming up with these designs. So even young kids and citizens are able to work with companies like stratasys or other 3d printing companies and send their designs to be printed, and distributed, right. So that’s, that’s sort of on a fairly simple level. But on the other hand, there’s a lot of organizations that are hosting virtual hackathons. One of the virtual hackathons is being led by tech stars, tech stars, for those who don’t know is a global startup accelerator network. They’ve had about 60 accelerators around the world. And in many ways, are the premier accelerator network, right. And so what they do by day is they bring in entrepreneurs through a very competitive process, and they may wind up in New York or Boston or, you know, Austin, Texas, so they could be in Germany or London. But they also have have another side of their mission, which is what they call Startup Weekend. And Startup Weekend is really a three day hackathon. Well, they’re mobilizing their Startup Weekend resources to host up to 60 COVID-19 focused hackathons around the globe. So for those of your listeners who are listening, either in the States or outside the state, just go to tech stars and looked at look for their, you know, COVID-19 Startup Weekend detail should be forthcoming, and listeners can sign up as participants, they can sign up as mentors and they can soar. They can sign up as organizers depending on how much time and experience they have. Another great organization also happens to be associated with MIT. It’s called solve at MIT and solve MIT. their day job is to help promote social impact related tech innovation. And on an annualized basis, they’ll bring in up to 140 social impact entrepreneurs from all around the world, working on environmental problems and social justice problems and a whole range of other issues. But they have launched a series of COVID-19 related challenges some independently, and some with major sponsors like Microsoft. So the other you know area where your listeners can go and see what’s going on. Are you know is to go to the salt at MIT website. Again, I’m only highlighting two. And I know that there are many others, you know, but these are two organizations that have a tremendous amount of horsepower and resources where, you know, if good ideas get developed, they will find their way to having an impact somewhere. So I say these are two that I would suggest that people look at. I’m gonna definitely be participating in both of these on a personal level. I think both of these organizations do incredible work.

Mark Bayer

That is just so so so fantastic, Mike. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to do a second episode with Mike Grandinetti –  we’re going to come back next week, we’ve fast tracked this episode to make sure that we could get this information out to you, the listeners, and our next episode with Mike will actually include – if we can make it happen – some of the actual folks around the country who are working on these projects and can speak specifically to what they’re doing. And also talk more about how listeners can get involved. Like I said, regardless of your level of expertise, and Mike alluded to that as well so, really glad, Mike first of all I know you are incredibly busy you’re a full force global pandemic and entrepreneurial response team here, and just really making so much of an impact yourself. So thank you, first of all for doing that. And then I also just want to tell you listeners that I appreciate you taking the time to listen to today’s episode, we’re going to come back with Mike Grandinetti and just a few days next week, hopefully along with some of the champions and the leaders who are putting these projects together, so that we can effectively as quickly as possible, get equipment to the medical personnel in the first responders who needed in this war against the coronavirus. So Mike Grandinetti, thank you so much for being here.

Mike Grandinetti

Mark, thank you for having me – I really enjoyed the chance to chat and look forward to our follow-up discussion. And I wish you and your family, a lot of health and safety and a happy Passover.

Thank you. Thank you very much, Mike. And listeners, thank you so much for being here. We will see you next time on the next episode of “When Science Speaks.”

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