Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh, patents! Theranos micro-sample lab testing

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann
For those with needle phobia Theranos might save you, or your small children, from a lot of stress and anxiety!

Theranos, a Silicon Valley biotech company, has changed the face of lab testing allowing for multiple lab tests to be performed with a single tiny drop of blood instead of multiple vials. And what is more, this testing can be performed at Walgreen’s, where a proprietary infrastructure for analyzing samples -- at point-of-service without a skilled operator -- both minimizes the main source of errors and ensures the results of your tests are provided in about 4 hours! 

All that is needed for multiple tests is a micro-sample obtained via finger stick, as small as 1/1000 the size of a typical blood draw. You can say goodbye to “big bad needles” for good!

And perhaps best of all, the Theranos CLIA-certified laboratory testing is performed at a fraction of the costs of traditional testing. The costs of tests are even posted at the Theranos website ( 

For example, consider a lipid panel at the Theranos cost of $9.21 compared to the traditional LabCorp lipid panel price of $100.00.  In fact, the company even expects to save Medicare and Medicaid more than respectively 90 and 60 billion dollars in the next 10 years! It is already billing at 50% under threshold reimbursement levels, and fully believes this low cost access is part of a human rights perspective on health care and health. [Wired Data Life Interview with CEO Elizabeth Holmes, Nov. 27, 2013]


All of the Theranos biotechnology is patented, from sampling to analyses methods and point of service processes. An EPO search for Theranos returns 127 patents! 

The WIPO patent WO2014015191 titled Low-volume coagulation assay is one of these patents. This patent recites compositions and methods for measurement of blood coagulation factors with a very small amount of blood, about 20 µl, compared to the traditional amount of 5 ml collected in a fixed volume vacuum vial, and which also leaves plenty of the drop of blood collected for other Theranos tests! 

The measurement of blood coagulation is important since inadequate coagulation can lead to increased risk of bleeding (hemorrhage), whereas excessive coagulation can lead to obstructive clotting (thrombosis).  Although blood coagulation testing has existed for many years, this low volume assay invention simplifies getting tested, obtaining results, reduces errors and ultimately makes testing accessible to far more people both due to lowered costs and to the simplicity of the neighborhood process.   

Below appears the abstract for WO2014015191 titled  Low volume coagulation assay and images appear above of the 1.29 cm Nanotainer™ vial (smaller than a dime) containing a drop of blood for all the Theranos analyses that your doctor orders!

Compositions and methods for measuring coagulation parameters using very small volumes of blood are provided. Advantageously, the methods described herein can be performed from a single drop of blood (about 20 Ill) while generally leaving enough sample to perform other measurements, optionally in a multiplexed format. The methods and devices do not require a skilled operator and can be performed at the point of service, which can be an important feature for managing blood coagulation disorders and treatments thereof. [Abstract WO2014015191]


Oh, and you must hear Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, and Stanford student who dropped out of her sophomore year to build Theranos, speak about how to make it work in the YouTube video below !

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oh, patents! Oh, spellchecker!

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Oh, spellchecker! Let me count the ways I love thee!.....

Intolerance of spelling mistakes is probably as drastic as intolerance for various accents or registers of speech. You may unwittingly truly be offending your readers or interlocutors when you make a misteak, or if you do not speak the standard dialect….even if you score high on the basketball court or in math and computational theory. George Bernard Shaw’s story Pygmalion is one of transformation through phonetics, at least on the surface! And Alain Rey’s book: L’amour du français is partially a plea to the contrary, and a detailed defense of the plural of love when referencing French. Yes, that would be “For the loves of French”, coming from the Editor-in-Chief of the Le Robert dictionaries, France’s equivalent of the OED!.... So there!

And, three cheers for Spellcheckers, and especially the newer ones that work on line, for email, and in your browsers!

The patent US2008270122, assigned to IBM, and titled System for handling novel words in a spellchecking module, arises in a long history of IBM and ARPANet/Stanford University AI Lab spellcheckers, initially designed for mainframe computers, and dating back to the 1960s and 70s. This particular spellchecker offers the possibility of adding new words to the main dictionary, and more particularly, of adding several forms of the new word. Thus, for example, the patent describes how the term “elastomer’ could be added to a spellchecker dictionary, as well as the adjective “elastomeric”, the plural “elastomers”, and the possessive forms “eleastomer’s”. This new functionality of spellcheckers is then seen as particularly useful since such items as trademarked product names or company names can be added to a spellchecker, including various forms of the new item, which will all prevent the spellchecker from marking these items are erroneous.

Below, you will find the abstract for US2008270122, titled, System for handling novel words in a spellchecking module: 

A system for adding words to an online dictionary used for spell checking is described. A spell checker module compares words of an electronic document with words in the online dictionary and identifies a word in the electronic document that is missing from the dictionary. After a user indicates a desire to add the missing word to the dictionary, the spell checker module determines at least one related-word form of the missing word. The related-word forms depend upon the part of speech of the missing word. The spellchecker can prompt the user to identify the part of speech and then to verify each determined related-word form. The spellchecker concurrently adds the missing word and at least one related word to word form of the missing word to the online dictionary in a single 'add-to-dictionary' operation.

 Spellcheckers are probably a hop, skip and a jump, from/to matching the source and target segments of a large corpus in MT (machine translation), but that is another line of inventions altogether…

Now, seriously, can you imagine ever having to write without a spellchecker?....  

Rey, A. (2008) L’amour du français: contre les puristes et autres censeurs de la langue. France: Editions Denoël.

Shaw, G.B. (1916) Pygmalion. New York, NY: Brentano.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Oh, patents! Actionable information

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Huh? What’s actionable information?

Actionable information is hot, hot, hot these days! In a nutshell, this is raw data, transformed into knowledge that can be acted upon, where the raw data is culled from the fabulously rich archives, and ongoing stream of communication, of social media networks such as Facebook®, Twitter®, Google Plus®, LinkedIn® or fora…!

Actionable information is thus produced when extracted by analysis software that alerts a business to trends in the flow of social media communication, so that such a business can make faster and more informed decisions. Form a business perspective, it is based on the premise that the real source of wealth in social media is the information that people naturally and unknowingly provide about what is “hot” when they are communicating!  

Thus, there are data mining companies (e.g.; Topsy Labs and Dataminr) whose mission it is to design software that can make sense of the stream of social media, extract trends, and alert associated business partners.  The relevance of actionable data becomes particularly clear when you recall, for example, how Tweets alerted the world to such uprisings as those of Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China; or later to the drama unfolding in Cairo’s Central Tahrir Square in Egypt, and to a lesser degree in the Central Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey; as well as now in Kiev, in Ukraine. This sort of tweeted, posted or otherwise cited information on a social network, when properly filtered and identified early, can then alert the large news networks immediately so that the stories can be covered much faster, and the situations potentially resolved with less turmoil.

Indeed, actionable information is hot on more counts that one…

The patent US2013297581, titled Systems and methods for customized filtering and analysis of social media content collected over social networks, assigned to Topsy Labs, is one such patent that transforms raw data into actionable information. In particular, this patent discloses a way of including, in the analysis, the author or subject’s opinions or sentiments (e.g; likes) and/or influence,  in regards a particular object on the social network. This is one step beyond the compilation of actionable data based on keyword analytics such as the number of keyword or term mentions, or re-tweets; or the velocity at which a particular keyword or term is picking up in a particular time-frame of 7 days.

This is a patent connected to several related Topsy Labs patents, mapping the territory of the data mining of social media content, such as for example:
  • US2013297694 titled Systems and methods of interactive presentation and analysis of social media content collected over social networks
  • US2013 321862 titled System and method for customizing analytics based on users media affiliation status
  • US 2014040371, titled Systems and methods for identifying geographic location of social media content collected over social networks
  • US2013304818 titled Systems and method for discovery of related terms for social media content collected over social networks.

Below appears the abstract for US2013297581, titled Systems and methods for customized filtering and analysis of social media content collected over social networks.
Abstract: A new approach is proposed that contemplates systems and methods to filter and/or rank a plurality of content items retrieved from a social network based on the sentiments expressed by the authors of the content items and/or the influence level of the authors over the social network. First, content items matching a set of keywords submitted by a user are retrieved from the social network. The sentiments and/or the influence levels of the authors of these content items are then identified in real time. Once identified, the sentiments and/or influence levels of the authors are used to filter and/or rank the retrieved content items to generate a search result that matches with the sentiment and/or influence level specified by the user. Finally, the customized search result based on the sentiments and/or the influence levels of the authors is presented to the user.


And now for something personally actionable…I would love NYU to incorporate a Topsy Labs® or Dataminr® function to alert me when a hot topic is being hatched on the forum of my medical translation course! That would would prevent me from missing any further point..!

Cathy image Copyright © Cathy Guisewite