Great Lakes Geek Show - Sam Palmisano
Podcast by Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

Sam Palmisano, IBM CEO
Sam Palmisano
Chairman, CEO and President

Sam Palmisano is Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of IBM. Mr. Palmisano was appointed to Chief Executive Officer in March 2002 and Chairman in January 2003. Previously, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano at Cleveland Clinic (Dan Hanson photo)

Sam Palmisano was keynote speaker at the annual Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit on October 6, 2009. He used the occasion to introduce IBM's new Personal DNA Sequencer Project. It's an example of how technologies (nanofabrication, microelectronics, physics and biology in this case) are combining to solve problems.

This is revolutionary. It would make DNA sequencing available to everyone on the planet. "It's like a barcode device for each strand of DNA," Palmisano said. With that information, doctors could identify a person's genetic predisposition and then tailor medicines that are most likely to help.

The results to individuals are incredible enough but the combined data harvested would lead to staggering advancements in new gene therapies to cure diseases that have resisted traditional treatment.

Quick Genetics Primer - Each of us has the same set of about 20,000 genes. We differ because of slight variations (blue-eyed vs. brown-eyed gene for example). The 50 trillion or so cells that make us up each contain our complete blueprint encoded in a molecule called DNA. These DNA molecules are organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes which are then further arranged into genes.

The Human Genome Project spent about $3 billion to sequence the first human DNA strand. IBM predicts that personal genome sequencers will reduce the cost to under $1,000. With advancements and the benefits of large scale implementation, this cost could drop to as low as $100.

IBM is not only the world's largest computer company but also the largest corporate research company. It will need its size and expertise to tackle this project. Chris Coburn, Executive Director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations and force behind the Summit said, "Sam Palmisano demonstrated IBM's commitment to driving innovation throughout health care with his announcement of the $1,000 gene chip. It is clear that they intend on being a force in every aspect of the industry that involves information technology - which is essentially all of it. Their scale and innovation capability enable them to do what no others can."

Each person's DNA will only need to be sequenced once but there are billions of people on the planet. Then all that data needs to be analyzed so that the appropriate gene therapies for particular diseases can be identified. IBM is one of the few, if not the only, companies that can handle a project of this scale.

IBM CEO Sam Palmisano at Cleveland Clinic (Dan Hanson photo)

In this first video snippet, Palmisano tells how the health care system isn't broken... because it isn't really a system. And IBM knows systems.

After the keynote, Mr. Palmisano took questions from the audience with assistance from Cleveland Clinic CIO Martin Harris.

Cleveland Clinic CIO Martin Harris with IBM CEO Sam Palmisano

Cleveland Clinic CIO Martin Harris with IBM CEO Sam Palmisano

In this second video snippet, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano talks about the 4 essential qualities of a reliable system.

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