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At Wireless-Life Sciences Event, Brighter, Not Bigger, Is Better


Keynote speakers: Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm Inc.; William McGuire, former chairman and CEO of UnitedHealth Group; and Harry Greenspun, chief medical officer of Dell.

Time, date and place: 7 a.m.-5 p.m., May 10-12 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego.

Lead sponsors: AT&T, CareFusion Corp., OptumHealth, Procter & Gamble and Qualcomm.

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Event description: An annual conference that brings together business leaders from around the world to brainstorm ways to advance wireless and mobile solutions in health care.

With roughly 200 attendees, the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance Convergence Summit in San Diego this week isn’t even close to ranking as one of the area’s largest conventions. But that’s not the organizer’s goal.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There’s much effort that goes into making sure this annual conference, set for May 10-12 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, is attended by only the brightest minds in health care and mobile communications.

“We’ve always been interested in having the most engaged and thoughtful individuals and companies attend and participate,” said Robert B. McCray, president and chief executive officer of the Wireless-Life Sciences Alliance, a specialty trade organization based in Carmel Valley that focuses on improving health care through wireless technologies. “We’re a conference, not a trade show. We want quality over quantity.”

The WLSA launched in 2005 with major support from San Diego-based communications heavyweight Qualcomm Inc. and Johnson & Johnson Services Inc., the New Jersey-based health care products company. The sole purpose of the organization then — and now — is to foster innovation that comes as a result of crossover between the two sectors, said McCray, who leads a full-time staff of four people.

More Accessible, Less Expensive

One key goal of the WLSA Convergence Summit is to identify innovative new businesses in the wireless health sector. Much of that work happens May 11, when venture capital firms and companies on the lookout for acquisitions learn about how to capture a financial return on wireless health, what to look for when evaluating consumer effectiveness, and other factors of a company’s success.

Indeed, four of the top five companies in Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies in Health Care” for 2011 surfaced at the conference, McCray noted. One of those companies, San Mateo-based Epocrates Inc., created a drug-reference program that doctors can use on their mobile devices and laptops. It’s a prime example of why the mobile health sector is so important, McCray said: Doctors are mobile, patients are mobile, and there’s unlimited opportunity to create efficiencies.

“As a society, we’re going broke with the health care systems we have,” McCray said. “The population is aging and the growth of chronic diseases is overwhelming our health care system.”

The Next Big Thing?

Although the WLSA summit is not a trade show, there are some exhibitors — many of whom are seeking investors. That’s certainly the case for San Diego startup Independa Inc., which attempts to keep seniors independent longer with wireless systems that incorporate audio, video and sensors.

“Wireless connectivity itself is a tool that allows you to collapse time and space,” said Kian Saneii, founder and CEO of Independa, chosen in December for San Diego’s EvoNexus business incubator program.

“In our case, we’re providing technology-enabled independent living. It’s one of the few areas of the market where consumers are spending huge amounts of money and time and anguish.”

This year’s summit includes participants from five continents, including Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd. from India, Sanofi-aventis of France, and SmarTone Mobile Communications Limited from Hong Kong, McCray said.

Kelly Quigley is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.


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