12 PM NETWORK JULY 2015 WWW.PMI.ORG
1 CHALLENGE 3 PROJECTS
BUILDING BETTER BODIES
When the goal is to augment the human body, projects take on new levels of significance—and scrutiny.
Here are three projects that used new technologies to bring biomedical breakthroughs to those in need.
12Printing Limbs In July 2013, Mick Ebeling, co-founder of U.S.-based Not
Impossible Labs, read about
Daniel, a 14-year-old Sudanese
boy who lost both arms in a
bomb explosion. He offered to
make the boy an arm with a
3-D printer, despite his lack of
experience with the technology.
“At Not Impossible, we commit, then we figure it out,” says
Mr. Ebeling, based in Los Angeles, California. The organization focuses on solving
the healthcare challenges of individuals
with crowd-sourced, low-cost, technology-based solutions.
After just one week of 3-D printing training, Mr. Ebeling traveled to the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan in early November.
But the project was delayed by bomb explosions, unreliable electricity and daytime
temperatures so hot the printing plastic
melted. The original plan to work in a hospital became impossible when a ceasefire fell
After 25 years of development and approval delays, a medical
technology project has helped the blind see. The Argus II Retinal
Prosthesis System, which restores limited sight for blind people
with retinitis pigmentosa, was implanted commercially for the first
time in 2014.
Second Sight, the U.S.-based company behind the US$150 mil-
lion project, spent two years just figuring out how to attach the
implant to a retina without damaging it. And in 2010,
after three years of clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration told the company to develop a new met-
ric to assess the real-world impact and then implement
that new metric on all patients.
“That was an important moment for the company,”
says Robert Greenberg, MD, PhD, president and CEO,
Second Sight, Sylmar, California, USA, who spearheaded
the project. “If we didn’t have the strong investors that
we did, and access to extra capital to deal with the delays,
it could have killed the company.” Noting that successful
trials on an earlier version of the Argus II gave stake-
holders enough confidence to stick with the company,
Dr. Greenberg advises doing human clinical work as
early as you possibly can. “If the data is negative, it’ll save you time
and help you move in a new direction. And if it’s positive, it will
encourage the stakeholders to be supportive of the project.”
will contract 0.9 percent this year, President Dilma Rousseff has slashed government spending in a bid to
curb inflation and avoid a debt rating downgrade. A downgrade would likely mean a reduction in foreign
investments, which would probably cause major projects across the economy to be delayed or canceled.
But there are bright spots on Brazil’s project landscape. Two years after the World Cup tournament
culminated a BRL25.6 billion program of stadium and infrastructure projects, the 2016 Summer Olympics
will be staged in Rio de Janeiro. The Olympics have spurred a range of transportation and construction
projects, with the cost of sports venues estimated at BRL6.6 billion, and a total budget of BRL37.7 billion.
The mining industry also remains strong. Multinational mining organization Vale continues its US$19.7
billion S11D expansion project at the Carajás mine in the Brazilian state of Pará, having received an environmental license from the government in 2013. The project is scheduled for completion during the second half of 2016, with mining operations to reach full capacity two years later.
“S11D is Vale’s most important project, and it’s running as planned. There is no delay in this because
of Brazil’s economy,” says Murilo Fiuza, media relations officer, Vale, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Brazil is in a
It’s a difficult
—Sara Johnson, IHS Global Insight,
Lexington, Massachusetts, USA