From the Incandescent Light Bulb to Digital Pathology: Corporate Innovation as an Engine for Change by ProQuest


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									    From the Incandescent Light Bulb to Digital Pathology
                             Corporate Innovation as an Engine for Change
                                         Michael C. Montalto, PhD; Gene Cartwright, PhD

I  t is hard not to invoke the legacy of Thomas Edison
     when discussing the concept of corporate innovation,
because it is generally believed that Edison invented the
                                                                      telltale indication of Alzheimer disease, are only observed
                                                                      postmortem, obviously too late to provide therapy. Re-
                                                                      cently, however, we have witnessed fantastic advances in
light bulb. However, it is surprising to know that this is            our ability to ‘‘see’’ -amyloid plaques in living patients
not entirely true. Instead, Edison invented a commercially            by examining the brain uptake of the positron emission
practical light bulb, by extending the life of its filament            tomography tracer, Pittsburgh Compound B. There are
from 13 to 1300 hours. To achieve this remarkable break-              much data to support the hypothesis that Pittsburgh Com-
through, he searched for and tested hundreds of filaments              pound B binds directly to -amyloid plaques.1 Such ad-
until he discovered the specific carbon filament that he                vances, although promising, are still not available to the
patented in 1880. This patent not only teaches us about               20 million patients who are believed to have a precursor
how to extend the life of a light bulb but metaphorically             form of Alzheimer disease, called mild cognitive impair-
teaches us about the value of solving difficult problems               ment. Although there are many reasons for the delay in
that are needed to transform inventions into practical ev-            its clinical use, one important factor is that the current
eryday solutions. In doing so, Edison demonstrates that               Pittsburgh Compound B positron emission tomography
innovation for the sake of inventing has little value. Ap-            tracer is available only with the carbon isotope 11C. Such
plied innovation for the purposes of solving real-world               an isotope is commercially impractical due to its short
problems is greatly valuable for customers and, in turn,              half-life of 20 minutes. Thus, to make Pittsburgh Com-
for shareholders. Thus, Edison left a legacy of corporate             pound B more broadly available to the ‘‘at risk’’ mild cog-
innovation, not just for GE but for many companies that               nitive impairment population, it is important to convert
followed.                                                             this compound into a more commercially practical tracer,
    Today, in GE Healthcare, we continue with the tradi-              such as one that uses 18F as its radionuclide. GE Healthcare
tions of Edison. First, by understanding key market driv-             scientists are working diligently on exactly that problem
ers and unmet customers needs. Once understood we                     and are making great progress.1 Of course, converting car-
strive toward understanding the technology 
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