Dr. Sanjay Gupta Leads Focused Ultrasound Panel at Milken Global Conference


Key Points

  • Foundation Chairman Neal Kassell, MD, joined four other focused ultrasound researchers, industry representatives, and investors on a Milken Global Conference panel.
  • The panelists discussed the state of the technology for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD, shared his experience observing a transformational focused ultrasound treatment.
Milken Global Conference panel 2023

On Monday, May 1, Foundation Chairman Neal F. Kassell, MD, joined focused ultrasound researchers,  industry representatives, and investors at a Milken Global Conference panel entitled, “The Drive Toward More Non-Invasive Treatments for Patients.” The session was moderated by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, MD.

During the discussion, the panelists outlined why a noninvasive medical treatment like focused ultrasound is a highly desirable alternative to traditional approaches and discussed the current status of the technology for a wide variety of disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, essential tremor, liver cancer, prostate cancer, and addiction. The group also discussed what is required to make focused ultrasound widely available for patients and how it is expected to impact the future of healthcare.

Joining Dr. Kassell on the panel were:

  • Pejman Ghanouni, MD, PhD, associate professor of radiology at Stanford University
  • Zhen Xu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan
  • Maurice R. Ferré, CEO and chairman of Insightec
  • Chase Koch, founder and CEO of Koch Disruptive Technologies.

One of the key takeaways for attendees was that not only has focused ultrasound already made a positive impact on patients’ lives, but it holds enormous potential for addressing a wide range of medical conditions in the future.

“Focused ultrasound is early-stage for many conditions, but it is rapidly evolving,” said Dr. Kassell. “It will replace a large amount of surgery and radiation therapy, and it’s a new way of delivering drugs more safely and effectively and stimulating the body’s immune response. And it is our belief that 10 years from now, focused ultrasound will be a global standard of care that improves the lives of millions of people around the world with a whole variety of serious medical disorders. It’s a very big deal.”

Dr. Gupta became familiar with focused ultrasound when he observed a patient named Brenda undergoing essential tremor treatment at the University of Virginia last year. The footage, including an interview with Dr. Kassell, was highlighted in an episode of his Vital Signs program, which reached millions of viewers. He shared a clip of Brenda’s treatment during Monday’s panel discussion.

“I was really kind of blown away by [Brenda’s treatment],” said Dr. Gupta. “I have not seen that before, and …I’ve been practicing neurosurgery for some 25 years. So that was it was quite spectacular. Again, no incisions at all.”

Chase Koch also shared why Koch Disruptive Technologies has invested millions of dollars in the technology via Insightec over the past five years.

“If you think about [focused ultrasound’s] potential, not only from an economic standpoint in return on investment, but also impacting millions of lives…. That’s what I think would get any investor excited,” said Mr. Koch. “And when you go through [the applications] from addiction, glioblastoma, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. There is not another technology that I’ve seen that that has such far reaching potential.”

Watch a Recording of the Panel

The Milken Global Conference annually “convenes the best minds in the world to tackle the most stubborn challenges.” This year’s event followed the theme of “Advancing a Thriving World.” The event is produced by the Milken Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank whose scholars lead an international dialogue on solutions in economics, health, aging, human capital, philanthropy, and capital markets. The Milken Institute was founded by Michael Milken, an icon in innovative healthcare solutions and Foundation Board member.  

In 2017, Dr. Kassell participated in the meeting by sharing an overview of focused ultrasound technology and introducing then Vice President Joe Biden’s discussion of the Cancer Moonshot initiative. He also participated in a panel, “Things That Will Blow Your Mind” – one of the best-attended panels with the most online views of the entire conference that year.