Daniel Kraft, Founder & Chair of Exponential Medicine, on Israeli companies and how healthcare blends across fields. (Maya Elhalal)

Last week, over 700 physicians, scientists, technologists, hackers and inventors gathered at Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego for the 7th annual Exponential Medicine Conference to explore how the convergence of new technologies may impact prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Exponential refers to the rate of advancements in technologies like Robotics, Synthetic Biology, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnology, 3D Printing, and Virtual Reality.

Over four days I was impressed, inspired and hopeful to see many technologies that matured from bold promises of just a few years ago to practical applications that are starting to solve a variety of medical problems. Yet when the dust settled on xMED the topic that stood out the most, not only in it’s ingenuity, but also in highlighting a medical challenge that many experience but few think about as a medicine problem – was empathy.  

The discussion of empty started with Jennifer Brea a young energetic Harvard PhD student who loved to travel and was about to marry the love of her life. Then after being struck down by a fever, she started experiencing disturbing seemingly unrelated symptoms that made it difficult for her to master the energy to do anything.

Over the next years she become so frail and fatigued that she would spend more than 16 hours a day sleeping, the rest of the time bedridden and unable to perform even the most simple daily activities.

As we watched Unrest – the docu-reality capturing the unfolding of her illness, and listened to her story from the stage, we could almost feel the million small struggles of getting out of bed even to brush her teeth or make a cup of tea, or talk to a friend. Through her movie and talk, the awful reality of what it means to live without energy to do anything became tangible and real. From my seat in the hall I could feel her struggle and I even felt weaker myself.