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Apple has hired the guy who 3-D printed his own brain tumor

  • Apple has hired Steven Keating, an MIT doctoral student who gained notoriety for making a 3D printout of his own brain tumor
  • Keating spoke at the Sage Assembly conference about the challenges for patients to aggregate their own medical data
MRI image of brain showing area of Alzheimer patient.
Getty Images
MRI image of brain showing area of Alzheimer patient.

Apple quietly made one of its coolest hires ever.

The company recently brought on Steven Keating, the MIT doctoral student who made a 3D printout of his own brain after he was diagnosed with a tumor.

We don't know whether Keating is working on one of Apple's teams dedicated to health care, given his affinity for the space, or whether he has joined another team that would take advantage of his mechanical engineering expertise.

Keating spoke today at Sage Bionetworks' annual conference, Assembly, which brings together patient advocates and researchers to discuss open innovation in science. Keating, who is listed on the agenda as working on Apple, still lists his occupation as a doctoral candidate at MIT Media Lab on his LinkedIn profile. He previously worked as a product design intern at Apple during the summer of 2013.

Apple declined to comment.

Keating made headlines in 2015 after revealing the depths of his science experiment to better understand his own tumor. Keating told Vox that he collected 75 gigabytes of his health information, ranging from his tumor pathology slides to his medical information.

At the Assembly conference, he spoke about the challenges for patients to aggregate their own medical data. Keating said he ended up going to medical school at least in part so he could study his own tissue.

He also described giving 3-D models of his brain tumor to family members as Christmas tree ornaments, according to a person who attended the session.

Sage Bionetworks, a nonprofit research organization, has been a major proponent of Apple's ResearchKit software, which is designed to make it easier for medical researchers to launch mobile-based studies. Sage's cofounder Stephen Friend joined Apple in June of 2016, after his company developed a suite of apps that leveraged ResearchKit's open-source framework to study diseases ranging from breast cancer to Parkinson's.

Keating has publicly shared his commitment to helping patients gain access to their own health data, a mission that seems in line with Apple's approach to the sector (despite its notoriously closed approach). As I previously reported, the iPhone maker recently acquired a personal health data startup called Gliimpse, which is designed to help people aggregate their medical information.

As Keating commented in a previous interview: "Can we have a simple, standardized share button at the hospital? Where is the Google Maps, Facebook, or Dropbox for health? It needs to be simple, understandable, and easy, as small barriers add up quickly."