"I thought of it as an enterprise software problem I could solve."
March 6, 2015 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Your new kidney is in the cloud. When former software developer David Jacobs was fortunate enough to get a kidney transplant eleven years ago, it occurred to him that there had to be a better way to match recipients with potential donors... so he bankrolled a company, and designed the cloud-based software needed to do it. As a result, thanks to paired kidney exchanges, a single kidney donation in San Francisco is saving six lives over the next few days... and will soon be saving a total of twelve lives, while removing people from the kidney waiting list, reducing the organ wait time for patients who don't have the time to spare.
posted by markkraft (10 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
a single kidney donation in San Francisco is saving six lives over the next few days...

In case anybody else was confused: six kidneys are actually being transplanted, the single kidney is the last one needed to complete the set of six paired transplants. If we want to be fair, each one of the six donors is helping save six lives, not just the last one.
posted by Dr Dracator at 7:19 AM on March 6, 2015 [5 favorites]

That's awesome! Because normally, if you try to donate but are incompatible, you just won't donate - but would if there were a way for you to still save the life of your loved one through it. This is really amazing, well done.
posted by corb at 7:41 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wonder if his algorithm is from the classic math papers by Jack Edmonds at the NIST. Easier to read and/or listen to are explanations by the authors of another program for the same purpose: podcast by Sommer Gentry for the American Math Society, and an introductory tutorial by Gentry and Dorry Segev.
posted by TreeRooster at 7:49 AM on March 6, 2015

Kidney chains are pretty fascinating -- they have been considerably longer and a lot of the challenge isn't technical, it's social, though being able to model longer successful chains can probably aid in the social negotiation that goes on.
posted by 99_ at 8:06 AM on March 6, 2015

Your new kidney is in my butt. When former...

My butt-to-butt browser plugin makes my day yet again. The amount of joy this little chunk of code has provided over the years is immeasurable.

and, yes, my browser rendered that as "My butt-to-butt browser plugin" and I hadn't even intended for that bit of funny.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:34 AM on March 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I await the inevitable tales of kidney gazumpting.
posted by srboisvert at 9:44 AM on March 6, 2015

Fezboy! that exact phenomenon caused my office to erupt in giggles not one hour ago. Not only is this a great app but the concept of "Your new kidney is in my butt" has made me randomly burst out laughing through my afternoon meetings. It's been a good day for butt-based software.
posted by Mooseli at 10:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah yeah the term "Cloud" is almost always irrelevant when it comes to conversations such as these, but in this case it just means that this guy couldn't afford to keep all the servers running all the time.

So, the takeaway is that "THE CLOUD" (probably Amazon's EC2) make this kind of software cost effective.
posted by sideshow at 10:53 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't see why people are saying they need to be simultaneous (like in that AMS podcast). Even the Johns Hopkins page says they don't need to be. The only reason I can see is that it stops people from backing out of the commitment they made, reducing the possible legal issues.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:05 AM on March 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not sure if one of the other links here covers it, but this kidney exchange problem is actually NP-hard (the linked paper discusses a recent advance in algorithms for practical solutions)
posted by indubitable at 12:41 PM on March 6, 2015

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