Early innovations in computer science research applications to medicine
(1960s & 1970s)
One defining moment came in the early 1960s, when the creators of the Laboratory Instrument Computer or LINC (recognized as, arguably, the first personal computer), moved to Washington University from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Washington University initiated pioneering research in delay insensitive circuits, which led to the development of macromodules, an innovative system for the creation of custom computers from standard modular building blocks. These were the first true dataflow computers and were used in a variety of medical research projects at Washington University. In a related development, Washington University computer scientists showed how synchronizer failures could cause computer systems to fail. They were the first to understand the fundamental nature of the problem, demonstrate it, characterize it and develop new synchronizer designs that were inherently reliable.
In the early 1960s, Washington University researchers built the first computer-based method to measure hearing in infants. The average evoked response has become the standard method for early confirmation of hearing problems in infants. The late 1960's saw the development of the first application of computers to radiation treatment planning for cancer patients. This major breakthrough has continued to evolve as an essential component in radiation therapies. In the 1970s, Washington University researchers developed a special-purpose computer system for exploring molecular conformations in order to enable more systematic design of drugs. The macromodular MMSX system was the key technology driving the formation of Tripos, a local company that continues as one of the leading suppliers of drug design software to the pharmaceutical industry.