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Tech Tonics

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Health & Fitness
Medicine
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Tech Tonics, the Podcast, is a twice-monthly program focused on the people and passion at the intersection of technology and health. Hosted by Lisa Suennen and David Shaywitz (the co-authors of “Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology?”) the show draws on their experience in business, medicine, and health-IT.The Tech Tonics podcast seeks to bring the people in the digital health field to life and, ideally, elevate humanism in a healthcare world captivated by technology. “We deeply believe in what Robert Coles, an inspiration to us both, has termed ‘the call of stories,’” David Shaywitz says. “Our aspiration is to bring the spirit of Coles and Michael Lewis to the world of digital health.”Together, Suennen and Shaywitz engage a range of intriguing guests in discussions that enable listeners to appreciate the stories behind the startups and the people behind the passion.Lisa Suennen is the Managing Partner of Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC, a firm that provides advisory services to corporate and independent venture capital funds and to large and small companies around investment and product strategy, innovation spin-outs, market development, partnerships and financing. She is currently a member of the Qualcomm Life Advisory Board, the Sanofi Integrated Care Advisory Board, the Dignity Health Foundation Board, and an Advisor to the California Health Care Foundation Innovation Fund and a member of several private company Boards of Directors.Dr. David Shaywitz is the Chief Medical Officer of DNAnexus, a company that makes it easier to work with genomic data using advanced bioinformatics and scalable compute systems based on the cloud. He received his M.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science, and Technology at Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at MIT. He trained in internal medicine and endocrinology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and conducted his post-doctoral research in Doug Melton’s lab at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.Tech Tonics, the Podcast is produced by Jason Lopez and syndicated by Connected Social Media. You can also find out more at venturevalkyrie.com and connectedsocialmedia.com.

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Tech Tonics, the Podcast, is a twice-monthly program focused on the people and passion at the intersection of technology and health. Hosted by Lisa Suennen and David Shaywitz (the co-authors of “Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology?”) the show draws on their experience in business, medicine, and health-IT.The Tech Tonics podcast seeks to bring the people in the digital health field to life and, ideally, elevate humanism in a healthcare world captivated by technology. “We deeply believe in what Robert Coles, an inspiration to us both, has termed ‘the call of stories,’” David Shaywitz says. “Our aspiration is to bring the spirit of Coles and Michael Lewis to the world of digital health.”Together, Suennen and Shaywitz engage a range of intriguing guests in discussions that enable listeners to appreciate the stories behind the startups and the people behind the passion.Lisa Suennen is the Managing Partner of Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC, a firm that provides advisory services to corporate and independent venture capital funds and to large and small companies around investment and product strategy, innovation spin-outs, market development, partnerships and financing. She is currently a member of the Qualcomm Life Advisory Board, the Sanofi Integrated Care Advisory Board, the Dignity Health Foundation Board, and an Advisor to the California Health Care Foundation Innovation Fund and a member of several private company Boards of Directors.Dr. David Shaywitz is the Chief Medical Officer of DNAnexus, a company that makes it easier to work with genomic data using advanced bioinformatics and scalable compute systems based on the cloud. He received his M.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science, and Technology at Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at MIT. He trained in internal medicine and endocrinology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and conducted his post-doctoral research in Doug Melton’s lab at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.Tech Tonics, the Podcast is produced by Jason Lopez and syndicated by Connected Social Media. You can also find out more at venturevalkyrie.com and connectedsocialmedia.com.

iTunes Ratings

57 Ratings
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Staying up to speed on health tech at the gym was never so fun!

By lagomer11 - May 12 2019
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I’ve been a long time listener of this incredibly informative and humorous podcast. It always cuts through the hype (of which there is plenty) and offers a pragmatic perspective on what is really happening in the health tech industry (the good, the bad and the ugly). A must listen for health tech entrepreneurs who want to learn from past industry mistakes. Thank you, David and Lisa!

Insightful, entertaining and actionable

By J. Barshop - Dec 11 2018
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As the Healthcare industry continues to rapidly evolve, Lisa, David and their amazing guests give listeners an unfair advantage when it comes to staying ahead of the curve. I feel completely at home here - bowled over by brilliant advice and nourishing conversations - and can confidently say that I walk away from each episode with a nugget of gold. Highly recommend listening and subscribing to Tech Tonics - keep up the great work guys!

iTunes Ratings

57 Ratings
Average Ratings
55
2
0
0
0

Staying up to speed on health tech at the gym was never so fun!

By lagomer11 - May 12 2019
Read more
I’ve been a long time listener of this incredibly informative and humorous podcast. It always cuts through the hype (of which there is plenty) and offers a pragmatic perspective on what is really happening in the health tech industry (the good, the bad and the ugly). A must listen for health tech entrepreneurs who want to learn from past industry mistakes. Thank you, David and Lisa!

Insightful, entertaining and actionable

By J. Barshop - Dec 11 2018
Read more
As the Healthcare industry continues to rapidly evolve, Lisa, David and their amazing guests give listeners an unfair advantage when it comes to staying ahead of the curve. I feel completely at home here - bowled over by brilliant advice and nourishing conversations - and can confidently say that I walk away from each episode with a nugget of gold. Highly recommend listening and subscribing to Tech Tonics - keep up the great work guys!
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Tech Tonics

Latest release on Apr 06, 2020

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Tech Tonics, the Podcast, is a twice-monthly program focused on the people and passion at the intersection of technology and health. Hosted by Lisa Suennen and David Shaywitz (the co-authors of “Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology?”) the show draws on their experience in business, medicine, and health-IT.The Tech Tonics podcast seeks to bring the people in the digital health field to life and, ideally, elevate humanism in a healthcare world captivated by technology. “We deeply believe in what Robert Coles, an inspiration to us both, has termed ‘the call of stories,’” David Shaywitz says. “Our aspiration is to bring the spirit of Coles and Michael Lewis to the world of digital health.”Together, Suennen and Shaywitz engage a range of intriguing guests in discussions that enable listeners to appreciate the stories behind the startups and the people behind the passion.Lisa Suennen is the Managing Partner of Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC, a firm that provides advisory services to corporate and independent venture capital funds and to large and small companies around investment and product strategy, innovation spin-outs, market development, partnerships and financing. She is currently a member of the Qualcomm Life Advisory Board, the Sanofi Integrated Care Advisory Board, the Dignity Health Foundation Board, and an Advisor to the California Health Care Foundation Innovation Fund and a member of several private company Boards of Directors.Dr. David Shaywitz is the Chief Medical Officer of DNAnexus, a company that makes it easier to work with genomic data using advanced bioinformatics and scalable compute systems based on the cloud. He received his M.D. from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health, Science, and Technology at Harvard Medical School, and his Ph.D. from the Department of Biology at MIT. He trained in internal medicine and endocrinology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and conducted his post-doctoral research in Doug Melton’s lab at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.Tech Tonics, the Podcast is produced by Jason Lopez and syndicated by Connected Social Media. You can also find out more at venturevalkyrie.com and connectedsocialmedia.com.

Rank #1: Tech Tonics: Whoop Founder, Will Ahmed

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So much emphasis has been placed on fitness and wearables over the last five years and much has been made of whether these trackers can translate to better health or are just there to make people feel a sense of accomplishment. In their quest to be taken seriously, most of the focus has been on the consumer-directed products. But there is a whole other world of wearables out there used by elite athletes quietly tracking and counting to maximize performance.

Whoop Founder Will Ahmed turned his quest for personal squash supremacy into a business that uses wearables to enable pro athletes to perform at their best. In the brave new world of next generation moneyball, Whoop works with the Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Michael Phelps, US Olympians and others to look at cardiovascular, sleep, stress and other biometrics that can drive the difference between trophy and atrophy. In so doing, Whoop focuses on world champions, not weekend warriors. And speaking of Warriors of the Gold State variety, they are not a Whoop! client, alas.

Interestingly, the use of wearables in the world of sports can likely inform what we are doing in the world of healthcare. For instance, the density of data collected by Whoop is far beyond most of the wearables we all discuss most commonly. Additionally, the emphasis on how to use personal measurement data to increase athletic performance is miles far ahead of medicine yet both measure their results in increased revenue and realized savings. Both are grappling with who owns the data, whether it is being used to negotiate player contracts or to price health insurance products. Both fields recognize the importance of motivation and personalized goals to drive outcome, but the immediacy of winning in sports offers an unusually powerful motivation that we have yet to emulate in the healthcare world. Getting selected early in the NBA draft is a powerful motivator to strive for peak health; how do we translate that to the everyday person? And furthermore, how much data is the right amount and what is just noise?

Jul 11 2016

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Rank #2: Tech Tonics: Diego Miralles – Physician, Scientist, Drug Developer, Humanist

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Infectious disease physician, entrepreneur, and life-long innovator, Diego Miralles has pursued the frontiers of medicine on three continents, and in at least three distinct settings: academia, biotech startups, and the largest pharma company on earth, J&J. There, he founded both the J-Labs incubator and the J&J Innovation Network, which has offices around the world, including the Bay Area, Boston, London, and Shanghai. Diego recently rejoined the startup world, taking a leadership role at Adaptive Biotechnologies, where he is President and will be leading their therapeutic initiatives.

While some people are changed by their work environment (not always for the better…), Diego has instead managed to bring his deeply-felt compassion and restless creativity to each organization he’s been part of, making each of these companies more empathetic and inquisitive in the process. His sense of humor and the joy he spreads to colleagues are infectious in the best sense of the word. We are thrilled to welcome this physician, scientist, drug developer, and humanist to our program today.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Aug 22 2016

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Rank #3: Tech Tonics: Amy Abernethy – Dosage, Disney & Data

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If anyone can bridge the gap between technology and health, it just might be Amy Abernethy , oncologist and technologist, who has led the charge, first at Duke and now at Flatiron, for rethinking the way we collect and analyze clinical information.

Born in Houston and raised by her mom in Orlando, Amy learned math by helping her mom write a textbook, “Dosage Calculation,” for nursing students. The book became the gold standard (now in it’s ninth edition) – and Amy is a co-author.

Her interest in math and science clearly took; she attended math camp (with co-host David) at Duke while in middle school, and also programmed computers for NASA.

After college at Penn, she attended medical school at Duke, and apparently really liked Durham, staying there for the rest of her medical training (internal medicine, oncology), then joining the faculty, focusing on how to improve the way oncology data are collected. (She did spend a few years in Australia doing her graduate work in evidence-based medicine and clinical research methods.)

In 2014, Amy joined New York-Based Flatiron Health as SVP and CMO, though she continues to live in Durham, and commutes to Manhattan weekly. We are delighted to welcome this clinician, scholar, executive – and former Disney Can-Can dancer (tune in for details)– to Tech Tonics.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

And for some additional reading….
Dosage Calculation (9th Edition) by Pickar & Abernethy on Amazon here.
David’s reflections on math camp: Forbes post here, video here.
Interview with Lisa on diversity in Silicon Valley here.
Publication by Amy on challenges of using EHR data in oncology here.
Amy’s 2013 TEDMED talk on clinical data here.
Walt Disney News 1990 on Pleasure Island here.

Sep 25 2017

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Rank #4: Tech Tonics: Jess Mega of Verily Actually Is Making the World a Better Place

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Jessica Mega, an accomplished cardiologist and now Chief Medical Officer at Alphabet’s Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), says she joined the venerable Silicon Valley company to help patients. According to Jess, physicians who love patients need to lean into the tech world because great tech that doesn’t actually change care doesn’t have much of a chance, implying also that it doesn’t have much of a point.

Very early to the concept of what is now called Precision Medicine, Jess helped pioneer the idea of large scale patient data collection (e.g., a study with multiple countries, 1000 sites, 20,000 patients) while studying the individual effects of medications, such as Plavix among populations. She was early to the concept of joining genetic, clinical and phenotypic information together to inform medicine, a concept she has imported to Verily as they take on some of the most challenging clinical problems together with world class medical partners such as Novartis, Dexcom, J&J and the American Heart Association, among others.

Jess imbues her work with the enthusiasm of someone who feels that work is play and that a real contribution is possible every day. She brings the kind of empathy and humanity to Silicon Valley that makes the effective intersection of tech and healthcare seem not just desirable, but also achievable. She just may be making the world a better place.

Mar 27 2017

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Rank #5: Tech Tonics: Taha Kass-Hout – OpenFDA, Open Mind, Open Heart

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A cardiologist by training and a data scientist long before it was sexy, Dr. Taha Kass-Hout demonstrates the outsized impact possible when heart, vision, and passion meet commitment to government service, and beyond. Originally from Syria, Taha discovered his love of computers and programming at a very early age. The son of an architect, he studied architecture in college then decided to become a doctor, attending medical school at the University of Texas at Houston and continuing his training in cardiology at the Beth Israel Hospital of Harvard Medical School. It was there that he first recognized the need for and value of data sharing in medical research. He then went on to earn his Masters of Science in Statistics from the University of Texas.

After years of working in academia and industry, including Silicon Valley, Taha brought his passion for data sharing and building ecosystems to the public sector; first to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and subsequently to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), where, as the agency’s first Chief Health Informatics Officer, he pioneered the concept of openFDA, and then created and led the development of precisionFDA precision.fda.gov (the context in which David first met him). Both openFDA and precisionFDA were referenced in the White House updated Strategy for American Innovation (2015). Taha left the FDA in summer 2016, after eight years of government service.

Taha, together with his wife, Hend, have applied the tools of data and social science to global humanitarian and refugee efforts; they are the co-founders of Humanitarian Tracker, a non-profit, non-political organization that connects and empowers citizens using innovation in technology to support humanitarian causes. In 2016, it was selected by the United Nations and other partners as a top global innovation that could address the Sustainable Development Goals and showcased at the Solutions Summit, co-moderated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

We are delighted to welcome Taha to Tech Tonics.

This episode of Tech Tonics was sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Nov 14 2016

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Rank #6: Tech Tonics: Susan Desmond-Hellmann, The Inquisitive Leader

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Her illustrious career has taken her from clinician to biotech executive to university chancellor to CEO of the world’s largest foundation, yet throughout this exceptional journey, Susan Desmond-Hellmann has remained empathetic, inquisitive, and emphatically true to herself.

Growing up in Reno, Nevada as one of seven children, Sue was inspired by her father, a pharmacist, and her mother, a teacher; she said she always wanted to be a doctor, but even so, she could not have predicted the direction and velocity of her subsequent career.

In today’s far-ranging discussion, Sue talks about how she discovered her passion for oncology; her introduction to and involvement in the HIV-AIDS crisis; how she and her husband Nick have supported each other across the ups and downs of their often-overlapping careers; their transition to pharma; her return to academia at UCSF after an exceptional decade and a half in industry; and. now as CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, her perspective on the future of public health — a view that leverages quantitative data and focuses on precision and personalization.

This is a captivating conversation that touches on translational research, executive leadership, and public health, as well as the person behind the success story.  David and I spoke to Sue from her home in Washington State and were thrilled to have her on the show.

Today’s episode is sponsored by IDEA pharma, the industry’s leading path-to-market strategy practice, bring more medicines to patients.  You can find them at:
ideapharma.com.

Show Notes:

This is the commentary about orphan drugs cited by David.

This Forbes column from David asks how to leverage data and analytics (as Sue proposes) without fetishizing them.

Jan 22 2019

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Rank #7: Tech Tonics: Sridhar Iyengar on IoT Meets Life Science Research

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Many entrepreneurs and investors on our podcast advise would-be innovators to focus on the problem to be solved, rather than become wrapped up in a particular technology. “Your solution,” VC Dave McClure famously warned entrepreneurs, “Is not my problem.”

On the other hand, many scientists – and students of science – have emphasized the pivotal role of new technology in driving progress. For instance, legendary biologist Sydney Brenner once described scientific progress as “the interplay of techniques, discoveries, and new ideas – probably in that order.”

Today’s guest, serial entrepreneur Sridhar Iyengar is an example of the second type of innovator, one who is captivated by a particular technology and determined to find a use for it. His passion for signal processing algorithms was a key factor in the success of his first major company, AgaMatrix and also a pivotal driver of his second major company, Misfit Wearables. He’s now started a new, exciting company, Elemental Machines, which he might pitch as “internet of things meets life science research.”

Join us as we discuss Sri’s entrepreneurial journey from Knoxville, Tennessee to Silicon Valley and Cambridge, MA; learn how he first met his long-time collaborator Sonny Vu; and hear how John Sculley (of Apple and Pepsi fame) played a pivotal role in his digital health career.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Jan 02 2017

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Rank #8: Tech Tonics: Daphne Koller – Guiding Health From AI to Actual Intelligence

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While most of us spent our early teens dealing with the drama of middle school, Daphne Koller was in Israel simultaneously completing high school and college. She was a computer science prodigy on the fast path to a career as a leading AI researcher, an entrepreneur, and now the Chief Computing Officer at Calico, a stealthy, brainy, well-funded startup focused on human longevity.

Along the way, Daphne picked up a MacArthur “Genius” Award and co-founded the online teaching company Coursera – two remarkable accomplishments that we don’t have time to discuss on today’s show. Instead, we learn about her fascinating personal journey from Israel to the Bay Area, then spend most of our time getting up to speed on the current state of AI, and learn where, why, and when it’s likely to palpably impact healthcare.

Of particular interest, Daphne discusses the need for folk who are “bilingual” – who deeply understand both AI and healthcare; such domain knowledge, Daphne says, is critically important, and associated with the development of algorithms that perform the best. We discuss the challenge of balancing the benefits of incorporating domain expertise with the concern that in doing so you might introduce your own preconceived biases.

Today’s episode is brought to you by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Dec 04 2017

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Rank #9: Tech Tonics: Speaking Health Care in Spanish with Abner Mason

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The U.S. healthcare system was designed primarily based on our understanding of the biological and social needs of white men. Of course, our current experience tells us that society is far more complex and that the system must recognize and respond to a diversity of gender, culture, language and other biopsychosocial factors to be truly effective.

The fact is, America has become a country made up of many cultures and the fastest growing segment of our country is the Hispanic population, which now represents 17% of Americans. By 2060 it will be nearly 30%. Over 70% of these individuals speak Spanish at home.

An innovator who recognized this as an opportunity very early on is Abner Mason, CEO of telehealth company Consejo Sano. The company serves the healthcare needs of Spanish-speakers through a unique model of clinical access that matches Hispanic clientele in the U.S. with physicians in Mexico who are more accessible, speak their language and are attuned to their cultural differences.

As a black entrepreneur who doesn’t speak Spanish, Abner’s journey to Consejo Sano took him from a small town in North Carolina to the halls of the Massachusetts State Capitol to founding the not-for-profit AIDS Responsibility Project to establishing the first wellness company in Mexico; and then to Consejo Sano – clearly a journey with many twists and turns. We are excited to welcome Abner to Tech Tonics and recognize the importance of what he is doing to serve the Hispanic community.

This episode of Tech Tonics was sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Oct 03 2016

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Rank #10: Tech Tonics: Toyin Ajayi – No Power Suit, But a Powerful Goal to Change Healthcare Delivery

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When she was a kid, Toyin Ajayi’s career goal was to “be the boss of something.” Drawn to power suits and authority, she aspired to become an unspecified boss lady. She may be a boss now, but her authority is well-balanced by a soft side. And Toyin’s path to her current role as Chief Health Officer of CityBlock Health took a route through public health and medicine where the power suit is rarely seen.

Toyin grew up in Kenya and was “raised like a boy” to be independent, outspoken and adventurous, a clear difference from the usual female upbringing in her home culture. She moved to the U.S. to go to Stanford and figure out how to end up in that power suit (or authority hoodie). But instead of taking the startup route that most of her friends pursued after graduating, Toyin rejected the competitive culture of Silicon Valley to launch into public health, first in San Francisco and later, after she got her medical degree, in Sierra Leone.

And yet…Toyin was always drawn to the operational and business side of medicine, and thus she ended up at a startup after all. Joining with her business partner Iyah Romm, they founded CityBlock Health, a for-profit company seeking a scalable way to help marginalized and underserved people get the very best medicine has to offer. She sees her role as a key translator between a bunch of soft and fuzzy clinicians and social workers and a hard core team of technical engineers, all of whom are driven by the the broader healthcare community’s more recent recognition of the importance of social determinants of health. If she gets her way, all of medicine will take a much broader view of patient care and change the prevention paradigm.

Lisa vividly remembers the first time she meet Toyin: as an audience member at the NCQA Quality Talks event where Toyin had the significant crowd enthralled. Her intellect, empathy and authenticity were obvious and remarkable. It quickly became clear that these are the words that everyone who knows Toyin would choose; she is universally loved for her skills as a physician and her humanity in helping those most in need…and for her silly side, which is also in evidence on the show.

We are grateful to GE Ventures for their sponsorship today. GE Ventures – Multiple Paths to Big Impact.

Mar 04 2019

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Rank #11: Tech Tonics: Sam Brasch, A Modern Day Alex P. Keaton at Work

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Born and bred in Mill Valley, California, where we record our podcast, Sam Brasch saw himself as a modern-day Alex P. Keaton – he just wanted to be a business man. He was “that kid” who was reading the Lee Iacocca biography in 4th grade while the other kids played soccer and kickball. Sam got his wish and is today Senior Managing Director of Kaiser Ventures, the corporate venture fund that helps drive innovation for Kaiser Permanente.

In today’s show, Alex, er Sam talks about how the Bay Area changed over his life time and what motivated him to shun his alternative plan to be a Supreme Court Justice or a Senator.

In fact, Sam almost diverted to medical school after his own medical crisis: a serious head injury. Instead of taking that path, he joined a consulting firm and focused on healthcare. As he thought about dream jobs, he considered how to meld his business ambitions with the field of health, first considering leadership at a healthcare system. Sam heard the siren song of eHealth and joined a startup called Medicopia (later named Vitals), his first exposure to entrepreneurship and to the pleasing notion that there didn’t have to be rules about how to solve a problem.

Sam took a tour through Medtronic, then the Wharton Business School seeking his destiny. That destiny arrived on his door in the form of Frazier Ventures, a health care venture firm that “seemed sexy.” Venture clearly still has it, at least in Sam’s eyes, as he has been a venture investor ever since 2005, working in both independent venture funds and corporate funds, including the Kaiser Ventures fund that he now leads.

We are delighted to welcome Sam to Tech Tonics.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring today’s show—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Nov 04 2019

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Rank #12: Tech Tonics: Sometimes You Just Need to Start Things – Marcus Osborne and the Transformational Role of Intrapreneurship

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A capitalist colored by a deep streak of social consciousness, Marcus Osborne, the leader of Health Transformation at Walmart, grew up in the South and planned on a political life.  But experience in the White House and later at the Clinton Foundation made him realize that entrepreneurship more effectively matched his internal clock speed and that the best path to an improved health system was through the commercial world, particularly where you could parlay large platforms into market power and real innovation.

In fact, Marcus came to the conclusion that the real entrepreneurs aren’t the kids in dorms or at Starbucks, they are the ones turning big platforms to better use.  Walmart, Amazon, Google and others, say Marcus, have the best chance to truly change the system.

Marcus joined Walmart in 2007 and has been at the forefront of living that philosophy, working at what is now considered to be one of the organizations best poised to change the way healthcare is consumed, delivered, and financed.  While Arkansas isn’t usually considered to be the front line of innovation, when you look at the work that Walmart has done, particularly in healthcare, it’s clearly time to reconsider.  Marcus has worked on all sides of the healthcare innovation front while at Walmart, from building new clinical delivery systems to rethinking pharmaceutical pricing to looking at new ways to use data for clinical quality improvement.

Marcus says that transformation is not for the faint of heart or the risk averse and that “sometimes you just need to start things,” meaning that it’s important to take leaps of faith to get ahead in business.

We are grateful to GE Ventures for sponsorship of today’s episode. GE Ventures – Multiple Paths to Big Impact.

Aug 20 2018

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Rank #13: Tech Tonics: Deborah Kilpatrick – Calling Audibles

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Deborah Kilpatrick grew up on a family farm in rural Georgia; her dad was a teacher and football coach; she describes life in her town as “very Friday Night Lights.”

With a passion for math and science, Deb decided to becoming a Ramblin’ Wreck at Georgia Tech, continuing on there for a masters and PhD in mechanical engineering after spending a few post-college years working in the aerospace industry building military aircraft engines. She reports that the memory of walking through the hangar past the entirely male team came flooding back when she recently watched the film Hidden Figures.

Eventually, Deb found her way to Silicon Valley, where she helped grow a medical device company (Guidant), and a molecular diagnostics company (CardioDx) before assuming her current and most ambitious role as CEO of Evidation Health, a company focused on defining and demonstrating outcomes in digital health. But as an entrepreneur, Deb draws a straight line between her childhood experience watching her dad build a football program in rural Georgia and her own willingness to start all over again every Monday and play any game and do everything you can do and then do it all over again, while building teams of people from disparate backgrounds to maximize their strengths and point them towards common goals. Rumor has it that it’s tough to work for Deb if you don’t know what “calling an audible” means.

We are delighted to welcome Deborah Kilpatrick, a helluva engineer, to Tech Tonics.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Mar 06 2017

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Rank #14: Tech Tonics: Glen de Vries – A Series Of Quite Fortunate Events

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Glen de Vries grew up in Manhattan, a nerdy kid who admired Richard Feynman, loved his TRS-80, and went to Carnegie Mellon University planning to study chemistry and computer science. A summer of molecular biology inspired him to switch his major to biology and, after graduation, he found himself in a lab at Columbia University trying to help a productive distributed research team organize their data.

The geek in Glen was sure there must be a better way and, in partnership with Tarek Sherif, he co-founded a cloud-based clinical research company, Medidata Solutions, in 1999. Over the last eighteen years Medidata has become a leading player in the clinical trials market; the New York-based company is today worth nearly $4 Billion.

Today we’ll hear from Glen about the series of quite fortunate events that led to Medidata’s formation, the challenges he faced in breaking into a traditional conservative space, and the opportunities he sees at the intersection of precision medicine, digital health, and value based care. Listeners interested in learning more about Glen’s story are encouraged to listen to Glen on Janelle Anderson’s always-insightful Human Proof of Concept podcast.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

May 23 2017

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Rank #15: Tech Tonics: Deneen Vojta – Skating to Where the Healthcare Puck is Going

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Deneen Vojta has played virtually every possible position in the healthcare world. She has at various times been a physician, an entrepreneur and a payer. Today it’s a hat trick, bringing all three of these roles together to bring new clinically valid, evidence-based technologies and services to patients through her current role as Executive Vice President of Enterprise R&D for United Health Group.

Deneen has long been out there ahead of the pack, whether serving as the first female meat slicer at Greenman’s Deli or starting the first direct-to-consumer pediatric and family obesity-prevention technology company long before it was cool. Today she is charged with solving the nation’s biggest healthcare challenges from what is arguably one of the nation’s largest platforms. And skating to where the puck is going is exactly what drives a rabid hockey fan like Deneen.
We are delighted to host Deneen on Tech Tonics today.

We are grateful to our sponsor, AARP Market Innovation. for supporting this episode of Tech Tonics. AARP Market Innovation, which works to spark innovation in the market that will benefit the quality of life for people over 50.

Jun 19 2017

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Rank #16: Tech Tonics: Molly Coye’s 360 View of the Healthcare System

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Dr. Molly Coye comes from a family who was obsessed with innovation and had a high tolerance for risk. They also had a history of commitment to anything that would disrupt unjust social paradigms and passed that down through the generations. Molly has packed all of these qualities and more into a healthcare career marked by making real change, not just talking about it.

In fact, Molly has worked on all sides of the healthcare system. She has spent many years in governmental leadership roles, been on both the payer and provider side of the table, and in both academic and commercial environments. But Molly has had a consistent theme throughout her career – to make healthcare accessible and relevant for underserved populations and to use technology and data to accelerate that outcome. Today Molly is actively engaged with numerous companies serving the underserved populations about which she has long-cared and she is also a 15-year board member of Aetna and an entrepreneur-in-residence at Avia. But mainly she is the healthcare whisperer, helping entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives figure out what actually matters.

Few have the healthcare pedigree that Molly has, with joint public health and medical degrees from Johns Hopkins, and a career that spans health systems such as SF General Hospital, Good Samaritan and UCLA, where she was Chief Innovation Officer; governmental leadership roles such as Commissioner of Health in New Jersey and Director of the California Department of Health and a gig at the CDC in the 1970’s where she was among the first to lug around a massive Osborne portable computer into the field in Asia. She tells a story about the helicopter pilots who ferried her around saying that they “love to see a little lady flying with her sewing machine.” Molly has also been an entrepreneur in the health technology field, first at HealthDesk and then as the founder of HealthTech, which was established in 2000 to help health systems figure out how to deal with rapidly evolving technology. Molly is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine and also serves on the newly created Founder’s Council of United States of Care.

In addition to all this, Molly is a fluent Chinese speaker and has published two books about Chinese history. She also is a member of the board of directors of San Francisco Jazz (SFJAZZ), and has scuba dived all over the world.

We are so thrilled to have Molly on Tech Tonics today!

We are grateful to GE Ventures for sponsorship of today’s episode. GE Ventures: Multiple Paths to Big Impact.

Jul 09 2018

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Rank #17: Tech Tonics: Navigating the Healthcare Highway with Megan Callahan, Lyft’s Head of Healthcare

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When Megan Callahan was growing up, she was supposed to end up in healthcare – she didn’t even know there were alternatives. And she has spent her career and life in and around the field in more ways than she ever expected, as both an executive and a breast cancer patient. What she didn’t foresee was that she would be putting her healthcare skills and experiences to work at a ride-sharing company, driving their navigation of the healthcare highway.

Veering off her original plan to become a physician, Megan got an Masters in Public Health and headed into epidemiology, looking at underserved populations devastated by cancer in the strip-mining town of Pueblo, CO. But seeing that her ability to make a meaningful impact was limited, she headed down a different, more business-oriented path, first at firms like Anderson Consulting and HealthNet, but later finding her way into a pod of people that traveled from startup to startup together. Along the way she learned some great lessons about entrepreneurship but some tough ones about trust, governance, and the pitfalls of poor leadership.

Eventually Megan joined McKesson, working in the health solutions business in strategy and M&A. But in 2014 she learned she had Stage 3b breast cancer and got a front row seat in patient experience, dropping everything to recover and spend as much time as she could with her two young daughters. Fortunately, the story ended well, and McKesson was especially supportive, bringing Megan back after her recovery to design the strategy that led to the formation of Change Healthcare. In effect this was a return to the startup days, albeit one built by transferring assets from a large company and merging them with a small one. Megan stayed through formation of the company, wanting to “land the Change plane” because of a loyalty to her long-time team. She left in 2018 looking for a new adventure. Change Healthcare went public in 2019.

Lyft called Megan out of the blue while she was taking a sabbatical; the company could not have known that Megan’s own cancer experience painfully highlighted the importance of transportation support in healthcare. Megan jumped at the opportunity to combine her own experiences as a patient with her commitment to serving those in need. Moving from traditional healthcare players to Lyft has been characterized by an interesting revelation that being the healthcare voice in a non-healthcare company forces one to leave the jargon behind and frees one to think creatively in ways our traditional system sometime forgets to do.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help its clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Aug 19 2019

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Rank #18: Tech Tonics: Katherine Chou – How A Quintessential Googler Wraps Her (Deep) Mind Around Healthcare

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Katherine Chou is in many ways the quintessential Googler – super smart, a passion for computer science, an engineer through and through. On today’s episode of Tech Tonics, we’ll learn how this rock star at Google decided to turn her talents to healthcare, and hear what she’s discovered about healthcare, and herself, along the way.

The daughter of two aerospace engineers, Katherine had her first computer (a 32 bit Amiga 1000) when she was four, and apparently figured out how to program it not long after that. A whiz kid, she seems to have excelled in most everything in and out of the classroom. She took math and science courses in college while still in high school, while also pursuing piano, ballet, tae kwon do, and Science Olympiad, among other pastimes.

She attended Stanford, where she double-majored in economics and computer science (CS), which she discovered was her true passion. She continued on to a Masters in CS at Stanford, and after an initial role at Microsoft – which she chose because she wanted to manage, and not just code – she joined Google (pre-IPO) in 2004, and has been there ever since, in roles of increasing responsibility. Today, she Head of Product for Health Research and Medical Brain, and closely involved with many of the high profile efforts (such as analyses of retinopathy and of EHR records) that have attracted so much popular attention.

On today’s show, Katherine shares her vision and her passion, as well as the (very structured) approach she’s taken to many of the key choices she’s faced along the way. We are delighted to welcome Katherine to Tech Tonics!

Today’s episode is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Apr 09 2018

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Rank #19: Tech Tonics: Zak Kohane On Medicine and Computers

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The son of Eastern European immigrants, Zak Kohane was born and raised in Switzerland; he then came to the United States where he’s nurtured a passion for medicine and computers to become one of the nation’s leading thinkers, innovators, and mentors at this important and rapidly evolving interface.

Join us this week as we discuss Zak’s fascinating personal journey, but also learn his perspective on why EHRs are so bad (and what might be done to improve them), why data sharing seems to be so difficult (and how it could be made better), why he championed entrepreneurship at Harvard long before it was viewed as a (somewhat) acceptable pursuit, and why he recently founded the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard (where co-host David serves as an Adjunct Scholar).

Zak also discusses the value of great mentors, such as Joe Majzoub and the late Judah Folkman, both of Children’s Hospital, and explore Folkman’s explanation of the difference between persistence and obstinance.

Zak brings a unique blend of technological sophistication and impassioned humanism to everything he pursues; we are delighted he joins us this episode to share this insight and energy with our listeners!

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by DNAnexus, the secure and compliant cloud platform that enables enterprise users to analyze, collaborate around, and integrate massive amounts of genetic and other health data.

Jun 05 2017

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Rank #20: Tech Tonics: Rasu Shrestha – Living Inside the Culture Clash

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Rasu Shrestha, MD, is one of those doctors who found his way from medicine to technology. As he puts it, he rolled downhill from his birthplace in Kathmandu, Nepal, across many continents and into medical school in India. But Rasu kept rolling, finding his way to London, Los Angeles and then Pittsburgh where he now serves as Chief Innovation Officer at UPMC, one of the nation’s largest integrated delivery systems.

According to Rasu a culture clash is playing out in healthcare, specifically a clash between physicians and innovators and the tension between what is known and what is new. Doctors are taught to “go with the evidence-based – the tried, the true the tested.” On the other hand, innovators are taught to do something totally new outside the realm of what is known. The two need to come together. Rasu is calling for a shift in mindset from doing digital to being digital and for a coming together of physicians and innovators towards mutual goals that incorporate design thinking, end user engagement and new ways of understanding each other’s perspectives. Rasu acknowledges that this shift is essential given the role that UPMC plays in defining digital health success stories as both purchaser and one of the nation’s most prolific funders of digital health products and services.

And like many physician-innovators we have interviewed at Tech Tonics, Rasu has a creative side that extends beyond the medical. He is a prolific painter and likes to express himself as much through canvas as code.

We are grateful to AARP for sponsoring this episode of TechTonics. AARP’s Market Innovation team works to spark innovation in the market that will benefit the quality of life for people over the age of 50.

Dec 12 2016

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Tech Tonics: Torrie Fields, The Business of Making Better Memories

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A childhood fraught with illness, loss and uncertainty drove Torrie Fields to an adulthood focused on making these experiences better for others.  Torrie sincerely believes that we are all here for a reason and that her reason to is help people have more dignified, less painful experiences at the end of their lives.

Having learned early in life that you could take nothing for granted and that you really need to show up when things are going in the right direction.  Torrie has parlayed these guiding principles into an accelerated and notable career, culminating in the founding of Votive Health, which she views as a company in the business of making better memories – by that she means, “There is an intimate tie between how you die and how people remember you.” Votive Health is also a company focused on using data and people to help manage the care of patients with serious illnesses.  The company, which is now launching, also works firsthand at the intersection of illness, insurance and employment, which is clearly a critical confluence at this currently challenging time of COVID-19.  Notably, David and I recorded this show well before we knew what was coming on the plague front.  This  show seems particularly relevant now.

Torrie’s early career you focused on emergency preparedness and epidemiology with a special focus on systems design.  This skill set served her well through her time at McKinsey and then later, when she somewhat randomly applied for an actuarial program at Cambia Health Solutions, the parent of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield and several other companies.  The wonderfully kind and very community-minded CEO of Cambia, Mark Ganz, encouraged employees to seek a special project that was meaningful to them – ultimately this led Torrie to found and ultimately lead Cambia’s palliative care program.  She later joined Blue Shield California to start a similar program. She later joined Blue Shield California to start a similar program.

Torrie discusses the challenges at the intersection of palliative care, end of life vs. the traditional medical and insurance systems, where there are no standard definitions of palliative care, few appropriate payment models, bad program packaging and low prioritization.  Given the current COVID-19 environment, perhaps we will see some changes in that.

We loved having Torrie on the show, as despite what can be a dark topic, she is a perennial ray of sunshine.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring today’s episode of Tech Tonics—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full-service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Show Notes: 

  • A  useful article about COVID-19-related advanced care planning from the Kaiser Family Foundation can be found HERE
  • A prior post by Lisa on end of life is HERE.

Apr 06 2020

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Laurie Zephyrin, MD: Public Health as Destiny

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Dr. Laurie Zephyrin was disappointed to learn that a less-than-rock-star voice was going to stand in the way of her career as a singer, but fortunately she locked onto her healthcare destiny in her teens.  A formative moment in high school set Laurie Zephyrin in the direction of public health and she has never looked back. This path has taken her through the White House, the Veterans’ Administration, into tiny villages in Africa and back to New York City.  Through it all, Laurie is  always seeking to drive towards a high-performing healthcare system, and especially one that effectively meet the needs of underserved populations.

Laurie went to medical school and became an OB/Gyn, heavily influenced by Dr. Jack Geiger at CCNY, who was a leader in bringing the concept of community-based care and the importance of human rights and social determinants of health to the fore.

She spent time after as a White House fellow, assigned to the Veterans Administration to assist with the medical impact of Hurricane Katrina, among other things.  After a stint in community practice, Laurie returned to the VA as the first National Director of the Reproductive Health Program, where she had to undertake a major system redesign to transition a program designed to serve male soldiers to one that served all genders well. In 2016-2017, she became Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care, and later Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Community Care, managing a $13B budget in a system that was getting a lot of publicity, not always the good kind.

Along the way Laurie became a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar and then Aspen Institute Health Innovation Fellow (where she met Lisa).  She also earned an M.B.A. and M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University to augment her M.D. degree from the New York University School of Medicine.

Laurie recently left government to broaden her impact on public health through her leadership role at the Commonwealth Fund, one of the first private foundations started by a woman in 1918. It’s a perfect match in many ways, given The Commonwealth Fund’s mission to promote a high-performing health care system and Laurie’s commitment to improving health for all, but especially women.

Tech Tonics is sponsored by Manatt Health, a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Mar 23 2020

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Dr. Lynda Chin – Bringing AI to Medicine Through Infrastructure

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Taking on challenges is nothing new for Dr. Lynda Chin. It started with learning English well enough in a couple of years to graduate valedictorian of her high school, evolved to a distinguished career as a physician-scientist and then full professor at Harvard & the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and ultimately led to her current role as founder and CEO of Apricity, seeking to bring digital technology to improve the care of oncology patients.

Lynda Chin’s family emigrated to the United States from China when she was in high school.  Through determination, and with the help of television (she cites “Starsky and Hutch” as her primary vocabulary inspiration), she taught herself English, graduated at the top of her class, and went to college at Brown University, where she created her own major – neuroscience – and conducted research involving echolocation in bats.

Over time, she became interested in molecular biology, attended medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and continued her training in internal medicine and dermatology, while developing a research program on mouse models of cancer, which she was then recruited to Harvard to pursue.

An unanticipated setback at the lab – a mouse hepatitis virus infection in the mouse facility wiped out her engineered mouse colony, putting much of her research program on hold– led her to focus on the emerging technology of transcriptome profiling at scale.  She adapted it to engineered  mouse tumors for cross-species comparison, and more broadly, to an expertise in translational oncology, which she pursued at both the Broad Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project.  She was particularly proud of the work in building the genomic data analytic pipeline (Firehose) to enable not only access to but use of TCGA data by the broader community.  She rapidly rose through the ranks to the level of full professor, and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine for her research contribution.

Lynda ultimately decided she was ready for the next challenge: she joined MD Anderson Cancer Center with the idea of creating a forward-looking translation-centered department to develop technology and analytic infrastructure to enable Genomic Medicine.  She was also interested in the promise of AI, and helped set up a collaboration with IBM Watson to explore its application in cancer.  This project surfaced important hurdles for effective and responsible application of AI in the healthcare context.

Lynda is now applying these lessons as CEO of Apricity, a digital medicine company seeking to leverage data and AI to close the gap between promising clinical trial outcomes and the often more disappointing results in real-world care.  She is also championing the importance of pragmatic implementation of AI and other technologies in medicine, a focus of an upcoming conference she is leading in Boston (David is also on the organizing committee).

Tech Tonics is sponsored by Manatt Health, a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Show notes:

David’s recent Wall Street Journal review of Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy here.

“AI and Big Data In Cancer: From Innovation To Impact” Conference, March 29-31 in Boston, more here.

Mar 09 2020

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Tech Tonics: Seth Feuerstein – Behavioral Health Entrepreneur Before It Was Cool

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Seth Feuerstein’s grandfather was a physician and his parents were both attorneys, so naturally his parents thought he would become…a comedian!  While that didn’t come to be, he did end up as both a doctor and a lawyer who practiced neither discipline full time.  Instead, Seth combined his skill sets to serially create new behavioral health companies that make a real difference.

Always deeply influenced by following his grandfather, an old fashioned family doctor  who went to patients’ homes on the lower east side of New York.  Seth reports remembering how important understanding the family dynamic was and how understanding each person’s personal circumstances was essential to treating them effectively.  He went to college at Cornell and followed that by enrolling in a joint medical school/law school program at NYU that was essentially a program of his own creation. In fact, being the pioneering co-creator of this joint degree program was not his first entrepreneurial experience – Seth had a custom t-shirt business and a baseball card business in his early years; the innovation gene ran deep.

As an aspiring MD psychiatrist and a JD, Seth spent his early career working at the nexus of these fields  – in forensics working for the medical examiner.  When he got his your first full time medical job, as an internal medicine doctor in New Haven, he quickly figured out that he was not meant to be a full time doctor.  He also realized he had a penchant for business that he leveraged into a Yale fellowship in new venture creation, working with the technology transfer office.  He then joined the venture world and had a lucky first win with Histometrics, his first board and formal business experience.

He was soon appointed CEO of Carigent a nano-particle delivery company, but that did not go as planned, in part due to the financial crisis and in part due to his own health crisis.  As a doctor and a lawyer, Seth was misdiagnosed, mistreated, dealt with major healthcare system hassles, and did not have training he needed to engage with his kids about his diagnosis. He realized that there was great opportunity, as well, in engaging around the behavioral health needs of those undergoing care for serious and terminal conditions.  But despite the death sentence that he had been given, Seth was eventually relieved to find that he would recover.  He and his wife, Sharon, started a non-profit, Little Wonder, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of patients suffering from cancer by providing them tickets to local concerts, family entertainment, live theater, and sporting events.

But soon Seth was back to scratching the for-profit entrepreneurial itch, starting Cobalt Therapeutics in 2009, a digital Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) company that was before its time.  Cobalt was acquired by Magellan Health fours later, and Seth became the company’s chief innovation officer.  He remained there until he decided it was time, again, to start something new.

Seth’s latest venture is Oui Therapeutics, a digital therapeutics company focused on treating suicidality.  That company, Oui Therapeutics, is early stage but eager to address this horrific public health challenge. According to Seth, digital therapeutics will thrive as a sector because software can bring patients and clinicians together and refocus the relationship on the right things better handled between patient and computer.  Essentially he sees software as a way to optimize the patient-clinician relationship, enabling the clinician to work at the top of their license and giving the patient the ability to engage in treatment on more flexible terms.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring TechTonics—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

You can donate to Little Wonder.org 

Feb 17 2020

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Tech Tonics: Sean Khozin, Attuned To Data Science

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After escaping the revolution in Iran, Sean Khozin found his way to the United States, harmonizing his passion for patients and data into a career that’s led him into startups, the FDA, and most recently J&J, where he’s now Global Head of Data Strategy – all while pursuing his love of music.

The phrase “it’s complicated” tends to be overused, but it hardly seems to do justice to Sean’s journey.  Sean was born in Tehran, a son sandwiched between two daughters.  Life for Sean’s family changed after the Revolution; the arrest of his dad, a political scientist, suggested it might be a good time to emigrate, which the entire family eventually did.  Sean, while in high school, initially went to live with relatives in Turkey, then came to the United States, where his family reunited in Maryland.   Sean completed high school in the US, and attended the University of Maryland, studying neurobiology and music theory, and traveling extensively on the side to NYC to pursue his passion for music composition and performance (especially classical guitar).

After a pre-doctoral fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and obtaining an MPH, Sean went to medical school, but was surprised by how unscientific so much of medicine was as compared to science.  After receiving his MD, he took at detour into entrepreneurship for several years, before being seduced back into medicine, completing a fellowship in oncology at the NCI, drawn by the promise he could pursue sophisticated analytics, inspired by the intellectual activity that was occurring in DC at the time, in particular the work of Todd Park and Aneesh Chopra.

After his fellowship, Sean transitioned to the FDA, where he developed and championed the “INFORMED” initiative, which he’s described as “an incubator for driving innovations in agile technology, digital health, and data science to advance public health.”  Late last year, Sean left DC for J&J, where he’s now head of data science strategy, and has the chance to work with some of the smartest and most decent people in the industry, including J&J’s head of R&D Mathai Mammen, (an MD/PhD classmate of David’s).

Tech Tonics is grateful to Manatt Health for its sponsorship of the show.  Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Feb 03 2020

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Tech Tonics: Matthew De Silva, CEO & Founder of Notable Labs

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Matthew De Silva was a macro finance guy working for Peter Thiel’s hedge fund, Clarium Capital, when a family illness profoundly changed the course of his career, leading him to found Notable Labs, a Bay Area startup that aspires to identify better treatments for patients.

Matthew had a busy childhood.  Born in Ontario, Canada, his family moved to the U.S. when he was three.  The family lived in seven states over the course of Matthew’s childhood, as it followed the career progression of his father, a marketing director at an oil and gas pump company.

Besides playing a mean trombone, Matthew was interested in history and economics; he started college at Purdue but an evolving interest in finance and a quant orientation led him to transfer to Cornell (notably closer to Wall Street), and from there, to Peter Thiel’s hedge fund, Clarium Capital, known for its contrarian approach to investing.

Matthew notes that one of the most contrarian things he’s done is get married at the age of 21 to his high school sweetheart; he became a dad a few years later – but tragically, the same year, his dad received a devastating diagnosis of brain cancer.  While Matthew focused all his efforts and analytic expertise on trying to find a promising approach for his father, his dad ultimately passed away from the terrible disease.  The experience motivated Matthew to found a startup, Notable Labs, which aims to identify and accelerate promising therapeutic approaches for cancer by studying and analyzing the behavior of cancer cells from patients.

Notably, the company has recently been named to Fast Company’s Inaugural List of the 50 Best Workplaces for Innovators alongside such notable companies as Amazon, Chobani and P&G.

We’re grateful to Matthew for joining us on Tech Tonics, and sharing his experiences, including some really difficult ones, so candidly and so generously.

Tech Tonics is graciously sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Jan 20 2020

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Tech Tonics: Nancy Schlichting, Always Unconventional

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Many people have heard of Nancy Schlichting, as she has been part of the fabric of the U.S. healthcare system for nearly 40 years. She has built a long and amazing career as someone who takes chances, makes unconventional choices and leads with her conscience. While her path to success wasn’t always easy, she learned pretty quickly that “courage is the very best lever for professional success.”

Nancy knew early on that she wanted to be involved in the medical world. She couldn’t stand the sight of blood, so went down the administrative, rather than medical path, studying hospital administration at Cornell. She rapidly moved up the hospital management career path, but was stopped short, albeit briefly, in 1993 when she was chief operating officer of Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, and readying for her next move upwards. Instead, her CEO and the board of trustees received an anonymous letter saying in essence, “Congratulations on hiring a lesbian to run your hospital.” She didn’t get that promotion as planned, but she didn’t let it stand in the way of her success.

Ultimately Nancy took over the CEO role at Henry Ford Health System in 2003. While she got to be the captain, the ship itself it was a bit of a disaster, listing severely from its incurred debt and the lackluster clinical quality it was delivering. Undaunted, Nancy led the system through an incredible turn-around which rapidly resulted in profitability and soon after in the receipt of the Malcolm Baldridge award for quality. Nancy stayed at Henry Ford for 17 years, but despite the demands of that role, she found time to sit on over 80 public and private boards, and to play a major role in the revitalization of the downtown Detroit. She also served on President Obama’s Commision on Care, charged with understanding and improving the way that the Veteran’s Administration’s delivers care. She also, in 2015, authored a book called Unconventional Leadership, based on her experiences being a very outside the box leader at healthcare organizations of different stripes.

After many years of health system leadership, Nancy now continues to bring her style of leadership to the many organizations on which she serves on the Board, including Walgreens/Boots Alliance, Hill-Rom Corp., The Kresge Foundation, Duke University Health System, and Encompass Health. She is always thinking about how organizations can continue to get better and frequently serves as the ethical voice in the room, such as she did when she resigned her Board role at Michigan State as a result of the lack of transparency she perceived in the University’s handling of the Larry Nasser case.

In this episode of TechTonics, Nancy talks about her background, her coming out story, and also her views on the future of health systems and the role of technology in changing their forward trajectory. She also admits to being just a little over-competitive when it comes to golf.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring TechTonics—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Jan 06 2020

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Tech Tonics: Jim Manzi, Pragmatic Analytics For Business

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A physics and math wonk from MIT, Jim Manzi figured out early in his career that he loved the application of pragmatic, quantitative approaches to solve pesky real-world business problems, including today, challenges faced by life science and healthcare organizations.

Jim’s early life sounds like a Springsteen song, and indeed, he grew up less than 10 feet from E street in Belmar, NJ, where Spingsteen’s band originally practiced and from which it took it’s name.  He was good in school but didn’t like it, teaching himself algebra over one summer so he could take a more advanced course in high school.  Even so, he quit in 11th grade, and applied to and got accepted at MIT, and started studying there when he was just 16. This is where Jim diverges from the Springsteen narrative.

Jim loved MIT and thrived there, then started a PhD program at Wharton but soon decided he preferred solving “messy, real-world problems” to pursuing the academic life.  He eventually found his way to strategy consulting, which he pursued at a firm that pursued this domain in a particularly quantitative fashion.  His passion later led him to start his own company, Applied Predictive Technology (APT)– that helped businesses make decisions by conducting well thought out, randomized controlled experiments in the real world business setting — how best to display food in a supermarket, for example.

Jim also explored the intellectual framework for this in a must-read book, Uncontrolled, that not only talks about the value of empirical studies but also discusses the danger of overgeneralizing in the policy setting on the basis of limited data. His rational view of topics from health policy to the environment are a welcome breath of fresh air, deeply rooted in science, yet appropriately cautious about extrapolating results beyond limits of the data, independent of what might be politically attractive or expedient.

Jim eventually sold APT, and more recently started a new company called foundry.ai, which seeks to apply AI to real-world business problems, including healthcare, as he discusses with us on today’s podcast (which David has also written about in his Astounding HealthTech column at The Timmerman Reporthere).

Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Dec 16 2019

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Tech Tonics: Jason Lehmbeck of SpecialX – Empathy as a Service

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Like many entrepreneurs, he was born with the itch. Jason Lehmbeck grew up around his father and grandfather, both entrepreneurs in their own areas of expertise– dad was a geologist who worked with the mining industry and grandpa had a butcher shop.  He knew that his destiny was to be “one of those guys who ran a business and was his own boss.”

Jason has effectively fulfilled that promise more than once.  Today, Jason is CEO of SpecialX, a company bringing life-changing information and services to kids with disabilities of all kinds and their families.

SpecialX is the perfect mix of pragmatism and compassion, reflecting Jason’s two primary personality characteristics.  But while he is up to his elbows in the healthcare system now, he was one of those tech guys before and had a long career in internet advertising before he ever gave a second thought to the healthcare world.  Jason started both successful and less successful endeavors, starting his first business while in college and capping his technology-focused career with the successful sale of his last one, DataPop, to a French company.

Now he is taking his serial entrepreneur chops and delivering on a personal promise he made to himself to leverage his business skills to do good, not just to do well.  Like many who cross over from tech to healthcare, Jason’s own family experience gave him the impetus to take action. As the parent of a child with a disability (a complex genetic disease called Fox-G1) found out the hard way how difficult it is for families to navigate the world of resources to help his child. Given the complexity, misaligned incentives and broken markets he experienced first-hand, Jason realized there was a serious opportunity to make a difference.

As he tested his theory by speaking to hundreds of families struggling with similar situations, Jason knew a market opportunity when he saw one.  Together with his business partner from DataPop, the pair is in the process of a beta launch of SpecialX, which has the mission to help parents navigate and better collaborate with in-school and beyond-school resources for their children with special needs while at the same time building a community among families to enable peer-to-peer support.   The first market is the Los Angeles area where Jason resides, but his goal is to take the initiative nationwide and to build a large and profitable business, as he has done before. Think EaaS: Empathy as a Service.

While Jason has turned his experience into an emerging company that may just change the dynamics of what it means to be a family supporting a child with disabilities, he is also a fellow podcaster, co-hosting the show “Who Lives Like This” with Elizabeth Aquino, to tell the stories of caregivers of disabled children and their families.

What a pleasure to have Jason on our show today!

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring today’s show—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

And remember to leave a positive review on iTunes if you enjoy the show!

References:

Two books Jason recommends to have a better understanding about kids with disabilities and their families:  Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon and Not What I Expected by Dr. Rita Eichenstein

Who Lives Like This podcast

Dec 02 2019

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Tech Tonics: Shami Feinglass – Doctor, Policy-Maker, BMX rider

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Shamiram “Shami” Feinglass, MD, MPH, should have been a born again flower child.  She spent her childhood among the San Francisco royalty that defined the 60’s and 70’s rock and roll culture here in the City by the Bay.  Her single mom raised her while helping found the legendary Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, which was Shami’s first exposure to medicine.   One of her mom’s best friend was the legendary concert promoter Bill Graham and she grew up thinking nothing of hanging out at Santana’s birthday party or having Passover at Delancey Street or celebrating at Glide Memorial Church.

But Shami didn’t end up as a perennial Berkeley protestor in Birkenstocks – she had higher aspirations to be a ballerina or a doctor.  In a way she got both – she is doctor by day and dances for fun.  She is also currently Global Head of Medical and Government Affairs at Danaher Corp., one one of the nation’s biggest companies you never heard of. Danaher is ranked 160th on the Fortune 500 and has over $19 billion in revenue. Shami is a key leader in the company’s extensive diagnostics and life sciences businesses. Oh, and by the way, she also happens to be a nationally and internationally ranked BMX bike racer, holding a Maryland BMX State Championship spot and an active member of the USA BMX World Championship Team.

At this point you should realize: Shami does nothing halfway.

Shami’s path from backstage groupie to front stage leader took a path through medicine and particularly through the world of government and public policy.  She helped Rosalyn Carter think through mental health policy during her own studies at Emory and was a Commander in the US Public Health Service.  She was later a Senior Medical Officer at CMS, working with fellow Tech Tonics podcast guest Tanisha Carino, where she helped drive adoption and implementation of the newly rising concept of evidence-based policy.  All this while raising a family of two kids, completing two medical residencies, being named a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar, and serving as a mentor to women in the medical and life sciences fields.

For the record, Shami, like Lisa, is an Aspen Institute Health Innovation Fellow and both attended the same 1983 Day on the Green concert, though they did not yet know they were bound to be friends.

Shami’s godfather, legendary Bay Area chef Narsai David, was the one who gave her the name Shamiram, not one that is easily found on bike license plates.  Legend has it that Shamiram was an Assyrian Queen who actually invented the library, even though a man, Hannibal, later got credit for it.  Shami has taken that inequity to heart and wholeheartedly committed to ensuring gender equality and equity in the workplace.  She prides herself on being someone who loves to dive into things that scare her, though it’s hard to imagine what might make that list.

Nov 20 2019

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Tech Tonics: Sam Brasch, A Modern Day Alex P. Keaton at Work

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Born and bred in Mill Valley, California, where we record our podcast, Sam Brasch saw himself as a modern-day Alex P. Keaton – he just wanted to be a business man. He was “that kid” who was reading the Lee Iacocca biography in 4th grade while the other kids played soccer and kickball. Sam got his wish and is today Senior Managing Director of Kaiser Ventures, the corporate venture fund that helps drive innovation for Kaiser Permanente.

In today’s show, Alex, er Sam talks about how the Bay Area changed over his life time and what motivated him to shun his alternative plan to be a Supreme Court Justice or a Senator.

In fact, Sam almost diverted to medical school after his own medical crisis: a serious head injury. Instead of taking that path, he joined a consulting firm and focused on healthcare. As he thought about dream jobs, he considered how to meld his business ambitions with the field of health, first considering leadership at a healthcare system. Sam heard the siren song of eHealth and joined a startup called Medicopia (later named Vitals), his first exposure to entrepreneurship and to the pleasing notion that there didn’t have to be rules about how to solve a problem.

Sam took a tour through Medtronic, then the Wharton Business School seeking his destiny. That destiny arrived on his door in the form of Frazier Ventures, a health care venture firm that “seemed sexy.” Venture clearly still has it, at least in Sam’s eyes, as he has been a venture investor ever since 2005, working in both independent venture funds and corporate funds, including the Kaiser Ventures fund that he now leads.

We are delighted to welcome Sam to Tech Tonics.

We are grateful to Manatt Health for sponsoring today’s show—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Nov 04 2019

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Tech Tonics: Kari Nadeau, Where Curiosity Meets Compassion

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Stanford professor Kari Nadeau lives the life, some would say the dream, of what Judah Folkman has called the inquisitive physician, integrating her deep knowledge of chemistry, her experience in biotech drug development, and her clinical acumen and deeply-felt compassion for patients to bring the best of medicine and science to children and adults with food allergies.

Kari was born in New Hampshire and raised in New Jersey, at least in part on a houseboat, as her dad worked for the EPA.  An inspirational chemistry teacher in high school motivated her interest in this discipline.  After majoring in biology at Haverford, she returned to chemistry for the research component of her MD/PhD training, conducting her graduate work in the laboratory of distinguished Harvard chemist Chris Walsh (whose daughter, Allison, a brilliant oncologist at Stanford, we recently featured on Tech Tonics, here).  Kari describes Chris as a remarkable mentor, keenly interested in translating science into application, and in appropriately collaborating with industry to achieve this goal.

After initially intending to train in pediatric oncology, Kari found herself drawn to  clinical and translational research at Biogen in Boston.  A sick relative on her husband’s side prompted the family to move to the Bay Area to be closer to them and further prompted Kari to realize she missed clinical medicine.  After retraining as an allergist and immunologist, she continued pursuing translational work at Stanford, where she’s now a global leader in the study of food allergies.

We had a fantastically inspiring conversation, and are so glad she was able to join us on the show!

Tech Tonics is sponsored by Manatt Health, a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Show notes:

David’s Forbes piece on Range, the captivating book he was gushing about at the top of the show (here).

New York Times profile of Kari (“The Allergy Buster”) (here).

Website for the Sean N Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research at Stanford, which Kari directs.

Recent FDA recommendation to approve the first medicine to ameliorate a food allergy (peanut) – discussed in this NPR piece.

Oct 21 2019

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Tech Tonics: David Altshuler, Physician-Scientist In Pursuit Of The New

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David Altshuler was living the academic dream as professor and human geneticist at Harvard and MIT, where he was co-founder and Deputy Director of the Broad Institute.  Yet in December 2014, he left this life to join Vertex, in continued pursuit of his translational vision.

Born in upstate New York, David moved to the Boston area when he was a toddler and hasn’t looked back (nor beyond the 617).  The son of a professor and an educator, David was inherently scholarly, attending MIT where he first experienced research in the lab of gene therapy pioneer Richard Mulligan, on the legendary third floor of the Whitehead Institute.

David saw enough of research to convince himself he wanted to pursue clinical medicine, and then, while in medical school at Harvard, he saw enough to convince himself he wanted to pursue biomedical research as well, so he pursued a joint MD/PhD.  His PhD research resulted in what he describes as an exciting scientific result that didn’t fit neatly in an established framework, so it received scant attention – an observation that led to a fascinating conversation about incremental vs disruptive research on the podcast, and inspired this blog post from Lisa.

Ultimately, David found his passion and his calling in human genetics, working initially for and then subsequently in partnership with legendary scientist Eric Lander, with whom David helped co-found the transformational Broad Institute, and served as Deputy Director.  Interestingly this decision in the mid 1990’s to work on the human genetics of polygenic, common diseases (vs monogenic, rare diseases, say) was viewed by many well-intended mentors as committing “career suicide.”  Good thing he persisted.

More recently, David made another brave decision, leaving a comfortable and distinguished academic career to become a senior pharma R&D executive, serving as Executive VP of R&D at Vertex.  We are so thrilled not only that David joined us on today’s show, but that he was so generous about sharing the complexities and uncertainties of his journey, and the key choices along the way.  We’re sure you will be captivated as well!

This podcast is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Podcast Notes:

The captivating book about the scientific process David references is Discovering, by Robert Root-Bernstein, available from Amazon here.

Luke Timmerman “Long Run” interview with Janelle Anderson, discussed on podcast, here.

David’s Forbes piece on cell engineering, focusing on company Janelle helped found; here.

Oct 07 2019

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Tech Tonics: Tanisha Carino

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Tanisha Carino’s family fled from the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Phillipines and settled in what she still believes to be the sweetest of homes: Alabama. As she travelled through young adulthood she had her first awareness that many Americans live on the fringe, desperately needing both healthcare and social services.  Since then Tanisha has spent her career in healthcare seeking to strike the perfect balance between being an expert and being a leader.  In so doing, she is always looking for new ways to balance the concepts of cost and caring for the most vulnerable to best define the true essence of rational decision-making in our healthcare system.

Tanisha’s career has been guided by her family’s commitment to sacrifice and helping others, always asking herself, “what can I do that might be different and helpful to others?” From her first interaction with the healthcare system, as an intern at AID Atlanta  through her roles in healthcare consulting at Avalere, pharma operations at GlaxoSmithKline and now at FasterCures  she is ever on the hunt for ways to bring pragmatism and emphathy to her work.  A constant theme through Tanisha’s journey has been how to align payment with value, recognizing that what we decide to value through reimbursement policy directly drives the research and  development pathways of the future.

In her current role, Tanisha focuses on creative partnership models between industry, government and academia with a goal to optimize the implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act and on models of venture philanthropy that will speed new cures to patients, – particularly new therapeutics for rare diseases that industry elects not to develop because they lack of a large target market.She’s also known to try a little karaoke now and then, favoring Madonna’s Dress Me Up when it’s her turn to sing.  We asked Tanisha what the healthcare systems’ karoke song would be; her response: Winner Takes it All.  At least for now.
We are delighted to welcome our friend Tanisha to Tech Tonics!

We are grateful to our sponsor, Manatt Health.  Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Sep 23 2019

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Tech Tonics: Glenn Pierce, All In

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Physician, scientist, patient, advocate: Glenn Pierce inhabits all four roles, and seems the physical embodiment of the translational impulse, driven by his own experiences coping with severe hemophilia to advance the science – and the policy – he hopes will eventually cure this condition for patients across the globe.

While other kids enjoyed carefree childhoods, Glenn spent much of his early years in the hospital, recovering from bleeding episodes associated with the hemophilia A with which he was born. From this experience was born a passion to cure hemophilia, a commitment he memorialized in writing when he was ten, during one of the many hospital stays.

Glenn, a native of Cleveland, attended college at Case Western, and stayed at Case for his MD/PhD, then went to Washington University in St. Louis for additional training in laboratory medicine and hematology, though he explicitly steered clear of hemophilia professionally, thinking at the time this might be uncomfortably close to home; on the side, however, he volunteered for hemophilia organizations, and became increasingly involved with the community.

After a series of industry roles with increasing responsibility, Glenn decided he wanted to unite his personal and professional passions, and started to work at the interface, leveraging his deep personal commitment and an increasingly large team of experts; in a sense, he became a hemophilia entrepreneur, working with his selected colleagues to drive the science forward in a range of companies that would include Bayer and Biogen.

Today, Glenn drives innovation as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Third Rock Ventures, where he’s foundationally involved with companies such as the liver-focused Ambys Medicines (note: David’s firm, TVI, is an investor). He is also actively involved with the World Federation of Hemophilia, as he seeks to improve the lives of patients with hemophilia around the globe.

We are delighted to welcome Glenn to Tech Tonics!

Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help its clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Sep 09 2019

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Tech Tonics: Navigating the Healthcare Highway with Megan Callahan, Lyft’s Head of Healthcare

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When Megan Callahan was growing up, she was supposed to end up in healthcare – she didn’t even know there were alternatives. And she has spent her career and life in and around the field in more ways than she ever expected, as both an executive and a breast cancer patient. What she didn’t foresee was that she would be putting her healthcare skills and experiences to work at a ride-sharing company, driving their navigation of the healthcare highway.

Veering off her original plan to become a physician, Megan got an Masters in Public Health and headed into epidemiology, looking at underserved populations devastated by cancer in the strip-mining town of Pueblo, CO. But seeing that her ability to make a meaningful impact was limited, she headed down a different, more business-oriented path, first at firms like Anderson Consulting and HealthNet, but later finding her way into a pod of people that traveled from startup to startup together. Along the way she learned some great lessons about entrepreneurship but some tough ones about trust, governance, and the pitfalls of poor leadership.

Eventually Megan joined McKesson, working in the health solutions business in strategy and M&A. But in 2014 she learned she had Stage 3b breast cancer and got a front row seat in patient experience, dropping everything to recover and spend as much time as she could with her two young daughters. Fortunately, the story ended well, and McKesson was especially supportive, bringing Megan back after her recovery to design the strategy that led to the formation of Change Healthcare. In effect this was a return to the startup days, albeit one built by transferring assets from a large company and merging them with a small one. Megan stayed through formation of the company, wanting to “land the Change plane” because of a loyalty to her long-time team. She left in 2018 looking for a new adventure. Change Healthcare went public in 2019.

Lyft called Megan out of the blue while she was taking a sabbatical; the company could not have known that Megan’s own cancer experience painfully highlighted the importance of transportation support in healthcare. Megan jumped at the opportunity to combine her own experiences as a patient with her commitment to serving those in need. Moving from traditional healthcare players to Lyft has been characterized by an interesting revelation that being the healthcare voice in a non-healthcare company forces one to leave the jargon behind and frees one to think creatively in ways our traditional system sometime forgets to do.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help its clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Aug 19 2019

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Tech Tonics: Chris Gibson, Free Range Innovator

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With confidence he attributes to his free-range childhood, Chris Gibson has followed his instincts and his heart, stepping away from the MD/PhD program in which he’s enrolled to co-found and lead Recursion Pharmaceuticals, one of the buzziest companies bringing AI to drug development. In mid-July, Recursion closed a $121M Series C, bringing their valuation ever closer to unicorn status.

Chris grew up in Portland, the son of a tech entrepreneur and an artist, and as a child was permitted a degree of independence that seems vanishingly rare. He went to college at Rice, pursuing both bioengineering and business management. At Rice, he also met his future wife, who then attended medical school in San Antonio; Chris followed, initially pursuing a PhD in tissue engineering, then joining the MD/PhD program. His wife then elected to continue her training in neurogenetics in Salt Lake City; Chris soon joined her in Utah, talking his way into the MD/PhD program at the University of Utah, and joining the lab of noted physician-scientist Dean Li.

Ultimately, it was in thinking through a failed experiment that he and Li came up with the idea for Recursion Pharma, a company that starts with the premise that biology is “massively complex.” They realized that in order to have a chance to understand biology at the level needed for most novel therapeutic interventions, you need to operate at a very large scale and remove human bias to the extent possible, generating highly reproducible data through the aggressive use of automation and imaging, analyzed through the lens of machine learning.

Founded in 2013, Recursion has not only raised significant capital, but it has also attracted a cadre of talented drug developers and sophisticated technologists. The company, based in Salt Lake City, now has over 150 employees, and continues to grow rapidly. In today’s show, Chris describes his vision for the company, but also his anxieties as a founder boldly pushing forward into largely uncharted waters.

We are delighted to welcome Chris to Tech Tonics!

Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help its clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Aug 05 2019

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Tech Tonics: Sumit Nagpal, At the Crossroads of Tech and Healthcare

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Sumit Nagpal was born to a pair of healthcare entrepreneurs and raised in Kashmir, India.  When he was 13, he came to the United States where he saw diversity for the first time.  Sumit followed his parents into the Ivy League, starting at Brown, but left to follow his muse, Steve Jobs, at NeXT, where he worked side by side with Jobs for over two years.  He continues to look at technology as a key driver of innovation, this time in healthcare, now from his recently accepted role as SVP and General Manager of Health Innovation for Comcast.

Sumit has been a serial entrepreneur between these two tech company gigs, starting The Method Factory, WellLogic, LumiraDx and two other enterprises, still in stealth. If Sumit has learned one thing during his entrepreneurial trek, it is this: Follow the Money. As he says, “Improvements won’t occur just because it’s the right thing to do.”

An impassioned golfer, Sumit says there are many lessons for entrepreneurs in the game, “One has to take lots of swings to get a tiny focused ball to a remote target.  Focus, clarity of mind, practice and persistence are everything.”

We are grateful to Manatt Health for its sponsorship of Tech Tonics—Manatt Health is a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm with a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help our clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Jul 22 2019

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Tech Tonics: Imran Haque, Grounded Data Scientist

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A computational biologist by training, Imran Haque has managed to achieve the near-impossible: embracing the promise of data science in medicine while retaining his critical faculties.  He may well be just the sort of innovator required at the intersection of medicine and big data.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Imran says he grew up in the sort of environment where his father, an electrical engineer, didn’t think twice, when Imran was in elementary school, about giving him a book about how to code – which he immediately devoured.

Imran went to college at Berkeley (go Bears!), where he majored in electrical engineering and computer science, and developed an interest in computational biology.  He pursued this in graduate school in computer science at Stanford, where he was advised by such luminaries as computational biologist Vijay Pande (now a VC) and AI wizard Daphne Koller (a previous Tech Tonics guest, and the founder of insitro).

Imran subsequently has forged the path at the intersection of biology and analytics, assuming roles of increasing prominence at Counsyl (focused on carrier screening) and Freenome (early identification of cancer).  In these roles he developed a reputation for rigorous and critical thinking, arguing that data suggest screening couples for many rare diseases represents a sensible idea, while screening healthy people for very early stage cancers by looking for circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) may run up against physical limitations, namely the lack of a single disease molecule in the typical volume of blood sampled.

In addition, as David has written in Forbes (see here, also here), Imran is excited about the opportunities associated with data and analytics in biology, but is wary about the seductive false positives powerful techniques tend to generate.

Join us today for a captivating conversation from the untamed frontier of analytics in medicine and drug discovery.

Today’s show is sponsored by IDEA pharma, the industry’s leading path-to-market strategy practice, bringing more great medicines to patients.  You can find them at:
ideapharma.com.

Jul 08 2019

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Tech Tonics: Zoe Barry, Driving Entrepreneurship from the Fast Lane

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When Zoe Barry was a kid, she had two things she wanted to be when she grew up, either a veterinarian or “someone who writes checks.” She gave the first a shot and ended up settling on the second.  Today she is CEO of ZappRx and a shining example of how drive and intellect can overcome adversity.

Zoe had a bit of a rough start in life, after a difficult divorce left she and her family surviving on food stamps and struggling to get by.  But she had a mother who survived and ultimately thrived while holding the family together, and it was this role model who taught Zoe the importance of risk-taking, how to squeeze a dollar out of a nickel, and led to her mild obsession with check books.

Zoe’s original career hypothesis was that she should be a veterinarian. She even had a stint in Alaska helping to rehabilitate bald eagles and other birds of prey, but ultimately couldn’t see herself in a role that created such fear among the animals, as she observed in the field.  She did stints on Wall Street both before and after Alaska, but found hedge fund executives even scarier than wild animals.  Zoe’s stint as a babysitter for Jonathan Bush’s kids led her to a new field, human healthcare, where she learned the basics at Athena Health and rapidly identified a problem worth founding a company to solve: ensuring people with serious medical challenges got ready access to the specialty drugs they desperately need.  Thus ZappRx was born.

Along the way Zoe has experienced the hard lessons that female executives often face on the fundraising trail and consistently observed that male CEOs got better deals than female ones.  To cope, she developed a two-fold strategy to beat the usual suspects at their own game. The first step was becoming an active angel investor targeting opportunities in emerging women-led startups.  The second was triggered by the emerging trend of VCs taking their portfolio CEOs race car driving. Zoe threw herself into mastering the sport, becoming an expert Mazda Global Cup race car driver who can drive run circles around the amateurs.  With a clear double-meaning, Zoe says, “As a CEO, you have to throw yourself into the fast lane and never look back.”  Zoe is now mentoring other women race car drivers and aspiring entrepreneurs through her ZappRx founders’ associate program.

We are revved up to feature Zoe on Tech Tonics.

And a special note:  after we taped this episode, Zoe completed the sale of ZappRx to Allscripts.

We are grateful to GE Ventures for their sponsorship today. GE Ventures – Multiple Paths to Big Impact.

Jun 24 2019

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iTunes Ratings

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Staying up to speed on health tech at the gym was never so fun!

By lagomer11 - May 12 2019
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I’ve been a long time listener of this incredibly informative and humorous podcast. It always cuts through the hype (of which there is plenty) and offers a pragmatic perspective on what is really happening in the health tech industry (the good, the bad and the ugly). A must listen for health tech entrepreneurs who want to learn from past industry mistakes. Thank you, David and Lisa!

Insightful, entertaining and actionable

By J. Barshop - Dec 11 2018
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As the Healthcare industry continues to rapidly evolve, Lisa, David and their amazing guests give listeners an unfair advantage when it comes to staying ahead of the curve. I feel completely at home here - bowled over by brilliant advice and nourishing conversations - and can confidently say that I walk away from each episode with a nugget of gold. Highly recommend listening and subscribing to Tech Tonics - keep up the great work guys!