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Tech Tonics

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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

56 Ratings
Average Ratings
54
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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

56 Ratings
Average Ratings
54
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 Feb 17, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 3 days ago

Rank #1: Tech Tonics: Merck’s Robert Plenge on Human Biology and Social Media

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For years, medical research seemed focused on understanding disease processes primarily through model organisms such as yeast, flies, and mice. Today’s guest, Merck’s Robert Plenge, offers the radical suggestion that with the help of emerging technology “humans serve as the best model organism for understanding human health and disease.”

As a physician-scientist, trained as a clinical rheumatologist and geneticist, Robert conducted research at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and served as an Associate Member of the Broad Institute, before joining Merck in 2013. Still based in Boston, he’s now Vice President and Head of Translational Medicine at Merck. He also writes a popular, personal blog related to translational medicine, and is active on twitter (@rplenge).

On today’s program we ask Robert how he’s managed to maintain an active social media presence while working for big pharma. We also discuss his transition from academic medicine to industry and, most importantly, learn how he’s applying his passion for “causal human biology” to turn data into drugs.

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 30 2016

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Rank #2: 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 #3: 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 #4: 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 #5: 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 #6: 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 #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: Jody Holtzman of AARP – Innovation is Not Only for the Young

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Jody Holtzman, Senior Vice President of Market Innovation at AARP, has a favorite quote, which is Thomas Edison’s, “…there are no rules here – – we’re trying to accomplish something.” He has certainly brought that idea to life as he has built an ever-increasing awareness of the business opportunity afforded to entrepreneurs by serving the over-50 demographic.

Jody’s original plan was to be a rock guitarist and he had a near-miss with the band that later became Kiss, but when push came to shove, he traded the big hair for big ideas. He has worked on economic development programs for developing nations, international environmental policy and now, ways of ensuring that people live their best lives as they age.

At AARP, Jody and his team have built an incredible movement among the entrepreneurial community to design for the longevity economy, aka, older adults. First looked at with raised eyebrows (as in, “why are you guys here? this is young person’s tech revolution”), this group has contributed massively to raising awareness of the need, opportunity and unique requirements of those entering the second half of their lives.

Join us as we discuss Jody’s evolution from rock and roll rabblerouser to vocal innovation advocate for the over-50 crowd.

This episode of Tech Tonics is sponsored by AARP Market Innovation, which works to spark innovation in the market that will benefit the quality of life for people over 50. This group is also the producer of Innovation@50+, an event showcasing the newest innovations in healthcare and financial services.

Oct 17 2016

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Rank #9: 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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Rank #10: 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 #11: Tech Tonics: The Intersection of Medicine and Marijuana

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Reports suggest that today there are between 1.2 to 2.6 million legal medical marijuana users in the U.S. But as we know, there is great controversy about medical marijuana as a “legitimate” medical intervention due to its history as an illegal substance and the lack of a large body of clinical trial evidence.

And yet, according to Pamela Hadfield, co-founder of HelloMD, cannabis is actually one of the single biggest healthcare disruptors out there today. It is not only becoming increasingly serious business, but it is being taken seriously as a viable form of medicine in many quarters, even it though it remains somewhat marginalized in some quarters.

Pamela Hadfield has, by many measures, had a traditional path through the tech world. She has been a successful pioneer in 3D animation, virtual reality and user experience all the way back to the early 1990’s. She and her HelloMD co-founder, husband Mark Hadfield, have been part of numerous tech successes and started this company as a continuation of that effort, this time in the telemedicine area. But along the way, they realized the real opportunity was not telemedicine per se, but the legitimization of medical marijuana and the ability to serve patients who had found no other solutions to their medical challenges. A controversial topic to be sure, but one we are not afraid to tackle here on Tech Tonics!

In this episode, Pamela talks about how the cannabis industry is changing medicine and, interestingly, how working in this field can affect friendships and acceptance in the entrepreneurial community, not to mention what you tell your children at the dinner table.

We’re 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.

Feb 20 2017

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Rank #12: 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 #13: 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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Rank #14: 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 #15: 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 #16: 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 #17: 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 #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: Karen Hong, Turning Grad School Pain To VC Gain

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In graduate school, Karen Hong’s dream of becoming a biologist crashed into the inconvenient reality that she couldn’t stand working in the lab. Undaunted, Karen, pivoted into venture capital, and hasn’t looked back.

As befits a future geneticist, Karen chose her own genes extremely wisely: her dad was a legendary wunderkind in Taiwan who had come to the US to pursue grad school at CalTech; her mom, also exceptionally bright, had come to the US to pursue a PhD in Chinese literature at the University of Washington.  After a bit of moving around, they settled in the Bay Area where Karen’s father became a silicon valley tech entrepreneur (who also ran a chicken restaurant in Gilroy on the side).  Karen proudly notes that her dad never took a dollar of venture money for his entrepreneurial endeavors – which is amusing since Karen and her younger sister Nancy both eventually became VCs.

After contemplating journalism (like Lisa) at Berkeley (Go Bears!) but majoring in chemistry (unlike Lisa), Karen went on to graduate school in biology at MIT (where she overlapped with David)  where she loved the coursework and was inspired by the faculty. But she soon discovered that while she was really admired the scientist… who ran the lab she selected at the Whitehead Institute (a relatively unknown early-career geneticist at the time named Eric Lander, who would go on to found the Broad Institute), she realized she couldn’t stand the actual experience of working in the lab – a “soul-crushing” experience with which David (and, one imagines, others) could viscerally relate.

With her characteristic candor and humor, Karen discusses both the lows of graduate school as well as her journey into venture capital, including the pivotal role of an exceptional mentor, Jean George, and some of the challenges she encountered and overcame along the way to her present role: a Boston-based partner at Novo Ventures.

We are delighted to welcome Karen to Tech Tonics. Today’s show — the 100th episode of Tech Tonics! — is sponsored by Medidata: Medidata – the Intelligent Platform for Life Sciences that closes the loop between clinical development and commercialization to power smarter treatments and healthier people.

Jun 10 2019

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Rank #20: 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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