By Caitlin Kramer, Research Analyst, LSN
RESI X featured the arrival of a new panel session – Big Data in Healthcare. If you were unable to attend, you will have another opportunity to hear insights from investors and influencers in the space at RESI SF on January 10th.
The panel, available for your viewing below, was moderated by Nicole Fisher (Founder & CEO, HHR Strategies) and featured the thoughts and experiences of:
- Alex De Winter, Director, GE Ventures
- Allyson Plosko, Sector Manager – Healthcare, Village Capital Investments (VilCap)
- Annie Hazlehurst, Founder, Faridan
- Dylan Morris, Investment Team, Innovation Endeavors
- Linda Pan, Program Director, Partnerships & Solutions, IBM Watson Ecosystem
Each discussed the unique approaches their firms take toward evaluating big data and software investment opportunities, how they partner with and shape start-up growth, and how the healthcare system landscape is (or is not) shifting to enable a realization of the big data vision.
A unique angle toward the healthcare system and policy was brought to the table by moderator Nicole Fisher, who works on Capitol Hill as a senior healthcare policy advisor, Forbes’ Contributor, and Founder and CEO of HHR Strategies.
At many points throughout the panel discussion, the conversation trended toward how data can improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. Emerging technologies blending healthcare, science, and data do not enter the same marketplace as other generalist tech software; instead they must interface with provider systems and policies in ways that are new and different from the existing therapeutic and device sectors. Morris gave an illustrative example of the “noise” created by this new relationship: he and his primary care physician ordered genetic tests, and faced with interpreting the 24 pages of results realized “neither of us are cardio-geneticists, so now what?” While the technologies advanced by new companies may provide actionable information, the health system will ultimately play a central role in their utilization and continued innovation in the space.
Entrepreneurs need to know that technology itself frequently takes a back seat to other aspects of a company. Getting blunt, de Winter shared: “The way investors think is driven by fear and greed. You want to think about how your idea specifically addresses the greed part of that equation.” Morris, an entrepreneur himself, had to transition away from his natural enthusiasm for the underlying science of a company when he began his career in venture capital. “The order of operations in the way we look at a company is market, then team, then the product, and then finally technology”, he said.
There is consensus that teams are central to accomplishing a company’s goals. Hazlehurst describes how oftentimes a company’s goal is to “translate science into software”. She goes on, “It’s a fun and challenging problem because the lifestyle and culture between the people building in these different domains is very different, and getting everyone you need working together is more than just a technical problem.” Deep and practical expertise in life sciences and software engineering are indeed vastly separate, and teams need to effectively coordinate internally and externally with strategics to formulate long-term visions.
With regard to the technology, two main aspects of big data technologies were touched upon: algorithms and data. Entrepreneurs may be surprised to learn that IP around algorithms is not a core focus of potential investors. Algorithms will change and evolve in response to higher quality or increased data. Therefore, a more important focus is access to high quality proprietary data through partnerships or through its generation as part of the platform. “We have now over 300 million individual patient records spanning 5-10 years, but that’s not enough and we still crave more”, said Pan.
Wearables, which continuously record certain metrics for individuals, inevitably enter conversations about health data. Their true utility to big data applications in healthcare is still unclear, although it is clear that in many respects they empower individuals to better understand and track their daily habits. Creating a distinction, and if necessary a distance, between digital health trends and rigorously validated data acquisition is important to avoiding hype cycles and fostering continued innovation in the field.
How we can ultimately arrive at the vision shared by entrepreneurs, investors, established companies, and individuals is explored in moderator Nicole Fisher’s recently authored whitepaper “The Digital Medicine Crystal Ball: Unlocking the Future of Real-Time, Precise, Effective, Healthcare”, published by EBD Group last month: “It is time we agree on defining and refining the meaning of digital medicine, particularly as it pertains to the toys versus the tools that will usher in a new age of healthcare. This will determine how the proper tools can lead to the most efficient and effective R&D process, strengthen the patient-physician relationship, and simultaneously enable individuals to become the CEO of their own health.”1
Life Science Nation is proud to have hosted these thoughtful and influential individuals and the firms they represent, as well as the many inspiring entrepreneurs doing the heavy lifting to champion their technologies. Said Hazlehurst, “One of the beauties of investing in early stage companies is that you’re waiting for the day an entrepreneur is going to walk through your door and pitch you on something that’s really unique and disruptive.” To our life science entrepreneurs in the audience: get out there and do it. Many, like LSN, are here to help.
- Fisher, Nicole. The Digital Medicine Crystal Ball: Unlocking the Future of Real-Time, Precise, Effective, Healthcare. Publication. Carlsbad: EBD Group, 2016. 4.