After short presentations from each (all linked in the following names), Jeff Huber, CEO of Grail Bio, Emily Leproust, CEO of Twist Bioscience, and Jill Hagenkord, Chief Medical Officer of Color Genomics, sat down with moderator Dr. Jordan Shlain for a quick panel conversation. Each represents a core portion of the DNA/Biogenetics revolution: Color is focused on cancer risk detection, Grail on cancer diagnosis at the DNA level, and Twist is focused on the creation of personalized medicine based on that diagnosis (among other things). For the full experience, watch each panelist’s presentation, then catch the video below, or read the transcript, edited for clarity.
Jordan Shlain: Earlier we talked about consumerization, insurance, and the healthcare system. We don’t have a healthcare system. It’s a bunch of patches. It’s like a quilt of patches that all try to fix some other flaw.
One of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever read came from Jeff Huber, CEO of Grail Bio (you can read it here). In it he talks about the loss of his wife to cancer, and his frantic search for a cure while she was still alive. Her legacy lives on through Huber’s work at Grail, where he and his team are working to scale a personalized approach to the diagnosis phase of cancer treatment. He returns to that story, and explains Grail’s approach, in this short video from the NewCo Shift Forum. Watch below, or read the text, edited for clarity.
Jeff Huber: Hi. I am Jeff Huber. I’m the founding CEO of Grail. Grail’s mission is to detect cancer early when it can be cured. We’ll talk a little bit more maybe of the background or the arc of how Grail got to today, and then where we’re going from here. My background is at Google, and that’s material to Grail’s mission.
By routing around insurance companies and going direct, Color Genomics wants to help everyone get the health data they need
Continuing our focus on innovative health companies that are changing the game in their industry, earlier this year at Shift Forum we heard from Jill Hagenkord, Chief Medical Officer at Color Genomics, a preventative genetic testing startup. Hagenkord was drawn to Color because of its mission — to bring vital and potentially life saving information to health consumers who previously were left in the dark due to our bureaucratic “sick-care” system, which focuses only on addressing illness, instead of preventing it. Below is Hagenkord’s presentation, along with a transcript, edited for clarity.
Jill Hagenkord: Hi, thanks to Shift for the opportunity to speak here and to represent Color. My background is as a board certified pathologist. I did two fellowships after that, one in molecular-genetic pathology and the other in pathology-oncology-informatics. My Chairman said to me, “Jill, why don’t you do a real fellowship. You’re never going to get a real job.” And I lucked out. I was training myself to do precision medicine before we had the phrase “precision medicine.”
Massive data problems plus massive markets mean a big opportunity for companies like Color Genomics
Health care is a multi-trillion dollar market awash in data, but thanks to regulatory and political sclerosis, it’s been a difficult sector for NewCos to gain a foothold. But that hasn’t stopped a new wave of startups from trying, and perhaps the most interesting are focusing on the intersection of genomics, lethal disease, and preventative testing. We covered Grail Bio last year, and for this week’s Shift Dialogs, we speak with Elad Gil, a co-founder of Color Genomics, which like Grail is working on new approaches to battling cancer. And as Gil explains in our interview, there’s far more potential for Color’s services than just cancer detection — as genomic testing costs scale toward zero, the potential for saving lives scales up. Below is the interview in both video and text, edited for length and clarity.
John Battelle: Welcome, Elad. To start, what’s Color Genomics founding mythology? How did you and your co-founders come up with this idea?