Trumpcare needlessly cedes US leadership in data, science, and health
Over the past two years, as the Chief Data Scientist for the U.S., I’ve had the opportunity to look over the horizon and see what’s coming in advancements to medicine. First off, I couldn’t be more bullish. The costs of genetic testing continues to drop and is increasingly used to address diseases like cancer. We also now have a wide array of new sensors to understand the impact of our environments both around us (e.g., air quality) and inside us (e.g., our microbiome). These combined with with advancements of data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) have laid the foundation to revolutionize how we treat disease.
Adrian Aoun is one of a small but growing group of serial entrepreneurs tackling massive societal “hair balls” through the structure of an ambitious startup. Elon Musk wants to solve energy and transportation, Max Ventilla is taking on education, Jeff Huber’s wants to cure cancer. Aoun’s mission? To reinvent the doctor’s office — specifically, primary care doctors known as “general practitioners” — the front line of our healthcare system.
GPs are under pressure — our insurance-driven system forces them to see more and more patients, and know less and less about them. Forward, Aoun’s new startup, aims to address this problem with sophisticated technology and a new approach to patient-doctor information systems. He spoke at NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, below is a transcript of his remarks, edited for clarity, as well as the short video presentation.
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.
Kara Goldin Founder & CEO, hint, Inc., had a feeling diet soda was not helping her. She was right.
One of the most interesting sessions at the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year featured speakers who took on massive, established consumer packaged goods categories like food, beverages, or grooming (see our conversation with Michael Dubin of Dollar Shave Club, for example). In this short clip, watch Kara Goldin, the founder of hint water, explain how she came to build the fastest growing company in her category. Below is the talk, and a transcript edited for clarity.
Kara Goldin: What Bill (Kanarick, CMO of Sapient and moderator of the session), was saying in terms of the consumer was really where I saw myself years ago, that I was a changing consumer. A consumer that really was beginning to become more aware, not just of myself, but also of many of the consumer products that I was eating and drinking.
The CEO of Twist Bioscience on why writable DNA will change just about everything
Continuing our exploration of health-related companies that are fundamentally shifting our understanding of the industry, meet Emily Leproust, the Parisian founder of Twist Bioscience. An industrial chemist with a PhD in bioscience, Leproust and her team are reimagining industrial processes using nature’s most powerful mechanisms. The results are stunning: replacements for oil-based products, spider silk at scale, and a new kind of digital storage that lasts for generations. Below is Leproust’s presentation at NewCo Shift Forum, and a transcript, edited for clarity.
Emily Leproust: I learned English in Texas, but I didn’t pick up the accent.
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.”
Meet two moonshot companies trying to make fundamental change
Honor and Forward are not your typical Valley startups — they’re both attempting to reinvent healthcare, and they’re both run by serial entrepreneurs who have absolutely no prior experience in health. At the NewCo Shift Forum earlier this year, Seth Sternberg (Honor) and Adrian Aoun (Forward) presented their companies and then sat down to discuss their shared goal of thinking care delivery across the United States. Below is their short conversation, with a text transcript edited for clarity.
Adrian Aoun: When you think of health care today, health care is fundamentally a labour based business, right? And so why does health care costs go up every year?
After leading the team that saved healthcare.gov, Andy Slavitt took the reins of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Trump didn’t invite him back, but NewCo Shift Forum did.
Take one look at Andy Slavitt’s Twitter feed, and you’d think he was still running the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, the federal agency responsible for our government’s trillion-dollar healthcare budget. But Slavitt left when Trump showed up — and since then, healthcare has moved from political football to existential conundrum. Slavitt’s a man on a mission — he’s deeply aware of the intricacies, politics, and human costs of getting healthcare policy right, and he’s mad as hell about where things are headed under the Trump administration. We brought him to the NewCo Shift Forum just two weeks after Trump took office. Below is the video and transcript of his conversation with Dr. Jordan Shlain — edited for clarity.
Jordan Shlain: We’re going to have a little chat with Andy Slavitt. Andy, why don’t you come on up?