• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

For Precision Well being Tech Firm LifeOmic, Assistive Know-how Means Constructing Accessible Datasets


Mar 17, 2023

Dr. Don Brown is founder and CEO of LifeOmic.


For Dr. Don Brown, accessible tech means extra accessible knowledge.

Dr. Brown is founder and chief govt of LifeOmic, a digital well being firm whose focus is on constructing infrastructure and the underpinnings of well being tech. LifeOmic describes itself on its web site as being “laser-focused on driving probably the most progressive precision well being expertise ahead to resolve healthcare’s most advanced challenges.” Put merely, meaning making advanced knowledge units extra accessible to folks within the business corresponding to suppliers, researchers, and enterprises. The large image thought is clear: extra accessible knowledge for professionals results in higher, extra environment friendly take care of sufferers when it comes to the precise observe of drugs. After all, higher and extra environment friendly care is definitely interesting to disabled folks.

LifeOmic got here into existence after Dr. Brown devoted a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a earlier firm, a software program agency known as Interactive Intelligence, in 2016. In an interview earlier this month through electronic mail, he defined the explanation for LifeOmic was to “remedy an issue vexing the healthcare system generally and most cancers remedy particularly—the intense problem in utilizing the big ‘omics’ knowledge units that had been displaying such large promise.” (As Wikipedia explains, omics is the colloquial time period within the scientific world for “numerous disciplines in biology whose names finish within the suffix -omics, corresponding to genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics, phenomics and transcriptomics.”)

“I began LifeOmic harboring the vanity {that a} small firm might soar in and make a distinction in healthcare,” Dr. Brown mentioned of founding the corporate.

When requested about his firm’s raison d’être, Dr. Brown mentioned it’s about knowledge.

“A tragic irony is that whereas we are able to now generate big quantities of information able to personalizing medical care, our healthcare establishments are woefully ill-equipped to utilize it,” he mentioned of the healthcare business’s downside in managing massive datasets. “In 2001, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen paid one thing like $100M to have his whole genome sequenced. As we speak, you and I can try this for lower than $1,000. And it’s trying like we are able to quickly drop a type of zeros. Together with that exponential lower in the price of sequencing, there was an explosion in our understanding of what these three billion DNA letters really imply. LifeOmic crawls public databases all over the world each night time and has compiled an inventory of over 55 billion variations (known as variants) of our roughly 20,000 genes and their associations with numerous illnesses.”

Dr. Brown additional defined a complete genome sequence is about 100GB value of information, which fashionable digital medical file methods weren’t designed to accommodate. They had been created, he mentioned, for insurance coverage functions—basically, for facilitating reimbursements. They weren’t created with an eye fixed for affected person care, not to mention the “type of ‘precision drugs’ made potential by these superb scientific breakthroughs,” Dr. Brown mentioned. An apparent inform, he added, is in most cancers analysis. On this situation, there are two sequences: the affected person’s and that of the illness.

“With that data, we are able to establish the particular mutations [changes] which are driving the most cancers,” Dr. Brown mentioned. “The thrilling factor is that armed with that information, we are able to continuously administer extremely focused therapies as a substitute of counting on old-school chemotherapy that simply kills no matter strikes.”

The LifeOmic crew labored with physicians and researchers on the Indiana Faculty of Drugs in constructing a cloud-based platform able to manipulating these gargantuan datasets and, extra importantly, making them usable to folks. The work proved so profitable, it rapidly transitioned from the medical analysis stage to the day-to-day remedy of advanced most cancers instances at Indiana College Well being.

Seeing his work change into so profitable so rapidly had a profound impact on Dr. Brown, motivating him to do extra, to maintain pushing LifeOmic ahead.

“I’m extremely proud to say oncologists have used our expertise to establish actionable mutations and corresponding therapies for instances beforehand thought of hopeless. These are the tales that drive our crew of software program engineers, knowledge scientists, geneticists, and physicians,” he mentioned. “Alongside the way in which, we indulged in a aspect venture that took off in an surprising method. Throughout my research at Johns Hopkins, I turned fascinated with a course of known as hormesis. It’s this unusual idea that many kinds of stress—so long as they don’t go too far—really make us more healthy. Whether or not the stress is because of lack of meals, bodily exertion, warmth, chilly, or altitude, our our bodies have this superb skill to deal and ensure we’re prepared for worse. It seems the measures our our bodies take to take care of these stresses cut back our danger of nearly each continual illness, from diabetes to most cancers.”

Nevertheless wildly profitable, Dr. Brown realized all this potential needed to be instantly linked to sufferers in some way. To that finish, his crew constructed an app that physicians can suggest to folks with a purpose to higher talk with them and, crucially, collect pertinent data. As well as, the crew created what Dr. Brown described as a “flip book-style” software that helps in writing and delivering affected person training supplies. Each instruments finally are assistive applied sciences—simply not within the classical sense that birthed this column, however accessibility nonetheless.

“This turned one other firehose of knowledge that we might mix with the omics knowledge units I discussed beforehand to achieve a real-time understanding of what was occurring in a affected person’s physique… I feel between the cloud platform and the affected person engagement instruments, LifeOmic has probably the most full end-to-end healthcare knowledge administration resolution on this planet,” Dr. Brown mentioned.

At a macro stage, the work by Dr. Brown and his firm is about serving to establish and stop catastrophic sicknesses like most cancers. He’s optimistic in regards to the developments in medical tech, particularly relating to genetics, in serving to docs perceive how illnesses like most cancers manifest and tips on how to greatest deal with it. Most cancers, Dr. Brown mentioned, is simply the tip of the proverbial iceberg; the concentrate on DNA has wide-ranging applicability, from neurology to cardiology to endocrinology and plenty of extra disciplines. “Our purpose is to permit researchers and clinicians to tame these big knowledge units and use them to assist sufferers stop illness,” he mentioned. “And naturally, to information clinicians in making the most of this data to personalize remedy when illnesses like most cancers and Alzheimer’s finally develop.”

What LifeOmic is doing is a microcosm of the exercise within the business at massive, with Dr. Brown telling me state governments are “actively inspecting methods to leverage the potential of precision drugs on the inhabitants stage to learn hundreds of thousands of individuals.” The identical is occurring elsewhere on this planet; Dr. Brown added the UK is already speaking about sequencing a baby’s genome at beginning after which inspecting how that knowledge would possibly affect healthcare plans all through the particular person’s life. “That’s the place all of that is going. It has been superb to look at the convergence of knowledge expertise and healthcare. With cloud-based platforms, it’s now potential to combination all of the health-related knowledge talked about above for every affected person,” Dr. Brown mentioned. “The following step is to make this data actionable and understandable to each clinicians and sufferers. Given the sheer scale of the information, the one technique to accomplish that is by means of automation.”

He continued: “Harried human physicians hardly have time to scan by means of the digital medical file earlier than seeing a affected person right this moment. They don’t have any hope of with the ability to comprehend the gigabytes of knowledge in a complete genome sequence a lot much less to determine tips on how to make use of it in medical observe. Giant-scale knowledge aggregation platforms such because the one we’ve constructed are the entry ticket to this courageous new world. However the potential is huge. Most excitingly, it affords the chance to carry customized care to individuals who at the moment don’t have entry to physicians and different well being professionals.”

Wanting in the direction of the longer term, the purpose for Dr. Brown is to maintain the momentum. As talked about, he began LifeOmic with hopes he might, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, make a dent within the healthcare universe. Thus far so good, however seeing as how technological progress is an immutable power, the target is to maneuver with it.

“It’s been gratifying to see that hope [transforming healthcare] realized in advanced most cancers instances. Now the purpose is to broaden use of our expertise to assist healthcare professionals of all sorts tailor their suggestions and therapies to the distinctive wants of particular person sufferers,” Dr. Brown mentioned. “If we view the wants of the sphere as a pyramid, the cloud platform is the very base. Cell-based affected person engagement is the next layer. Subsequent up the stack are the graphical visualizations and analytic instruments we’ve added for researchers, however the greatest problem is to make this expertise accessible to non-experts: main care physicians, dietitians, bodily therapists, and sufferers themselves. We intend to deal with this problem with decision-support instruments that leverage AI to make particular suggestions. That is all going to occur. It’s as much as your entire discipline to chop by means of the jungle of the [country’s] healthcare system to attain broad adoption and notice the big potential. Researchers of the kind I wished to be have paved the way in which. It’s as much as the remainder of us to stroll it.”

Observe me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Take a look at my web site. 

Steven is a contract tech journalist protecting accessibility and assistive applied sciences, and is predicated in San Francisco. His work has appeared in such locations as The Verge, TechCrunch, and Macworld. He’s additionally appeared on podcasts, NPR, and tv. 

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