Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

Dr. Don Brown is founder and CEO of LifeOmic.


For Dr. Don Brown, accessible tech signifies additional accessible information.

Dr. Brown is founder and chief executive of LifeOmic, a digital wellness enterprise whose concentrate is on developing infrastructure and the underpinnings of wellness tech. LifeOmic describes itself on its web page as becoming “laser-focused on driving the most revolutionary precision wellness technologies forward to resolve healthcare’s most complicated challenges.” Place merely, that signifies producing complicated information sets additional accessible to men and women in the sector such as providers, researchers, and enterprises. The large image notion is clear: additional accessible information for experts leads to greater, additional effective care for sufferers in terms of the actual practice of medicine. Of course, greater and additional effective care is absolutely attractive to disabled men and women.

LifeOmic came into existence following Dr. Brown devoted a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a earlier enterprise, a software program firm known as Interactive Intelligence, in 2016. In an interview earlier this month by way of e-mail, he explained the cause for LifeOmic was to “solve a dilemma vexing the healthcare method in basic and cancer therapy in particular—the intense difficulty in working with the gigantic ‘omics’ information sets that have been displaying such tremendous guarantee.” (As Wikipedia explains, omics is the colloquial term in the scientific globe for “various disciplines in biology whose names finish in the suffix -omics, such as genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, metagenomics, phenomics and transcriptomics.”)

“I began LifeOmic harboring the conceit that a tiny enterprise could jump in and make a distinction in healthcare,” Dr. Brown stated of founding the enterprise.

When asked about his company’s raison d’être, Dr. Brown stated it is about information.

“A sad irony is that whilst we can now produce substantial amounts of information capable of personalizing health-related care, our healthcare institutions are woefully ill-equipped to make use of it,” he stated of the healthcare industry’s dilemma in managing significant datasets. “In 2001, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen paid some thing like $100M to have his complete genome sequenced. Nowadays, you and I can do that for significantly less than $1,000. And it is seeking like we can quickly drop 1 of these zeros. Along with that exponential reduce in the expense of sequencing, there has been an explosion in our understanding of what these 3 billion DNA letters in fact imply. LifeOmic crawls public databases about the globe each and every evening and has compiled a list of more than 55 billion versions (known as variants) of our roughly 20,000 genes and their associations with different ailments.”

Dr. Brown additional explained an complete genome sequence is about 100GB worth of information, which contemporary electronic health-related record systems weren’t created to accommodate. They have been made, he stated, for insurance coverage purposes—essentially, for facilitating reimbursements. They weren’t made with an eye for patient care, let alone the “sort of ‘precision medicine’ created probable by these wonderful scientific breakthroughs,” Dr. Brown stated. An clear inform, he added, is in cancer analysis. In this situation, there are two sequences: the patient’s and that of the illness.

“With that information and facts, we can recognize the distinct mutations [changes] that are driving the cancer,” Dr. Brown stated. “The thrilling issue is that armed with that know-how, we can often administer extremely targeted therapies rather of relying on old-college chemotherapy that just kills what ever moves.”

The LifeOmic group worked with physicians and researchers at the Indiana College of Medicine in developing a cloud-primarily based platform capable of manipulating these gargantuan datasets and, additional importantly, producing them usable to men and women. The operate proved so profitable, it speedily transitioned from the clinical analysis stage to the day-to-day remedy of complicated cancer situations at Indiana University Wellness.

Seeing his operate come to be so profitable so speedily had a profound impact on Dr. Brown, motivating him to do additional, to retain pushing LifeOmic forward.

“I’m extremely proud to say oncologists have utilised our technologies to recognize actionable mutations and corresponding therapies for situations previously regarded as hopeless. These are the stories that drive our group of software program engineers, information scientists, geneticists, and physicians,” he stated. “Along the way, we indulged in a side project that took off in an unexpected way. In the course of my research at Johns Hopkins, I became fascinated with a approach known as hormesis. It is this strange idea that numerous forms of stress—as extended as they do not go as well far—actually make us healthier. No matter whether the anxiety is due to lack of meals, physical exertion, heat, cold, or altitude, our bodies have this wonderful capability to deal and make positive we’re prepared for worse. It turns out the measures our bodies take to deal with these stresses minimize our threat of just about each and every chronic illness, from diabetes to cancer.”

Even so wildly profitable, Dr. Brown realized all this possible had to be straight connected to sufferers somehow. To that finish, his group constructed an app that physicians can advise to men and women in order to greater communicate with them and, crucially, collect pertinent information and facts. In addition, the group made what Dr. Brown described as a “flip book-style” tool that assists in writing and delivering patient education supplies. Each tools eventually are assistive technologies—just not in the classical sense that birthed this column, but accessibility nonetheless.

“This became an additional firehose of information and facts that we could combine with the omics information sets I talked about previously to acquire a genuine-time understanding of what was taking place in a patient’s body… I assume among the cloud platform and the patient engagement tools, LifeOmic has the most comprehensive finish-to-finish healthcare information management answer in the globe,” Dr. Brown stated.

At a macro level, the operate by Dr. Brown and his enterprise is about assisting recognize and avert catastrophic illnesses like cancer. He’s optimistic about the advancements in health-related tech, especially when it comes to genetics, in assisting medical doctors realize how ailments like cancer manifest and how to most effective treat it. Cancer, Dr. Brown stated, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg the concentrate on DNA has wide-ranging applicability, from neurology to cardiology to endocrinology and numerous additional disciplines. “Our target is to enable researchers and clinicians to tame these substantial information sets and use them to assistance sufferers avert illness,” he stated. “And of course, to guide clinicians in taking benefit of this information and facts to personalize remedy when ailments like cancer and Alzheimer’s eventually create.”

What LifeOmic is carrying out is a microcosm of the activity in the sector at significant, with Dr. Brown telling me state governments are “actively examining methods to leverage the possible of precision medicine at the population level to advantage millions of men and women.” The identical is taking place elsewhere in the globe Dr. Brown added the United Kingdom is currently speaking about sequencing a child’s genome at birth and then examining how that information could influence healthcare plans all through the person’s life. “That’s exactly where all of this is going. It has been wonderful to watch the convergence of information and facts technologies and healthcare. With cloud-primarily based platforms, it is now probable to aggregate all the wellness-associated information talked about above for every single patient,” Dr. Brown stated. “The subsequent step is to make this information and facts actionable and comprehensible to each clinicians and sufferers. Offered the sheer scale of the information, the only way to achieve this is by means of automation.”

He continued: “Harried human physicians hardly have time to scan by means of the electronic health-related record ahead of seeing a patient currently. They have no hope of becoming capable to comprehend the gigabytes of information and facts in a complete genome sequence a great deal significantly less to figure out how to make use of it in clinical practice. Significant-scale information aggregation platforms such as the 1 we’ve constructed are the entry ticket to this brave new globe. But the possible is enormous. Most excitingly, it presents the chance to bring customized care to men and women who at present do not have access to physicians and other wellness experts.”

Seeking towards the future, the target for Dr. Brown is to retain the momentum. As talked about, he began LifeOmic with hopes he could, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, make a dent in the healthcare universe. So far so superior, but seeing as how technological progress is an immutable force, the objective is to move with it.

“It’s been gratifying to see that hope [transforming healthcare] realized in complicated cancer situations. Now the target is to expand use of our technologies to assistance healthcare experts of all forms tailor their suggestions and therapies to the exclusive requirements of person sufferers,” Dr. Brown stated. “If we view the requirements of the field as a pyramid, the cloud platform is the really base. Mobile-primarily based patient engagement is the following layer. Subsequent up the stack are the graphical visualizations and analytic tools we’ve added for researchers, but the most significant challenge is to make this technologies offered to non-specialists: main care physicians, dietitians, physical therapists, and sufferers themselves. We intend to address this challenge with choice-assistance tools that leverage AI to make distinct suggestions. This is all going to come about. It is up to the complete field to reduce by means of the jungle of the [country’s] healthcare method to reach broad adoption and recognize the huge possible. Researchers of the sort I wanted to be have paved the way. It is up to the rest of us to stroll it.”

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Steven is a freelance tech journalist covering accessibility and assistive technologies, and is primarily based in San Francisco. His operate has appeared in such areas as The Verge, TechCrunch, and Macworld. He’s also appeared on podcasts, NPR, and tv. 

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