March 26, 2023 4:09 pm

Dr. Don Brown is founder and CEO of LifeOmic.


For Dr. Don Brown, accessible tech implies a lot more accessible information.

Dr. Brown is founder and chief executive of LifeOmic, a digital well being corporation whose concentrate is on developing infrastructure and the underpinnings of well being tech. LifeOmic describes itself on its internet site as becoming “laser-focused on driving the most revolutionary precision well being technologies forward to resolve healthcare’s most complicated challenges.” Place just, that implies producing complicated information sets a lot more accessible to folks in the sector such as providers, researchers, and enterprises. The huge image notion is clear: a lot more accessible information for specialists leads to much better, a lot more effective care for sufferers in terms of the actual practice of medicine. Of course, much better and a lot more effective care is undoubtedly attractive to disabled folks.

LifeOmic came into existence just after Dr. Brown committed a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a earlier corporation, a computer software firm known as Interactive Intelligence, in 2016. In an interview earlier this month through e mail, he explained the cause for LifeOmic was to “solve a challenge vexing the healthcare method in basic and cancer therapy in particular—the intense difficulty in making use of 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 compact corporation could jump in and make a distinction in healthcare,” Dr. Brown stated of founding the corporation.

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

“A sad irony is that when we can now create substantial amounts of information capable of personalizing healthcare care, our healthcare institutions are woefully ill-equipped to make use of it,” he stated of the healthcare industry’s challenge in managing substantial datasets. “In 2001, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen paid anything like $100M to have his complete genome sequenced. Currently, you and I can do that for much less than $1,000. And it is searching like we can quickly drop one particular of these zeros. Along with that exponential lower in the expense of sequencing, there has been an explosion in our understanding of what these 3 billion DNA letters truly imply. LifeOmic crawls public databases about the globe every single 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 healthcare 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 feasible by these wonderful scientific breakthroughs,” Dr. Brown stated. An clear inform, he added, is in cancer study. In this situation, there are two sequences: the patient’s and that of the illness.

“With that data, we can determine the precise mutations [changes] that are driving the cancer,” Dr. Brown stated. “The fascinating issue is that armed with that understanding, we can regularly 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, a lot more importantly, producing them usable to folks. The perform proved so thriving, it immediately transitioned from the clinical study stage to the day-to-day remedy of complicated cancer situations at Indiana University Wellness.

Seeing his perform grow to be so thriving so immediately had a profound impact on Dr. Brown, motivating him to do a lot more, to preserve pushing LifeOmic forward.

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

On the other hand wildly thriving, Dr. Brown realized all this prospective had to be straight connected to sufferers somehow. To that finish, his group constructed an app that physicians can advocate to folks in order to much better communicate with them and, crucially, collect pertinent data. 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 in the end are assistive technologies—just not in the classical sense that birthed this column, but accessibility nonetheless.

“This became a further firehose of data that we could combine with the omics information sets I pointed out previously to obtain a actual-time understanding of what was taking place in a patient’s body… I assume amongst the cloud platform and the patient engagement tools, LifeOmic has the most full finish-to-finish healthcare information management resolution in the globe,” Dr. Brown stated.

At a macro level, the perform by Dr. Brown and his corporation is about assisting determine and avoid catastrophic illnesses like cancer. He’s optimistic about the advancements in healthcare tech, especially when it comes to genetics, in assisting medical doctors realize how ailments like cancer manifest and how to greatest 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 quite a few a lot more disciplines. “Our aim is to let researchers and clinicians to tame these substantial information sets and use them to enable sufferers avoid illness,” he stated. “And of course, to guide clinicians in taking benefit of this data to personalize remedy when ailments like cancer and Alzheimer’s in the end create.”

What LifeOmic is undertaking is a microcosm of the activity in the sector at substantial, with Dr. Brown telling me state governments are “actively examining techniques to leverage the prospective of precision medicine at the population level to advantage millions of folks.” The exact same 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 data technologies and healthcare. With cloud-primarily based platforms, it is now feasible to aggregate all the well being-connected information pointed out above for every patient,” Dr. Brown stated. “The subsequent step is to make this data actionable and comprehensible to each clinicians and sufferers. Offered the sheer scale of the information, the only way to achieve this is via automation.”

He continued: “Harried human physicians hardly have time to scan via the electronic healthcare record ahead of seeing a patient nowadays. They have no hope of becoming in a position to comprehend the gigabytes of data in a entire genome sequence substantially much less to figure out how to make use of it in clinical practice. Huge-scale information aggregation platforms such as the one particular we’ve constructed are the entry ticket to this brave new globe. But the prospective is enormous. Most excitingly, it presents the chance to bring customized care to folks who at the moment do not have access to physicians and other well being specialists.”

Hunting towards the future, the aim for Dr. Brown is to preserve the momentum. As pointed out, he began LifeOmic with hopes he could, to paraphrase Steve Jobs, make a dent in the healthcare universe. So far so excellent, 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 aim is to expand use of our technologies to enable healthcare specialists of all forms tailor their suggestions and therapies to the special desires of person sufferers,” Dr. Brown stated. “If we view the desires of the field as a pyramid, the cloud platform is the pretty 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 greatest challenge is to make this technologies accessible to non-professionals: major care physicians, dietitians, physical therapists, and sufferers themselves. We intend to address this challenge with selection-help tools that leverage AI to make precise suggestions. This is all going to take place. It is up to the complete field to reduce via the jungle of the [country’s] healthcare method to obtain broad adoption and comprehend the huge prospective. 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 perform has appeared in such areas as The Verge, TechCrunch, and Macworld. He’s also appeared on podcasts, NPR, and tv. 

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