Vator Splash Health 2016

How are innovators disrupting healthcare?

I attended the Vator Splash Health 2016 conference a couple of weeks ago. It was a great event with lots of interesting discussion at the cutting edge of healthcare. However I wanted to highlight one presentation in particular that stood out to me.

When software eats bio

Vijay Pande (General Partner, Andreessen Horowitz)

The presentation that stood out to me was Vijay Pande from Andreessen Horowitz. Vijay spoke about the imminent convergence of biology and software.

He began by outlining why we have seen such massive improvements in software both in terms of power and costs. Advances in microprocessors have led to exponential gains in computing power while storage costs have continued to decrease at an exponential rate. These two things combined have given software the ability to perform tasks that just a few years previous seemed unfathomable. The result of this has been the emergence of big data and machine learning.

Vijay proposes that a similar shift is happening in biology. It all begins with rapidly declining costs of sensors and genetic sequencing technologies.

“The Human Genome Project was set up in 1991 and finished in 2001, for something like $3 billion. Now, it would cost $300.” — Vijay Pande

In the future computational biomedicine will allow us to leverage all of these exponential technologies and bring them to the patient in the form of personalized preventative treatments, cancer therapies and more.

“But the new generation of healthcare startups really look like tech startups,” — Vijay Pande

Vijay also believes we are reaching an inflection point in the convergence of software and bio that is leading to AWS-like infrastructure for biology startups. He calls this phenomena cloud bio.

“We can now give computer science grad students or MDs $2–3 million, and they can use cloud bio resources instead of having to build out the lab (which is the analog to building out a server farm).” — Vijay Pande

With new cloud bio technologies researchers can simply spin up experiments run by robots to do in vitro experiments without having to build out the entire lab infrastructure. This will lead to significant cost savings and higher reproducibility through clinical research stages.

It seems like its just a matter of time for many of Vijay’s predictions to come to fruition. Through my work with ScienceVest I have seen an increasing amount of startups that are tackling biology with a software approach.

Additional Thoughts

I would add to Vijay’s points that it is also only a matter of time before the entire regulatory and clinical process of traditional therapeutics is disrupted. When one analyzes the key inflection points in bringing drugs to market there are a select number of them that are the main culprits to the enormous amounts of time and money involved in bringing therapeutics to market.

These key cost and time barriers for therapeutics provide distinct disruption opportunities for startups. Once startups begin recognizing these inflection points as opportunities the traditional therapeutic pipeline and process will also change as a result. This will help speed up and bring costs down for not just software biology startups but also the more mainstream therapeutic/pharma startups.