Discover 3 women disrupting the MedTech industry
You can read a French version of this post on Girls In Tech Paris blog.
Beyond checking my iHealth app every once in a while and hitting yoga classes when my girlfriends feel like it, I’m not so much interested in my own wellness. Like everyone else, I go to the doctor when I suffer from a runny nose or a persistent headache; and from my experience, I can tell this approach is not optimal. For a startup person like me, bathing in innovation, maintaining this way of treating patients makes absolutely no sense. As a consequence, I wanted to learn more about what’s going on in the field — thankfully, TheFamily, the Paris home for all things startups, was organizing a 2-day conference where the quality of speakers and convenience of organizations exceeded my expectations: Differential Medicine.
I chose to relay here the talks of 3 women entrepreneurs, just because I like to shamelessly promote #GirlsInTech 💪, in order to give out a sample of what’s going on in the MedTech field.
Lavinia Ionita — CEO of Omixy / Preventive & data-driven medicine at our fingertips
Lavinia’s startup Omixy addresses ambitious goals: offering a new approach to the medical checkup that is at the same time personalized, convenient, preventive and data-driven.
Why is there still no personalized medicine accessible to us?
In many countries, the health system offers a “one size fits all” approach to treatment, meaning 1 pill treats all patients suffering from the same disease. It seems like an archaic approach in a world where scientific improvements in the medical field happen every day, especially in genomics. The issue remains that new discoveries remain stuck in the lab while heavy regulations and high prices prevent them from reaching their patients.
Omixy is a platform making the stressful, time-consuming medical checkups more convenient and painless, and above all, putting empathy as their #1 concern. The ultimate goal is to improve preventive medicine. Indeed, 80% of chronic diseases are known to be preventable — from the business point of view, it’s important to note that in the U.S only, 75% of the cost of healthcare is dedicated to the treatment of chronic diseases.
Improving prevention means, for Omixy, making it more scientific, affordable, personalized and scalable. How does one make that possible?
Omixy starts online, where you can answer a quick questionnaire about your state of health. Then, a nurse comes to you to collect your blood, saliva, and urine/stool sample, and your samples are sent to be analyzed by a lab. Omixy then proceeds to a series of state-of-the-art analyzes — a whole genomic sequencing, metabolomics, and microbiome analysis — in addition to an extended general panel (hormones, cholesterol, etc.) Your diagnosis leads to a personalized treatment and medical follow-up with a doctor online, all throughout the year.
Omixy will be starting in January in beta and launch in the U.K beginning Q2 2016.
Who is Lavinia Ionita?
Graduated from the Craiova Faculty of Medicine, Romania, and the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, Dr. Ionita specialized in Addictology at the University of Paris-V and holds a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology from the University of Paris-VIII. She also holds two Certificates: in “Personalized Genomics”, and in “Genomics, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Genomics Approach of Cancers, Stem Cells & Pharmacogenomics”, from the University of Stanford. Dr. Ionita spent several years treating the most severe addicts at the Marmottan hospital in Paris, as well as taking care of patients using differential medicine in her own medical practice. In the last few years, she has been practising addictology at the American Hospital of Paris.
Julie Mercier, Co-founder Every VR- Game changer for surgical training
“Students cannot learn by doing in surgery”, says Julie Mercier. “Just like plane pilots. You would never want to fly with a pilot that has never done that before. Well, that’s what is happening with surgeons.” — It is pretty scary, and Every VR wants to change that, thanks to Virtual Reality technology.
Changing the surgeon training from observing to practicing.
What wannabe-surgeons can do today to practice surgery is using corpses or observing the mentor perform surgeries — which presents obvious limitations.
Every VR is working on a software to make trainees practise in a VR as close to reality as possible. The ultimate goal of Every VR is to lower the cost of medical education, and encourage access to top level education anywhere in the world — which is huge for developing countries. In addition, VR training could accelerate learning curves, and enable training for more types of surgeries possible.
The early-stage startup is still working on the “How” to make it possible. Their priority is to develop top notch sensors and electronical devices to make all complex and tiny movements from our hands applied in the VR — which is a real challenge from the tech point of view.
Who is Julie Mercier?
Julie is a young French entrepreneur with experience in the Virtual Reality and IT fields. She holds a Masters degree from the Institute of Political Science in Grenoble and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Copenhagen.
Carina Namih — Founder of Helix NanoTechnologies, helping fix our broken genes
Admittedly one of the highlights of Differential Medicine conference, Carina’s presentation of HelixNano radically brings us into the future.
Carina considers biology as a software. According to her, one must be able to read it, write it, interpret it and re-program it to replace mistakes.
In parallel, she notices that today’s explosion of data available about our health already enables us to determine our human ‘blueprint’. There are 3 factors explaining this explosion:
- Improved Detection — The cost of genomic sequencing has dramatically decreased — faster that Moore’s law! — and according to Carina, it will probably amount to less than a dollar in 10 years.
- Improved Collection — There is now a plethora of devices available, providing insights on our health, steps, heartbeats, etc. With the miniaturization of consumer devices, we will soon be able to measure our hormones, fertility, and stress level.
- Improved Analysis — Health data sets can be now analyzed by machine learning techniques used in other fields.
Fixing our genes (it’s really a thing)
Software companies make the data actionable in order to build cool apps, reminds us Carina. In the health industry, the human blueprint is available, the “cool apps” equivalent would be the cures, but we are still lacking the “actionable” part.
HelixNano relies on a brand new technology, CRISPR — which has made the headlines ever since the summer — a tool making “precision editing of DNA” possible. Yes, actually replacing small parts of our DNA thanks to super-smart molecules. The CRISPR technology is now focusing on specific types of cancer, eye and liver disease, and HIV treatments, but just like truly ground-breaking technologies, still presents some limitations: low efficiency, off-target effects, and a difficult delivery.
Carina’s HelixNano is a technology considerably improving the “low efficiency” and “off-target effects” issues of CRISPR, by pulling out the perfectly edited cell from the volume of unusable ones, thus reducing the duration of research and testing from months. Or as Carina says: “actually spotting the needle in the haystack”.
We’re only on the verge of the endless possibilities made available by such a technology — which entails many ethical and applications issues that are going to be handled as the product goes to market.
Who is Carina Namih?
“Carina is recognized as the BioBeat Rising Star of British Biotech and a World Economic Forum ‘Global Shaper’. She frequently shares her experience of building innovative, technology-led businesses as an advisor to start-ups, to investors and as a speaker.
Carina’s prior experience includes roles in VC-backed start-ups in San Francisco, Kleiner Perkins in Palo Alto and Goldman Sachs in London. She graduated with first class honors from Oxford University and was awarded a full Google scholarship to attend Singularity University in 2013.” (Source: Pioneers.io)
I find it pretty hard to wrap my head around the state of innovation in the medical field. On the one hand, the fast pace of scientific improvements makes it absolutely necessary to encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to act fast and make awesome products available to us. On the other hand, when it comes to medicine, a field that we can all relate to on the personal level, radical innovation becomes scary. Entrepreneurs are not supposed to take a permanent step back and strictly follow the (heavy) rules; they must break things and shake ecosystems. In the making, they are raising ethical and societal issues never faced before.
As a consequence, there is no other field where it is more important to communicate properly with the consumers, future patients, and users, and make the effort to ensure a “digestible” message for the general public — a responsibility shared by entrepreneurs, journalists, and all prescribers.