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GE Healthcare CDO Outlines Vision of Precision Health Using AI

Posted By Jon Lavietes, Wednesday, September 16, 2020

In the third and final session of the second day of the 2020 ASAP BioPharma Conference, medtech took center stage. Derek Danois, chief data officer at GE Healthcare, outlined his company’s nascent efforts to transform basic healthcare delivery models in his presentation “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the principal tools at the heart of a larger movement in the healthcare industry around “precision health.” The concept is simple: Rather than prescribing medications based on a set of generic symptoms, doctors will integrate lots of relevant data, such as genetic profile, family history, and environmental factors, in designing a custom treatment plan. Precision health will be built on precision diagnostics, therapeutics, and monitoring (e.g., wearables).

Data: the Source Code for AI and the Key to Early Detection

With the overarching mission of precision health explained, Danois showed the audience a video that told a story set in the future where a woman detects a lump on her breast, sends the self-exam directly to her doctor right from her bathroom, gets scheduled for a consult immediately, and is put through a battery of tests at the healthcare facility while doctors and technicians analyze the resultant data. The verdict: they caught a malignancy early enough to expect a full recovery. 

The video is meant to inspire, said Danois, but it also conveys GE Healthcare’s vision for the future.

“What can we do to intervene now in helping to spot the early signs of diseases? How can we intervene in a little bit more of an effective manner? How do we help patients feel less fearful and engage more with their clinicians?” he said. “We’ve got to start thinking even earlier. We have to start thinking about the data that is being collected around the world that allows us to think about this journey. Data truly is the source code for AI.”

AI, Danois explained, has to be educated, taught, and trained over a long period of time in order to be effective. For example, an AI program must be exposed to a trusted radiologist’s annotation of a tumor on an x-ray over and over again before it can learn to recognize a similar tumor on its own and become a “true companion source” and a reliable second opinion for doctors. 

Leaping Regulatory and Economic Hurdles to Make Leaps in Precision Health

The technological piece is one challenge. There are also regulatory, economic, and administrative obstacles to contend with. Healthcare providers are generating loads of valuable data, but this information is fragmented around the world, making it difficult to get the right data in the hands of clinicians at the right time. Moreover, hospitals still aren’t convinced that the cost-benefit ratio is in their favor yet. They still haven’t seen enough evidence of positive long-term outcomes, plus there’s a question as to whether health insurance plans will reimburse for AI-based treatments. Even if a health provider is sold on a new concept, it is difficult to deploy it in a highly regulated industry like healthcare.

Still, despite the hurdles that still need to be cleared, nobody disputes that the payoff is going to be transformative, to say the least, down the road in terms of fluid and effective healthcare delivery. Danois likened where we are today in digital health to the first iPhone more than a decade ago. Back then, there were only a few apps, but everyone saw tremendous possibilities. Now, we perform many of our day-to-day functions on our phones. Healthcare can get to the same place, in Danois’s view.

“It starts with understanding and thinking about the various data content that exists in these organizations. How can those be made available for, not just research but practical product development, AI development, collaboration with industry partners,” he said. “Thinking about how those can be turned into AI applications that can be deployed in the right workflows, what challenges exist from a security and privacy perspective? And then thinking about how those get injected into intelligent applications that can be deployed either on the devices in hospitals right now, or they can be deployed in a hybrid model using cloud infrastructure.”

Ultimately, said Danois, we need to get to a point where doctors don’t even think about the technology behind AI-powered apps and devices, where all it takes is a simple Internet connection in order to take advantage of them.

Alliances, of course, are a must if we are going to get there. GE Healthcare realized early that it couldn’t do it alone, despite the great investment it made into AI technology, software engineering, and data science. (For more details about GE Healthcare’s Edison AI platform, see “It’s the Data—and a Lot More,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q1 2020.)

“We needed to open our technology. We needed to create an ecosystem. We needed to create the landing platforms for other partners to work with us. We’ve been encouraging others to think about doing similar things,” he said. “When you can have ethically compliant ecosystems, when you can think about what each party brings to that challenge and help solve it, and that there’s a known entity at the end of that workflow stream, either in the provider or the patient, that will allow us to take advantage of these tools and technologies and leverage these delivery models, we know that we can achieve amazing precision outcomes.”

The FDA’s Position on AI in Healthcare Devices

With that, Danois fielded a few questions from the audience. The first dealt with privacy and security concerns that come with AI apps and devices. Danois explained that these apps are like any digital health technology in that they are designed “in a thoughtful way” to do a task.   

“These get deployed into an already-existing, highly regulated environment for medical devices, whether it is in the US, in Europe, or for most other countries around the world. There’s some regulatory process where these devices need to be approved from a technology point of view, both physical and digital hardware. Those AI applications will exist in those environments,” he said, before adding that the FDA’s position is that if you incorporate AI into an existing piece of hardware, you must treat the new product as an entirely new device. You can create a separate AI app instead, but whatever you produce must be delivered in a “in cybersecurity-hardened and technically thoughtful way.”

Danois was also asked if the partnering language and mindset is different in these partnerships, given the disparities between tech and pharma corporate and alliance cultures. He responded first by making an important distinction between pure technology ventures that are focused solely on creating AI apps and services and medtech initiatives which use diagnostic tools and technologies to deliver AI-powered services. The latter already undergo a rigorous three- to five-year approval process—Danois cited pet scanners as an example. His larger point was that many collaborations are already comfortable with the longer-term regulatory and alliance cycles.

Danois had plenty more to share during his presentation. ASAP BioPharma Conference registrants can review “Artificial Intelligence in Clinical Care Delivery and the Opportunities to Accelerate Your Development and Commercial Strategy” anytime this week and beyond to benefit from his knowledge and expertise. They can also enjoy a dozen other prerecorded on-demand presentations, as well as the rest of this week’s completed livestreamed sessions.

Keep checking this blog for updates from the conference throughout this week!

Tags:  AI  AI-based treatments  alliance culture  Artificial Intelligence  Clinical Care Delivery  Derek Danois  diagnostics  FDA  GE Healthcare  health  partnering  partnerships  pharma  strategy  tech  therapeutics 

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An Incentive to Partner for Children: Dr. David Williams Emphasizes the Value of Industry-Academic Collaboration around Children’s Health in 2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference Keynote

Posted By John W. DeWitt, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dr. David Williams kicked off the ASAP BioPharma Conference, Sept. 13-15, 2017, at the Royal Sonesta Boston in Cambridge, Mass., with a forthright keynote making the case for why industry should pay attention to the early research and clinical trial capabilities of leading children’s hospitals—which, he argues, can find common ground with the for-profit objectives of biopharma, biotech, and information technology companies seeking new opportunities in healthcare. Williams is Boston Children’s Hospital’s chief research and scientific officer and senior vice president for research, as well as president of the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

 

Williams is a versatile fellow—he still insists on being a practicing physician, despite also being a researcher, senior administrator, international collaborator, entrepreneur, scientific journal editor, pediatrics professor at Harvard Medical, and more—and he says he embraces working in all those roles because they all advance the fight against childhood diseases, improve the quality of life for children, and help once-ill children become the healthy adults everyone hopes they grow up to be.

 

Yet, aside from the “right reasons” everyone agrees upon, it’s not an easy economic case to argue for biopharma to focus on children—especially rare pediatric diseases. Williams was blunt in his keynote. “Seventy percent of drugs we use in children have never been studied and are not FDA-approved for use in children.” Why? “There’s no incentive for drug companies to seek [pediatric] label use.”

 

But his keynote arguments—reflecting his newly established role as chief medical officer charged with magnifying the science and scientific partnerships at Boston Children’s Hospital—seem entirely undeterred by this tough reality.

 

“Many people are surprised at how many drugs have evolved out of Boston Children’s,” he told a packed room of life sciences partnering executives, noting that Boston Children’s ranks fifth among all hospitals in the US in number of licenses and/or options executed (48). (The leader, Mayo, has 96.) Statins got their start at BCH, for example, thanks research efforts prompted by a child’s unfortunate heart attack. But Dr. Williams is not just talking about successful licensing partnerships with pharma leaders—BCH is also a force to reckon with in startups.

“At times, it’s better not to take a license agreement with the standard royalty fee, but rather use discoveries as platform for startup companies. Moderna is a huge company now. I’m involved with Orchard Therapeutics. Alerion is a platform company formed in Germany.” He noted that three BCH spinouts made FierceBiotech’s Fierce 15—Moderna in 2013, Intellia Therapeutics in 2015, and Orchard in 2016.

 

The foundation of these achievements—and a major contributor to BCH’s success as America’s top-ranked children’s hospital—are the remarkable research credentials of the institution where Dr. Williams works, among them:

  • 600,000-plus visits a year
  • 40 clinical departments and 225 specialized clinical programs
  • 800 faculty members and 2,000 fellows
  •  The largest pediatric research program in world based on extramural research funding—more than $330 million in funding for numerous areas of research.

And more than one Nobel prize winner.

 

So why did Dr. Williams take the time to share BCH’s story with ASAP? Because BCH is serious about partnering—not just because the hospital has dedicated alliance managers, but more fundamentally, it recognizes collaboration as key to its success, past, present, and future more than ever. Williams described the organization’s vision going forward:

 

“Champion discovery around pediatric illnesses, deploy genomics into everyday applications, translate our wealth of research into more effective and precisely targeted therapies, and build more robust collaborations with biopharma,” he said. “We’re really ‘putting the gas pedal down’ on advanced experimental therapeutics. The basis for everything we do is discovery science.”

 

Again, why should biopharma companies and society more broadly care?

“In addition for doing it for the ‘right reasons,’ there are lots of economic and societal reasons for doing this work,” he says. “We have the rare cohorts of patients and experts with deep experience in rare diseases.”

 

At the beginning and at the end of the day, though, success for Dr. Williams and BCH means lives saved or extended. One oft-cited triumph is common childhood leukemia, once a near-certain killer, now defeated 90 percent of the time. These kids survive to become adults who lead profoundly better lives—and make a powerful impact on society as a result. “If we can prevent childhood progression [of many diseases] it will have enormous implications later on in adult life.”

Tags:  2017 ASAP BioPharma Conference  biopharma  Boston Children’s Hospital  collaboration  discovery  Dr. David Williams  entrepreneur  genomics  international collaborator  therapeutics 

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Balancing Mega-sized Collaborations Requires a Three-Legged Stool: The Broad Institute’s Take on Managing Big Partnerships

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Thursday, September 17, 2015

Partnerships come in all sizes. The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, however, significantly tips the beam with its industrial-scale platforms and collaborations that seek to pioneer a new model of biomedical science.

“The Boston-Cambridge nexus makes it possible,” explained Stephanie Loranger, PhD, director of project planning and execution at the Broad Institute, during her talk “Managing the Three-Legged Stool: Science, Compliance and Alliance” on Friday, Sept. 11 at the 2015 ASAP BioPharma Conference. “The fundamental goal of the Institute is to take on high-impact, multidimensional projects that are too difficult to take on by a smaller lab. Sometimes the projects are contained in one program, but they usually stay in multiple platforms and programs.”

The mega-projects range from government collaborations (including entities such as the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation) to philanthropic organizations (such as the Carlso Slim Center for Health Research, Klarman Cell Observatory, and Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research) to corporate projects with companies like Norvatis Pharmaceuticals, Roche Diagnostics, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Calico, and Googlea new collaboration.

 

The Broad Institute also has operating agreements with neighboring organizations such as Harvard University, Mass General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Its board of scientific counselors includes three Nobel laureates and its programs contain hundreds of researchers. Platforms range from genomics known for world-class sequencing to proteomics to genetics perturbations, where they run massive crisper screens.

 

“What is unique about these projects is that they are run by scientists who have their own grants and are pushing the boundaries of these platforms,” she explained. “They augment the creativity of scientistswhat they can’t do in their own labs can be done there.”

 

The Institute has a three-legged stool of essential components for execution of large, multi-programmatic collaborations within the ecosystem, she said. It requires balancing

  • Science management and execution of world-class platforms
  • Compliance managementmeeting budgetary, IP, reporting, and legal obligations
  • Alliance management of very large institutional partners that need major coordination

This last leg of alliance management is new to the Broad Institute“a different beast that we have not dealt with before,” she pointed out. “We don’t have an alliance management team. We have people who play roles of alliance manager. It really depends on the collaboration and who is our partner.”

 

Practically, what does this mean in relation to the Broad Institute? she asked.

  • Access to large, multifaceted datasets that one organization/collaboration cannot fund alone
  • Access to unparalleled cross-functional and cross-institutional research
  • Rapid acceleration and translation of emerging knowledge and novel discoveriestherapeutics is the big in plan for next 10 years

Tags:  Alliance management  Broad Institute  collaborations  Compliance management  cross-functional  cross-institutional research  genetics perturbations  genomics  Partnerships  platforms  proteomics  Science management  Stephanie Loranger  therapeutics 

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