Looking beyond our pilot-geddon – Day 3

Looking beyond our pilot-geddon – Day 3

Today was our last day in San Francisco, and once again – we were not disappointed by the incredible things happening here.

From an early start, we heard from Don Jones, a technologist and digital health expert who works with the Scripps Translational Institute (STSI). There are few people who have as much experience (or know as many people in the field) as he – with many years at Qualcomm, his many board memberships, work with STS and conception of the Tricorder XPRIZE. What was particularly gripping for the group was hearing about the alternative drug trial methodologies which STSI is developing with the NIH, to create a large dataset in the ‘All of Us’ (previously, the Precision Medicine Initiative). Also, his thoughts that 50% of future IoMT (Internet of Medical Things)would be disposable ‘wearable’ medical sensors – for instance, smart bandaids.Don Jones from STSI

From this, we jumped into our bus to see Fitbit. One of the most significant companies in the wearables space, it was interesting to see the staff which they have assembled to transition into becoming a healthcare company – as well as the increasing role of partnerships with large insurers to maximize the impact they can have on healthy living for their users.

Our third stop of the day was seeing Andrew Hessel, at the Bio/Nano group of Autodesk. In one of the highlights of the tour so far, without any slides or props, he walked us through ways to reconceptualise the role of Pharma in drug development after synthetic biology, and organic printing, fully arrives. Hearing about the gene printing and coding technologies already in use, the roadmap (and speed) of their improvement, and the subsequent inevitability of personalized medicine, left jaws on the floor.

More than this, on an organizational side, it is also inspiring to see a company like Autodesk, which has a strong legacy in architecture and engineering deciding to reinvent themselves and rethink their core offerings. That they do this by bringing in personnel and ideas which may totally change the way they operate should serve as a lesson to us all.

Our final two encounters of the day looked at pharma touchpoints which exist beyond the ‘traditional model’ of pharma– namely, the role of patient networks to support chronic diseases, and bringing in new ideas and technologies through corporate venture.

FitbitMyhealthteams shows the appetite of people with chronic diseases for peer support – particularly when it is ‘private’ (i.e. not on Facebook or Twitter), and when peers can discuss both the quotidian, and personal, ways in which their condition impacts their life. Ensuring that people with chronic conditions are thought of primarily as people rather than patients, and that they are at the centre of their own care, are ideas which are tricky to operationalize – but MHT serves as a striking counterfactual.

Finally, we heard from Lucian Iancovici, from Qualcomm Ventures – the investment arm of the global connectivity behemoth. Lucian outlined the both investment theses they have for the health (and especially digital health) world, and the ways in which they work with Novartis (through their shared vehicle, dRx Capital). This latter fund is used to engage with companies pushing at the edge of possible in the digital space.  Listening to him, it became clear that, even while there is an ever growing number of deals being made here, the way in which investors are conceptualizing their impact  is changing.

Sadly, the weather was not on our side for seeing the full beauty of the city– but that did not stop the entire group feeling that they had begun to understand what the future might look like. That this may be challenging for Pharma is evident – and underlines that there is more urgency than ever to begin looking at what adaptations may be necessary – just to keep up.

Tonight we fly to New York, to see what disruption looks like from the East Coast. While Silicon Valley may look like science fiction, New York may make us feel like we are already living there.


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