Simon Turner, a Partner with the Sofinnova Digital Medicine Strategy, discussed the intersection of computation and medicine in an interview at the LSI USA ’23 Emerging Medtech Summit in Dana Point, CA, in March.
The video provides insight into the unique approach Simon and his fellow Digital Medicine Partner, Ed Kliphuis, are bringing to the newest strategy in Sofinnova’s platform of investment vehicles.
“We're looking for innovative biotech, medtech, digital medicine companies, where we feel not only there's a good fit with the entrepreneur, but also this ability to co-create a story, something that can really change the paradigm of medicine as we see it today,” Turner said.
Since the interview, Sofinnova Partners has announced investments in three companies that incarnate the points Turner made in the interview.
The way data is used in medicine is evolving at a breakneck pace
Benjamin Glenn, the interviewer, described a kind of virtuous cycle of software enabling new devices, which generate more data, which is then used to design new software, and so on.
Turner agreed this was an important element, and pointed out that the techniques used on medical data had also evolved.
“What we're seeing is there's a lot of data being generated either from existing legacy systems or just totally new datasets,” Turner said. “With the advent of new computational techniques, suddenly, you can leverage existing data by taking novel approaches and actually gain added insights. So you're going beyond just the raw data that we're able to see and able to therefore start really impacting patient outcomes, but also the healthcare system."
He added that the Covid crisis highlighted how we can use data and computational techniques now to make new sense, and therefore really improve the healthcare outcomes.
Turner pointed to another big change: the professions involved in this new paradigm. The "classic" innovators in health care used to be almost exclusively from the biomedical sciences, he said. "Now, suddenly, we have the rise of, for example, data scientists, as well as mathematicians and physicists, bringing in these new kinds of algorithmic approaches that can really make sense of the massive amounts of data that we're seeing in healthcare. So it's really a confluence of not only data and data sets, but also the techniques that are being applied."
Borrowing high tech approaches from other fields
He likened some of the new health care innovation approaches to the use of "digital twins" in industries like aviation.
Aircraft manufacturers use digital twins to design and simulate engines. The simulations predict when they will start to fail, or signal when it is time to intervene to avoid a catastrophic failure.
"That same understanding — the same mathematical approaches and modeling can now be applied to organisms," Turner said, "to cells and even much more complex biological systems."
This is just one example of what Turner called "this mass wave of new knowledge unlocking incredible potential."
Computer simulation, or "in-silico testing," is coming to disciplines like oncology, Turner said, eliminating frustrating delays in feedback that plague new drug combinations.
"It's very similar to what SpaceX was doing, when they were trying to train their first vertical landing rockets," Turner said. "Without in-silico simulations, it would have taken them thousands, if not millions, of tries," wrecking a lot of rockets. Applying this to medicine, he added, means "we're basically able to start getting to this personalized care approach that we've been talking about so much."
Computational techniques will help the medical field "get to a point of understanding the fundamental principles of what makes someone unique as a patient.Then simulating the best treatment approach, we'd be able to actually provide an alternative therapy, adapted to the patient's needs.
Biocortex, one of the Digital Medicine team's initial investments, is working along these lines. BioCorteX has developed a "techbio" platform to model the complex interactions between the microbiome, the host, and treatment, ultimately helping clinicians personalize care. The company’s flagship product, Carbon Mirror™, uses technology incorporating principles of physics and chemistry to create in-silico simulations with high fidelity, to assess and predict an individual’s response to treatment based on their microbiome profile.
“BioCorteX’s technology is the perfect example of how the power of data and novel computational techniques can be used to transform healthcare,” Ed Kliphuis, Partner on the Sofinnova Digital Medicine team, said when the investment was announced.
deepc, another Sofinnova Digital Medicine investment, has created a vendor-neutral, cloud-native platform that integrates with health care systems' existing radiology workflows. It provides approved third-party AI vendors with an efficient way to commercialize their solutions while offering hospitals and clinics a secure, “one-stop shop” for AI-assisted radiology.
The third investment, Kiro, is the first AI-powered digital health platform for clinical biology in Europe. The company uses medical-grade artificial intelligence and cloud technology to leverage laboratory results and bring better outcomes for patients. Developed in partnership with leading laboratories, hospitals and physicians, and already used by millions, Kiro’s solutions provide personalized and easy-to-understand results for patients and caregivers while helping healthcare providers improve treatment for patients with real-time clinical decision support tools.
Accepting, even embracing, regulation
Toward the end of the interview, Glenn turned the conversation toward the topic of regulation, pointing out that cooperation with regulators, even going beyond what they require, could be a positive approach.
Turner agreed and pointed out that Sofinnova Partners encouraged portfolio companies to do so.
"Occasionally we say, let's push this a little bit further, let's set the new gold standard for what should be considered best practice,"he said, citing the treatment of patient data and algorithmic transparency as examples. "When you set that gold standard by working with regulatory authorities, or payers, you've suddenly created a new benchmark that anyone else must measure up to," Turner said, adding that this was also a way to create a high bar for competitors to match, a strategic advantage.
Turner finished on an optimistic note. "We've seen so much innovation happening over the last years, particularly in biotech and medtech. Now with this new evolution on the digital medicine side of things, we're really bullish on how much this will impact the entire healthcare system and services," he said. "For all the entrepreneurs out there, we'd love to have them come and talk with us."
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