Contributed by: Show Editorial Team
Frank Ricotta, CEO of BurstIQ, Dennis Grishin, Founder of Nebula Genomics, and Renold Capocasale, CEO of Flowmetric at Converge2Xcelerate Conference (Boston, MA)
- W.H.O. states that the counterfeit medicine market is worth $75 billion
- Nebula uses blockchain to help people protect & share their genetic code
- U.S. is spending 20% of its GDP on healthcare
INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPTS: Frank Ricotta, CEO/Co-Founder of BurstIQ, Dennis Grishin, Founder/CEO of NebulaGenomics, and Renold Capocasale, CEO of FlowMetric
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 00:00
Our panel today we’re going to talk a little bit about, and I’m just going to hit the description a little bit. Direct to consumer personalized medicine and including genomics test metabolic screenings and even health risk profile and how they’re gaining really popularity and giving consumers access to this data and being able to use it in, in everyday all the time thing. I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with the with the recent fraud case with Medicare, Medicaid with regard to genomics testing around cancer screening. Anybody?
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 00:37
Okay. So Medicare, Medicaid just brought forth a fraud case. It’s a $2.1 billion fraud case centered around eight doctors and number telehealth providers about the fraudulent use of these kinds of tests, which I think is somewhat of a negative connotation to the long-term value of how this works and why we need some why we need some of the approaches that blockchain can provide to deal with this new class of emerging fraud as well as the positive aspect of it. So I’m going to ask my two other panel members here to just basically do a quick introduction of themselves, tell us a little bit about your company what it’s, what it’s focused on and then we’ll kind of take it from there.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 01:24
So my name is Dennis Grishin. I am the chief scientific officer at Nebula Genomics, a privacy focused personal genomics company. So we are trying to address the issues that are deterring many people from purchasing directly consumer genetic tests and privacy has become a really major obstacle over the past few years due to the general trend and that concerns all tech companies of how they deal with the user’s personal data. And in particular in the direct to consumer genetic industry as they have been able to have concerns about privacy. And which, you know, makes sense if you think, you know, your DNA is X the most personal information that you have about yourself. So we are saw the need for privacy focus business and that’s when we launched Nebula Genomics. So we use blockchain combined this a number of other privacy preserving technologies to enable our customers to stay in control over the data and be able to share it with on even as they want to share it. And if they do decide to share it, make sure that’s a risk of the data being misused is reduced as much as possible.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 02:37
So my name is Ron Capocasale, CEO and founder of a niche contract research organization called Flowmetric. My background, I was a research scientist at J&J for over 15 years before I founded Flowmetric. And we are in the business of developing biomarker assays for use in advancing drug development initiatives with our clients. In 2014 launched a company Flowmetric Diagnostics and the brand that is just launching this year called Insight Health, which is basically leveraging bio markers to provide health and wellness information to consumers. And that process, that platform will be on a blockchain initiative. So we believe strongly in developing an immutable record of data that can be tracked over time and kept in a secure fashion for stakeholders. So those stakeholders for us traditionally and in the past had been pharmaceutical companies by a tech companies. It will be in the very near future consumers.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 04:13
Okay, thanks. And just a quick overview for those who don’t know, BurstIQ. I’m the founder CEO of BurstIQ. And what we do at BurstIQ, we’re a blockchain enterprise enablement platform. We focus on creating immutable health identity and profiles for people, places and things, and really kind of enable the interactions between them. Kind of core is a big data engine and a granular consent engine. We’ve been in production for a year and a half, have a lot of major clients on the platform ranging from health delivery organizations to, to a CRO space and a really solid development community, building a direct to consumer applications on the platform. So that’s us. So it kind of set the stage. Now I want to stay focused on some of these personalized medicine tests. So Dennis, let me start with you. I know you mentioned privacy’s pretty important. So from a top level perspective, tell us why your company’s different than say, kind of what most people who most people have heard about like 23 & Me or Ancestry. And how the kinds of things you’re providing differentiate, differentiate yourself sell from them not only from the privacy perspective, but also some of the product differentiations,
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 05:27
So there, there are several major differences. One first point is already touched on this privacy. So where we are similar is in that we also want to kind of enable research and make the data available to research as easily accessible as possible. But we’d want to do that without actually taking ownership of our customer’s data and just selling it ourselves. Instead, we see ourselves as a company that connects our with researchers and create a system that incentivizes data sharing incentivizes researchers to access the data. Create several advantages to both parties who participate in that transaction. And to enable that VM employed on blockchain and bunch of other technologies to just enable this kind of fear transfer and data sharing is possible. So that’s one aspect. The other aspect we differentiate ourselves is the genetic testing technologies that we use.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 06:28
Most direct to consumer genetic testing companies that exist today. They use micro Aero base genotyping, which is essentially a technologies that reach less than 0.1% of the whole human genome. So it’s like very tiny part of it. So we instead use next generation DNA sequencing and to offer various products. Some of them as affordable as a genotyping test offered by 23 and Me, but at the same price they provide, they generate almost 2000 times more data. So we think that, you know, this is the way to go as it generates more data that is both more useful for, for our customers, for the consumers as well as for researchers. And the shirt important aspect is what kind of reporting we then provide based on that data. When you think about 23 and Me tests, it’s usually mostly about ancestry and kind of receiving one-time results.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 07:22
And then you kind of done, you just buy the test to get your results and then that’s it. So we launched a product a few months ago that is called Nebula Explore. And this is kind of a new approach as we see to genetic testing. So what we are enabling our users is to stay at the cutting edge of scientific advancements and learn how they might be affecting them personally. So the way you can think about it is that, let’s say, you know, this week on Monday there was a new paper published that found new associations between certain genetic variants and a trait or disease. And then within the next few days we’ll have that research study on our platform, kind of taken out of this paywall, explain to our users what those results mean. All those variants discovered show to them. And we tell them whether they have sent me the genome or not. And we also calculate payload polygenic scores if say are like many variants that have been discovered. So it really enables our users to receive every week updates on what happened just days ago in science, what new insight has been gained and how it might be might be personally important to them.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 08:29
Okay. So, you know, when you do a little more of a high-fidelity sequence, it produces a lot of data. So how are you using blockchain in the service delivery? Are you, are you putting my sequence data on a chain or is it the consent and the payment monetization side?
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 08:50
Yes. So there are multiple things multiple areas in which we use blockchain. And we use sort of say, make use of different properties of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. So the first one is that it provides a certain degree of anonymity. And this is a property that actually in the past has given cryptocurrencies, like, you know, Bitcoin and deteriorate somewhat of a questionable reputation as some people claim they being used for, you know, black market transactions and to by illegal things and so on. But we believe that they are actually certain entirely legitimate services for which it really makes sense to just purchase them anonymously without really telling the service provider who you are. And we think that genetic testing is such a service that many people would like to purchase without revealing as little as possible about themselves. So one service that we offer and that uses this property of cryptocurrencies is anonymous genetic testing where our customers can purchase genetic testing from us without sharing the name as a credit card number they address with us.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 09:51
So I really a state a little data as possible. So that’s one property is a pseudo anonymity of cryptocurrencies. The second one is the immutability and transparency that blockchain provides. And that’s related to the data sharing aspect. So, our customers can essentially writes a data sharing consent to the blockchain, which stored immutably when we show, just want to access a data the identity of those researchers. And those also the data requests are the same immutably written to the blockchain. Then the blockchain is read by a collect by a number of key holders on the platform that then collectively decrypt the data if proper consent was given and make it available to researchers so that the property of immutability, transparency said blockchain provides here and just helps us create trust and give our users control over the data.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 10:45
And the third property is well what I haven’t mentioned so far. Another thing in addition to addressing the privacy concerns that we’re trying to accomplish is to bring the costs down of genetic testing. We ideally want to make them to zero to consumers. And we want to do that by shifting the costs away from consumer towards researchers who would essentially spawns the they are sequencing. And there we see the potential to use smart contracts to essentially connect those people who would like to get sequenced. But haven’t been yet. Researchers who want to sequence them and laboratories to have in all the sequences and machines and can process the samples. So we see there is a possibility to use smart contracts, have researchers essentially make a offering to do sports at sequencing in form of a smart contract and send individuals executing that smart contract in this way, kind of agreeing to the sponsored sequencing and then a payment being released from that smart contract and goes to the labs that will do the sequencing. So that’s the sort of provocative that enables creation of such a sponsored sequencing or data marketplaces for genetic testing.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 11:54
Okay. I’m going to slide over to Ren. Thanks a lot. You know, I kind of like the whole notion that if I’m the missing link in some great discovery, I should be compensated for it. Cause it’s a lot of people say I’m the missing link as it is. So, Ren a couple of things, we’ve talked to quite a bit about the, the genome side of life. And I know you’re, you’re a little more downstream of that. So I’d like to really set the stage of some of the new emerging tests and how they may apply in the broader health perspective, particularly phenom type test and some of the areas you focus, which are on cellular biomarkers. And can you just give us just a two second overview of that and then I have a few followup questions on how these things apply and in the broader scheme of things for me.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 12:39
So we are downstream of in terms of genomics first of all, I think you know, you have to say that we’re in a time where genomics really is kind of the most critical data. I think that any of us really own, if you will. But along with your DNA, there’s also all the variations that come post genetically. Okay. And that’s at the cellular level. And so our company Insight Health, and we didn’t have slides today, but Insight spelled INTE because we really believe that we’re going to be kind of stimulating a bit of a rebellion and in that sense to insight a new way of thinking of your own biological information. So for us that information, first of all, we inherently believe it is owned by the individual and whose data it is, who’s cellular or genetic information is there’s how we harness that information.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 13:54
OK. So right now what we’re looking to do is make that information available to stakeholders. So number one, stakeholder for cellular information, the variations that occur on cells. Okay. Based on either a condition or based on a treatment that you’re undergoing or based on just your sense of wellness, how healthy you believe you are, we think is valuable information. And so one way we think we’re going to distinguish ourselves from the companies like a 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA is that we inherently believe that that stakeholder, that person who’s dated should be able to participate in kind of the value proposition. So there’s an altruistic component, but there, there can also be a monetary component that data is valuable to pharmaceutical companies to buy a tech companies. And so we’re looking to create a system where cellular data will be put on a blockchain that will benefit the obvious stakeholders, the individual and their physicians.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 15:09
But then also be made available to interested third parties. Blockchain allows that data to be tracked in essence, right? So you know, unlike signing a waiver where you give your information accessibility to third parties typically where you’re not getting a kind of a value from that for us, that tracking of data, that immutable kind of longitudinal record of your data will be tokenized. So there will be, we believe in echo system that’s created where various stakeholders can incentivize the perusal of that data. And so for us our number one priority will be that individual stakeholder that the person who’s giving a blood sample to get this information their physician that’s tied to it. And then ultimately that person who’s given that sample will decide where else they want to participate.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 16:31
Thanks. So I’m going to put it in a non a non-geneticists kind of view of life or scientists the way you guys are. So I look at it is Dennis is going to tell me how I’m built, kind of what my body, genomically has the propensity for, you know, I may be predisposed to certain kinds of cancer or some other method. The proteomics guys are going to tell me, well, you know, what’s happening with my body proteins. In other words, the output of my DNA. And then you’re going to tell me kind of specific manifestations based on a condition that’s starting to show up. So I kind of see this spectrum of data, which is a lot and longitudinal. I may not be able to need to do high fidelity sequencing all the time but it has been proven that like in space, even twins, some of there has been various genes.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 17:29
So, I see that longitudinal nature, nature of kind of a basis for decision process in particularly for myself and my care providers. And I liked the theme that you, that you all have, that there’s got to be an individual component to it, particularly on the monetization side and value base. All right, so I have I have a couple more questions to throw out here. When does this stuff become mainstream for normal care providers? Besides, I like to know where I came from an ancestry perspective. How do you see it being adopted by kind of baseline the baseline health community? I’ll start with you, Dennis.
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 18:11
Yes. So what we have right now already available is a direct to consumer product. So you can just go to our website and purchase it and receive all those things that I mentioned, the reporting, the testing itself. And it was ends up in the back end that the privacy preserving technology is backing it. So it’s right now a direct to consumer product, but we are also building right now are preparing to launch a more clinically focused products that will be then more integrated with health care providers and will be more diagnostic in its nature.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 18:43
Yeah. So, for us, we’ve got a hybrid model where we are B to B to C right now. So it will be us two physicians who will then offer our kits to their patients, at least with the initial kind of meeting. We anticipate within a year it’d be direct to consumer at that point.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 19:09
Okay. I’m going to throw a couple of other things out here real quick. So part of this is chain of custody and including you know, starting with the sample. And I know it because if it’s going to transition besides a personal health product our consumer generated health product, I have to validate, you know, where things came from, including lab results to crossover and understand blockchain is a good place to put the immutability of the data once it comes out of your respective labs and how you distribute it. And in your case, ran to your pharma customers and others and your case Dennis to me is a consumer and potentially other service providers want to read my genome, but take it back one more step. So I’ll kick it over to you since, since you’re doing a little more on this, on the CRO space, how do you see kind of the specimen draws and, and that chain of custody may be evolving over time? You see some new emerging tech services?
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 20:06
So every day we handle samples, blood samples that come from clinical sites. And typically we work in an ecosystem where we’re not the only contract research organization even handling these samples. So we’re in the state of Pennsylvania. We’ve just developed an initiative called the Pennsylvania and life science pals block initiative that Frank’s actually a part of also where we’ve recognized that for clinical trials it’s absolutely critical that the types of kind of points to recognizing where samples come from, the quality of those samples has to be of upmost importance towards the integrity of the science that gets applied through those samples. So often as a CRO, we see poor quality samples that come to us from another site that we kind of have to throw our hands up to. And I think the issue that gets lost in the shuffle with clinical trials is who’s the responsibility lie with when data is not great.
Renold Capocasale – CEO, Flowmetric: 21:27
That is such a gray area. And I truly believe we believe that and one of the reasons why we kind of felt the need to look for something was that our data prior to kind of implementing the blockchain solution it was getting lost in the shuffle at times. So you couldn’t really see where our data was going to. And so what we’ve kind of, now, we haven’t implemented it yet, but we’ve got stakeholders, meaning our clients, pharma companies, kind of interested in this proposition of saying, Hey, we can trace every bit of the data that we are handling to individuals. We can timestamp it. There’s a longitudinal record of everything that’s been done. And you would be surprised how that seems like it should be a very basic component of clinical trial data analysis or sorry, data acquisition that actually is not as clear cut as it should be. And so ultimately, it’s to, you know, give you the best clinical research possible in getting drugs approved.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 22:40
Yeah, I can, I think there’s, this is a different variation of supply chain, which is really kind of custody, right? And I like some of the new technologies where I don’t have to be stuck with a big old needle all the time. You know, the little micro draws are pretty cool. Okay, Dennis, I’m going to kick it out. We just have a few seconds. So tell me how are you going to bridge the last mile into the dock side of life, the healthcare side of life from consumer. Are you going to have them be the collection mechanism for you or are you going to change the method in which some of this are just going to change the data access protocols?
Dennis Grishin – CEO/Co-Founder, Nebula Genomics: 23:15
Yeah, so I think we wouldn’t mean heavily direct to consumer focused, but we’ll get physicians and genetic counselors stronger, more involved in this whole process as we start delivering results to our customers that just might, you know, concerns them if they were just learn the same without any, constantly more assistance. So yeah, this is something we’re planning on rolling out as we are preparing to launch our more diagnostically focused tests. But at its core we will still see ourselves as pretty much a directly consumer company. We individuals will just, you know, collect the samples themselves from the homes, submitted to all the apps and then have the tests be done.
Frank Ricotta – CEO/Co-Founder, BurstIQ: 24:07
Awesome. Okay. I’m going to wrap it up. So all this stuff is awesome, but you know, put it in perspective. It’s an extension of your identity, you know, as part of your health profile. And we’re going to see this mainstream in our lifetime in my opinion. And I think one of the things that kind of, will usher in this liquidity of data and really bring these types of tests into the mainstream are going to be from the consumer side of life and from the CRO side of life or clinical research organization side of life, more so than traditional healthcare delivery, simply because I think these aspects of the market are very ready to receive it and understand it. So I want to thank our two panel members here. Please give them a hand. These guys are doing some great innovative work.
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