By

David Shaywitz

7
Apr
2020

George Yancopoulos, That Rarest Of Species – A Physician-Scientist Still In Charge Of A Pharma

Growing up in an academic household (my parents are both professors at Yale Medical School, still engaged, as ever, in dyslexia research), it was perhaps inevitable that, outside of my parents, my first role model was the brilliant President of Yale University, the late Bart Giamatti (you know- Paul’s dad).  The elder Giamatti inspired me so much as a teenager...
Read More
31
Mar
2020

Diagnostic Test Developer Points to Academic Blind Spot That Hampers Translation

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for reliable diagnostic tests for the new  SARS-CoV-2 virus, and treatments that can cure or mitigate its devastating effects.  To have an impact, these diagnostic tests can’t just work brilliantly in a single academic lab. They ultimately need to be rapidly deployable across this large country with 330 million people. Developing an approach...
Read More
26
Mar
2020

Adjusting to Telemedicine: A First-Hand Account

One consequence of the present crisis is the urgent embrace of telemedicine, as I recently discussed. Whether the adoption is sustained beyond the crisis period remains to be determined, although use seemed to be increasing overall even before the pandemic hit.  As more physicians and patients find themselves pressed to adopt telemedicine, I thought it might be helpful to better...
Read More
24
Mar
2020

Digital Tools in Clinical Trials Find Opportunity During Pandemic

The current crisis represents a potentially defining moment for at least some health technologies and technology-enabled services.  Telehealth, as discussed in my last column, is one conspicuous example, and the jury is still out. The potential benefit seems especially striking at a time when so many Americans are being told to stay at home, yet there are also serious concerns,...
Read More
22
Mar
2020

Why Telehealth Champions Are Worried About Trust

Crises can serve as catalysts. History has shown they increase the recognition that change is needed, and lower the activation energy required for it to occur. The COVID-19 crisis has already been widely recognized as potential catalyst for telemedicine, and more generally for the accelerated adoption of digital tools in both clinical medicine and clinical trials. In just the last...
Read More
16
Mar
2020

The Value And Necessity Of Tinkering

This week, I reviewed for the Wall Street Journal a pair of books about the increasing use of experimentation by businesses and other organizations: Experimentation Works, by Harvard Business School professor Stefan Thomke, and The Power of Experiments, by Michael Luca and Max Bazerman, also of Harvard Business School.  These books in some ways represent the sequel to one of...
Read More
9
Mar
2020

Our Tightly Networked World: Blessing and Curse

Technology has been hailed for its ability to connect us; we’ve tended to view this is a positive development, but as rare, high-impact events like the coronavirus epidemic reminds us, a densely-networked world may also be more fragile. The mixed blessing of interconnectivity was acknowledged back in 2005 by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who observed: “…we are now...
Read More
18
Feb
2020

Techlash Offers Health And Tech Opportunity To Reset Relationship, Rediscover Mutual Respect

Technology companies are experiencing a staggering reversal of reputational (though not financial) fortune; their stature seems reduced with each successive news cycle.  Gone is the halo many tech companies once enjoyed. The implicit (and often explicit) assumption that tech innovation inevitably makes the world a better place has been replaced by real concerns that the picture may be far more...
Read More
26
Jan
2020

Challenging Core Assumptions, Tech Backlash Paves The Way for More Thoughtful HealthTech

Digital transformation (as I recently discussed), and the implementation of emerging technologies more generally, is routinely pitched by enthusiasts like Tom Siebel as both urgent and inevitable, something organizations need to embrace or risk irrelevance, if not extinction.  Yet the “embrace or die” assertion is under increasing, and healthy, scrutiny, as the “techlash” (technology backlash) gains steam.  “Surveillance Capitalism”: Tech...
Read More
23
Jan
2020

Incrementalism is the new Disruption, Trust is the New Black, and Positive Change (for now) at FDA: Takeaways from the 2020 Precision Medicine World Conference

I had the privilege of serving as emcee for the “Data Science and AI” track on the first day of this week’s Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC) in Santa Clara, CA, as well as chairing a panel discussion on data mining and visualization.  I came away with a sense of optimism and need, organized around several key themes. In Praise...
Read More
16
Jan
2020

Understanding The Ideology Of Digital Transformation

The phrase resounding in corporations these days is “digital transformation.” What does that really mean? According to proponents, digital transformation reflects the assertion that in order to remain competitive in the modern era, organizations need to radically rethink their approach to how they collect, manage, and analyze information.  Change is clearly afoot, but the ideology informing this hasn’t been entirely...
Read More
15
Jan
2020

Atomwise and EQRx: Two Contrasting Strategies for the R&D Inefficiency Problem

Pharma innovation expert Bernard Munos captures the inherent inefficiency of drug development with two fascinating statistics he recently shared with me.  First, for large pharmas, the average cost of developing a new drug (simply based on the total R&D costs divided by the total number of new drugs approved for sale) works out to about $5B per drug. It’s an...
Read More
10
Jan
2020

Entering JPM20 With a Grounded, Yet Hopeful, View of Health Tech

Health tech seems balanced precariously between excessive optimism and excessive skepticism, between the promise that emerging technology is poised to disrupt health like it has so many other areas, and the painful recognition that many idealistic technologists misunderstood both the scientific and human dimensions of the inordinately complex problems to be solved in both health care services and the development...
Read More
9
Jan
2020

Sanofi’s New CEO Captures Pharma’s Grounded View of Health Tech

Since taking over as Sanofi’s CEO in September, Paul Hudson has been blunt in his assessment of health technology decisions, and indecisions, made by previous management. Early in his tenure, Hudson took square aim at his company’s once-heralded $500 million collaboration with Verily on Onduo. This partnership was started in 2016 and intended to help diabetics better manage their condition. ...
Read More
1
Jan
2020

New Job, Same Thesis: Aligning Tech & Pharma To Elicit Best Of Both

With the New Year, I’m very excited to share a professional update: as of January 1, I’m the proud founder of “Astounding HealthTech,” providing advisory services to R&D-driven biopharma organizations and health tech startups striving to engage each other more effectively. The mission of Astounding is to catalyze drug development by aligning the specific capabilities and distinct needs of individual...
Read More
5
Dec
2019

Aural Pleasures, 2019 Edition

I listen to a lot of audio, spoken word content that edifies (or at least distracts) me during daily workouts and when traveling.  Traditionally in December, I like to share with readers my annual podcast recommendations. But in reflecting on my listening habits of the last year, I realized that I’ve probably spent at least as much time listening to...
Read More
21
Nov
2019

AI Can Help with Repeatable Processes, But Don’t Expect Thunderbolts for Drug Discovery

Biopharmaceutical and healthcare executives increasingly find themselves attending conferences and presentations featuring the evangelistic selling of AI by self-assured VCs, energetic entrepreneurs, and earnest consultants.  The promise is that AI will change everything. Then the executives return to work, face the quotidian reality of their operation, and wonder whether AI will change anything. Enter Jim Manzi. Manzi, depending on your view, is a...
Read More
11
Nov
2019

Disruption, Fast and Slow

Chris Gibson, the CEO and co-founder of Recursion Pharmaceuticals, may have captured the essence of the difference in mindset between tech VCs and life science VCs, writing in a superb recent article (a response to my previous TR post): “The most consistent thread that differentiates tech and life science VCs is their willingness to project new data onto an industry and imagine resultant...
Read More
5
Nov
2019

Tech VCs and Biotech VCs: Talking Past Each Other on AI Drug Discovery

[Editor’s Note: this is a new column called “Astounding HealthTech” by TR contributor David Shaywitz.] If you want to know the difference between tech venture capitalists and biotech VCs, look at their respective views on AI applications for drug discovery. Many of the most prominent AI drug discovery startups boast exceptionally rich valuations, driven by the enthusiastic participation of tech...
Read More