HealthTech
25 July 2018

What Happens When Drugs Fail?

Written by Sarah Crossan

In a society where your phone recognizes your face and a robot on your kitchen counter can quote you your grocery list, your doctor should be able to access evidence-based precision dosing at his or her fingertips. Thousands of variables deserve consideration when administering drugs. However, the efficacy of a chosen drug is generally determined based on two factors: DOSE and TIME.

Historically, drug dosing has relied on processes that are inaccurate yet longstanding, remaining still because “old habits die hard”. This translates to an uncomfortable reality where HALF of the drug efficacy equation is often inaccurate, resulting in adverse side effects and a lesser chance of being cured. In other words, overall drug failure.

In our PULSE MassChallenge Spotlight series, we sat down with Sirj Goswami, CEO and Co-Founder of InsightRX to discuss how his software platform uses data, mathematical models, and machine learning to enable precision medicine. Sirj and his team are working to change this startling lapse in dosing by individualizing treatment at the point of care, efficacy always being a top priority.

Can you take me through the process of creating InsightRX, did you ever have that “aha” moment?

I started the company out of my PhD program at UCSF. My dissertation was structured around developing computational models and algorithms to understand the heterogeneity of response. If you give the same drug with the same dose to ten different people, everyone will react differently. I wanted to uncover why that’s the case, to figure out what are the genetic and non-genetic predictors of drug response variation.

My lab was approached by the Bone Marrow Transplant Group at UCSF in 2014, and they wanted for us to develop an application that helped them individualize chemotherapy dosing. The BMT group asked us to develop an application that helps them accurately dose patients that are getting that particular chemotherapeutic agent. It was very well received.

“We decided to make a platform around that concept because there are so many different drugs, there are so many therapeutic areas that stand to benefit from that kind of approach where you’re taking patient characteristics and existing mathematical models and to individualize medicine.”

So there wasn’t an “aha” moment in particular, my entire career has led me to the path that I chose today.

Your mission is personalizing treatment at the point of care. Why is this important?

Because drugs fail to work. Across the board there’s just a huge percentage of drugs that do not work today. They’re being administered to patients yet they’re not doing what they’re intended to do; they’re not efficacious and in many cases they’re leading to very serious side effects.

There is a critical need to figure out not just what drug is going to work for what patient, but also how much of that drug should be administered. Our solution, our entire platform gets at that problem. It allows us to individualize treatment selection so that patients are getting the right drug at the right dose at the right time.

As a founder, how do you get the most out of an accelerator?

Interacting with fellow entrepreneurs is incredible, the caliber of entrepreneurs in [PULSE] is something to marvel at. Everyone is super smart, motivated and working on incredible problems. Talking to these entrepreneurs on a daily basis, getting their feedback on different problems that we’re facing, understanding how they would approach a specific problem was inspiring and very helpful. Also, being a part of the community and learning from [experts brought in by PULSE]. At the end of the day, the [PULSE] advisors and mentors were quite helpful for us to build and grow the team.

Being based out of San Francisco, how does a connection to Boston ultimately help your mission?

There are so many different partners available [in Boston]. We were partners with Philips and Shire [through PULSE]. These two companies are quite different; yet, they both present meaningful opportunities for InsightRX . If you scale that out, you have so many different partners spanning providers, payors and pharma companies.

Being in Boston is critical because there’s not that many places in the United States that have that sort of reach and networking capability.”

Can you give me an example of a time you look back on and say, “THAT is why I love being an entrepreneur?”

I love being a part of InsightRX when I get positive clinical feedback.When a doctor comes to us and says ‘What you have built is impactful and is helping my patients get the optimal dose at the optimal time.’ Ultimately that reinforcement and positive feedback is critical for us to keep doing what we’re doing

Your team just won the Platinum Award at PULSE Finale, what does this win mean to you?

It’s an incredible honor to receive the PULSE Award. One of the initial benefits of it is validation. It’s really proof that what we’re doing is clinically impactful, and is being recognized by the broader community, not just in Boston but throughout the entire country. [It] is proof that we’re on to something, we’re helping clinicians and patients and it’s being recognized.

The win created a boost of morale, it increased our confidence, and allows us to remain focused and make a very compelling product that has a positive impact in the healthcare industry.

Now that you’ve closed Series A funding, you’ve completed PULSE with a win, what is next?

[We will] continue to grow on the product and customer side. We’re trying to build partnerships with existing healthcare providers, payors and channel distributors that will allow us to go to market faster.

What three words would you choose to describe being an entrepreneur?

First, I would choose ‘perseverance’, the road is long and having the right amount of stamina is important for long term success. Second, have ‘grit’ as an entrepreneur is one of the biggest predictors of success, at any level, regardless of stage.

Entrepreneurs need to have the grit and capability to deal with the punches and react in the manner that is productive. And of course, being collaborative. You have to be very collaborative with your team, with your clients, with your partners, with your investors. Being able to collaborate with multiple perspectives is a very important skill.

 

Congratulations to Sirj and his team at InsightRX team on their win of the Platinum Award at PULSE Finale 2018! Find out more about InsightRX here, and be on the lookout for more features of who is a part of our impactful, hard-working and driven startup community.

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