Each week, staff writer Paul Wood interviews a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet TUSHAR PANDEY, chief executive officer at SimBioSys Inc. in the University of Illinois Research Park. The company is working on technology to allow doctors and scientists to look at cancer to see how cells are interacting.
How did you get into this field?
Cancer is an area that is incredibly personal to all of us, and we recognized that our work could make a significant impact to the fight against cancer. Our platform was based on the initial foundation laid out by the research of Joseph Peterson and John Cole, who serve as chief technology officer and chief science officer of SimBioSys, respectively. I’ve personally been in health care my entire career, focused on bending the cost curve through analytics. Cancer is one of the major areas where the cost of care continues to rise at a record pace.
What have you done at SimBioSys?
We created a platform to computationally simulate tumor response to drug regimens to help oncologists in treatment planning phase. We have the ability to virtualize a patient’s tumor and can visually simulate the response to therapy. Instead of following the current trend in technology related to machine learning or artificial intelligence, we’ve based our work on the mechanistic modeling of cancer and its surrounding environment, allowing an understanding of cancer behavior like never before — including key areas such as drug delivery, chemical interactions and metabolism.
Why is this important?
Here is a fundamental issue in how cancer is treated — it’s based on population statistics and trial and error. In order for us to have another major breakthrough in cancer such as genomics, we need to understand the entire puzzle. History and our technological evolution continue to show that, in order to fully understand natural phenomena, we must appreciate that its governed by the laws of physics and chemistry.
How do you do that?
Taking examples of weather forecasting or navigation models such as Google Maps, where inputs are plugged into models to provide accurate forecasts, we’re using data collected during diagnosis (imaging, pathology) to individualize a cancer and computationally model its behavior. We intend our platform to be used both with drug selection as well as patient education and experience. This would provide a Google Maps-like approach to doctors and patients and provide a much deeper understanding of the disease to the clinicians.
Who else is on the team?
The talent on our team is extraordinary. We have some of the best scientists from the field of computational biology who are laser-focused on broadening our understanding of the disease so their work in the short term can be used to enable clinicians do more with what they have — and in the long term support the search for the cure.
Where are you at now?
We’re in the early stages and have the complete product for early-stage breast cancer. Our clinical trials are underway and we are working with the FDA for the regulatory approval of our device so it can be used in the clinical settings. We intend to have the complete suite for all solid tumors in the upcoming years beginning with lung cancer.
Do you have any patents? How about capital funding?
Our initial work was support by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and we have since garnered support from a group of amazing angel investors. We will be looking to seek another round of funding later this year to expedite our time to market.
What are the upcoming priorities for SimBioSys?
The sooner we get our platform in hands of clinicians, the sooner patients could benefit from it. We are laser-focused on that through our continued efforts on clinician adoption, clinical trials and perfecting the platform.
TECH TIDBITS ... from TUSHAR PANDEY
Do you have interests in social media? Are your startups on any of them? Social media is a new part of our strategy. It’s the best form to get the word out on our efforts. It will allow us to get in front of potential patients, clinicians and organizations who would benefit from our efforts.
Such as? We’re on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (@SimBioSysInc). Follow us to stay tuned on our progress!
Book or Kindle? What are you reading right now? “Deep Medicine” is a book we’ve all been reading as it does a wonderful job summarizing the current state and future potential of technology is helping clinicians.