[Interview] Hacking Metabolomics With AI To Improve Clinical Research
Personalized medicine has become a paradigm-shifting trend in healthcare - the hegemony of “one-size-fits-all” drugs is increasingly challenged by novel innovative modalities and therapies, laser-sharped for a specific group of patients, or even a single patient in some cases. This is a complex story, and the progress in personalized medicine will take time and tectonic shifts in the pharmaceutical research workflow.
On the other hand, the advent of personalized medicine is only possible with a more personalized system for health assessment, new robust biomarkers, and novel approaches to run and monitor clinical trials. This will require diagnostics that can provide sufficient insight into the metabolic status of individuals, and relatively new science of metabolomics is now taking off in the biotech industry.
To get first-hand insights into an exciting area of metabolomics, and how it can revolutionize clinical research, I asked several questions to Dr. Elizabeth O'Day, CEO, and Founder of Olaris, Inc - a precision medicine company that uses a pioneering metabolomics platform and proprietary machine learning algorithms to fundamentally improve how diseases are diagnosed and treated.
Dr. O'Day is also the co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology, the advisory board member for the Precision Medicine Initiative, and was also a "nominated changemaker" and invited to attend the first United State of Women Summit convened by the White House in 2016. She participated in Vice President Joe Biden's Cancer Moonshot Summit to discuss collaborative ways “to end cancer as we know it.”
Andrii: Can you briefly outline your journey with Olaris? Why did you decide to start the company, what was that key realization that led you to become a biotech entrepreneur?
Elizabeth: My journey started in the first grade when my older brother was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. It was an extremely difficult time for our family - we essentially lived in Boston Children’s Hospital for two years. My brother survived, and from that moment on I was inspired to help find a better way to treat cancer.
Over the next two decades, as a student, I spent the vast majority of my waking hours doing everything I could to contribute to the field of cancer research. Along the way, I was fortunate to be recognized for my work. As an undergraduate at Boston College, I received many of the nation’s top undergraduate awards such as the Beckman Scholarship, Goldwater Fellowship, National Institute of Chemistry Excellence award and Finnegan award. I then received a Churchill Fellowship to pursue a MPhil in Chemistry at the University of Cambridge in the UK, and a National Science Foundation Fellowship to support my PhD at Harvard University.
After I finished my PhD, a mentor asked me, “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?” I wanted to cure cancer, and believed that the metabolomics platform I developed during my graduate work could help accomplish that.
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