When Beta Testing is Life and Death | Dave Billiter at Deep Lens

In part 1 of our conversation with Dave Billiter, he told us about how his experience as the head of innovation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital inspired him to found Deep Lens, a company aiming to help patients find clinical trials using artificial intelligence.

In this second part of our conversation, Dave talks about the difficulties he faced finding healthcare administrators willing to change their established methods and how to scale in such a challenging market where so much is at stake.

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Dave has a diverse background spanning his 20-year career in healthcare and life sciences, in both large corporations and start-ups. Prior to leading the creation of Deep Lens, Inc, Dave was the Director of Data Strategy for Cardinal Health (Fortune 500-Rank #14) where he developed data monetization strategies and new product development for the pharmaceutical and health care provider partners.

Before joining Cardinal Health, Dave was the first employee for Signet Accel, a start-up company, spun out of The Ohio State University, where he led operations and business development supporting its federated data integration platform.

The impetus for Deep Lens, Inc came with Dave’s tenure as the Director of Informatics at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

For over 10 years Dave led the innovative technology development that supported the Institute, primarily The Biopathology Center. Dave was a member of the Children’s Oncology Group, Gynecologic Oncology Group, and Southwest Oncology Group where his team managed the biospecimen data management and digital pathology reviews supporting the large cancer consortia.

The team also supported the Biospecimen Core Resource for The Cancer Genome Atlas program and the digital pathology review process and biospecimen data management. Dave also was a participating auditor for the College of American Pathology (CAP) focused on the informatics systems for CAP Biorepository Accreditation Program.

Dave received his undergraduate degree from Ohio Northern University and his post graduate degree from Columbia Southern University.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Dave Billiter 0:00
Listen, I think we’re going to continue to see more and more artificial intelligence, and not just, you know, mathematical methods and models. But I think we’re going to see the innovation there is, you know, how can we take the sophistication and some of that math and really get it into workflows and put at the fingertips of your your knowledge workers.

Alexander Ferguson 0:30
In part one of a conversation with Dave Billiter, he told us about how his experience as the head of innovation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital inspired him to found Deep Lense, a company aiming to help patients find clinical trials using artificial intelligence. In the second part of our conversation, Dave talks about the difficulties, he’s faced finding healthcare administrators willing to change their established methods, and how to scale in such a challenging market where so much is at stake. Dave, I’m excited to have you back again, and dig into more How do you How are you innovating? How are you growing and overcoming challenges? Because I’m sure you’ve had your face of challenges. Absolutely. So this idea began, you said about three years ago, how did you really get it started? Like, where did the idea and then how did you grow that seed? Yeah,

Dave Billiter 1:21
yeah, no, thank thank you for the question, Alex. I would say just the the idea really came from I would say, years of just even my background, and seeing, you know, a number of different challenges when I was the director of Informatics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. And then even into my time at Cardinal Health, really looking at challenges from data perspectives, looking at operational challenges, and trying to get patients on clinical trials, it was really that I would say, you know, pulling all the that reference, from my time in that space. And then even working with my two partners, TJ Bowen and Simon Cowell. Those are my two partners that that I brought to the table to really start this company and with their backgrounds, and that’s really digging into the problems, you know, problems, you know, within the market, but also even I would say business challenges with with pricing structures and business models. You know, all three of us came together, and that that’s really what created really the drive to create deep lens.

Alexander Ferguson 2:36
You’re a VC funded, right, your views, right? How do you go from that idea? We see your behalf? I got it. Yeah, what the heck do we do with this?

Dave Billiter 2:45
Yeah, no, I, you know, I think so. So we’re based here in Columbus, Ohio, I think we’re fortunate to have a community here that, that aids in, you know, startup businesses. And, you know, one of the one of the groups here in town, Rev. One ventures, they, they were really beneficial. And really helping understand, you know, really going from idea to funding to up and running an operating. It’s it’s groups like a rev. One that were really instrumental in us, you know,

Alexander Ferguson 3:22
did you reach out to them? Or did they find Yeah, so,

Dave Billiter 3:25
shout to them. You know, I knew about rev one here in the community over a number of years. So when it really came time to, you know, really roll up our sleeves, they go do this thing. They were not I have some, some very strong relationships over at red one. So I reached out to them first to say, Hey, I got something, I think, let’s go make this happen.

Alexander Ferguson 3:49
So recipe for success is building those relationships already with the type up before you go and ask them.

Dave Billiter 3:57
Yeah, Alex, I will say that, you know, just in general, I think always continuing to, you know, grow your network, and build those relationships across the board. And, you know, having done that before starting deep lense, I really think it really helped facilitate and optimize the process of going from idea to raising dollars to you know, operating, there’s a benefit there.

Alexander Ferguson 4:25
For your first initial client. Well, in this case, you have to have both the hospital and and the sponsor. How did you overcome that challenge? Yeah, it was first ones.

Dave Billiter 4:36
Yeah. No, and I think, what’s what’s interesting about your question, is that the challenges were, you know, going to both providers and the sponsors and say, Hey, look at this innovative creative way that we’re solving somewhat of an old problem, right? And look at how we’re doing it. And I you know, I think why That was such a challenge is we, we saw the excitement from both the providers and sponsors on how we’re solving, you know, patient identification and early screening from the point of diagnosis and pathology, which folks were getting excited about. But then they’d say, Where have you done it? Right. And when you’re, when you’re a new company, and you’re going out there and really trying to create that, that’s not the question on here. Right. Right. That that was really, I would say, one of our biggest challenges. But the way we overcame that is, you know, and I talked about it a little earlier, just related to our lighthouse clients, was really our ability to partner with with even pharma companies, as well as providers out there, that were really willing to allow us to trial the platform and really, basically run it like a study moving forward

Alexander Ferguson 5:57
from this. There’s challenges probably in difficulties yet to face what do you see in order to move the next year or two that you’re going to need to overcome what hurdles you’re going to need to overcome?

Dave Billiter 6:11
You know, I think, you know, the obvious right now is just the environment that we’re in right with, with COVID-19. The Coronavirus it is it is it’s producing challenges for everyone. So that, you know, that that’s first and foremost that I think we’re all we’re all trying to overcome that, you know, in this current landscape, right. The second is scale. I think scale, that’s a good problem to have, by the way. But scale, we’re you know, we’re constantly thinking about just scale the platform, we’re constantly thinking about scale of resources, because even as our data comes out, and sees more positive results on how we’re solving this big problem, we do, you know, in excited about it, but we’re going to have to be able to scale to run, you know, hundreds 1000s of trials at you know, hundreds of Institute’s with many sponsors, I think we’re, we’re a step ahead of that just with how we’ve architected our platform, with the ability to scale. But I think, you know, those scale issues are always faced by, you know, smaller companies, and as they really grow, but I think, again, it’s a good, good problem to have,

Alexander Ferguson 7:26
are you as a leader, how are you innovating? How are you growing? What books, audio books, podcasts, blogs, are you reading and listening to to facilitate that growth and innovation? Yeah, so

Dave Billiter 7:39
there is, there’s one specific one that that I watch pretty heavily, and his name is Dr. chahti, nibbana. I actually have known chahti for a while and have a relationship with chahti. But he does a podcast, and he’s, he’s an oncologist. And he has some very fascinating topics, with healthcare professionals, new technologies, but he does that he does a fantastic job and his podcast of, you know, individuals and, you know, just segments that he runs. You know, I learned something new every time I watch one. So, I would say that that is a key one that that, you know, that I really, that I really lean on, and make sure I you know, identified time to to review that podcast. And, you know, it’s good to great is a book that I think a lot of us know, but you know, even going back and looking at my notes and continuing to understand how, you know, I would say, the framework and specific criteria that you look at within that, within that material, how to, you know, how can I kind of grade myself and the company as as we move through that process? So I would say those two sources. And then the third is, we really try to provide an environment Alex within deep lens that, you know, whether it’s just even in Slack, or you know, even in, you know, certain events that that we host, providing the mechanism where no matter who you are your role in the company, you can continue to share, whether it’s ideas, or even material or podcast that that you recently reviewed. So it’s really facilitating through our company, that constant innovation, that constant Hey, is there a new idea? You know, there’s even aspects of looking at contests internally, where we can run within the company that continue to drive that innovation

Alexander Ferguson 9:53
as a tech leader. Last question I have for you, what kind of tech innovations do you predict? We’ll see In the near term, like the next year or so, and the longer term about 10 years, Oh, wow.

Dave Billiter 10:08
You know, and if I not that I have a crystal ball, right, I think, listen, I think we’re going to continue to see more and more artificial intelligence. And, and not just, you know, mathematical methods and models. But I think where we’re gonna see the innovation there is, you know, how can we take the sophistication in some of that math, and really get it into workflows and put it at the fingertips of your, your knowledge workers, and your experts, I think you’re gonna see some really cool innovation there. I think, you know, even if I advance on that, you know, robotic process automation, or RPA, as I think that’s where, you know, this combination of that advanced mathematical models and, and looking at solving some of those tedious tasks, to optimize workflows, I think we’re gonna continue to see advancements there. You know, when I, when I really look at the problems that we’re trying to solve, where I get really excited, I think you’re gonna see a lot more I’ll say more in the prediction aspect, right. And to be more specific, where, you know, using a platform, like Viper, and techniques and AI, like we have been able to not only, you know, be able to identify and screen that patient rapidly and get them, you know, identified for a clinical trial, which we’re solving now, right. But then being able to use predictive modeling to say, that specific patient, they’re going to be, you know, very successful on this trial, because we’ve already predicted that from other patients that we’ve seen, right? I get really excited about that, because that’s, that’s really where I see, that’s really where I see things going, you know, in the next couple years, in the five years, that helps both the providers, it helps even better clinical trial design on the pharma side that are designing those trials. So I think we’re gonna see significant advancement there. And why I get so excited about that, is because it’s the patient that benefits from it, all these things that we’re doing from technology and math and process. And then, you know, being able to embed those techniques into the clinical workflows. I do believe that, you know, some of these examples are going to be realized, and if not already. So I do see that in, you know, even into being able to basically run virtual clinical trials, which, you know, there’s a lot of discussions and advancements there. So I think it’s, we’re gonna see some really exciting aspects, I think, year two 510. Because, again, I think all this event leads to, you know, smarter clinical trials. And in the end, we’re talking about, you know, increasing cure rates, and decreasing side effects for patients. So that’s that again, I think there’s a lot of excitement there.

Alexander Ferguson 13:20
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