“We are building machine learning technology to expand access to important, often life-saving heart medications. Fortunately, this is an area of healthcare where the priorities of all the major stakeholders are aligned — everyone from patients, to doctors, to insurance companies, to hospitals want easier access to proven medications.”
The Unique Path of a Tough Tech Founder
"It’s my ultimate life passion to use engineering to solve problems in medicine. Starting SafeBeat Rx was the ideal way to achieve this — using machine learning to improve the lives of patients with heart disorders.
I knew I wanted to be a cardiologist since high school. I remember taking my first anatomy and physiology class and after learning about the heart, I couldn’t sleep that night because I kept thinking about how my blood was pumping through all the chambers of my heart every single moment!
I also knew I wanted to innovate within medicine, and I needed the right tools to do that. That’s why I wanted to do both engineering and medicine. It was humbling to get accepted into every top engineering school (including MIT!), and I chose the new Olin College of Engineering for its focus on entrepreneurship and design in addition to the technical skills. As an undergrad, I consulted with Boston Scientific, Preserve, and Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and I worked on projects from drug-delivering contact lenses to MRSA-detecting microfluidic chips to real-time visual communication systems for paramedics.
After Olin, I went on to med school at UT Southwestern, where I led a substudy of a major clinical trial, debuted as the lead singer in our med school band ‘The Pacemakers,’ and completed a year-long certification in Innovating Healthcare Solutions. This provided a great balance because in my pre-clinical years, I had to do things like memorize the Krebs cycle. So on the opposite end, the innovation curriculum was modeled off courses at MIT and Stanford and taught me how to translate my new medical knowledge into actual technology, and start innovating from the clinical side.
These experiences led me to Stanford for residency, where I got into the first Biodesign Pathway of Distinction. I learned from successful ‘doctorpreneurs’ who, like me, wanted to have an impact on patients beyond their own clinic. I also did research at the Computational Arrhythmia Research Lab, and got to share my work on novel arrhythmia mechanisms at conferences around the world, where I learned from expert physician-scientists on how to think outside the box.
These experiences led me to Wash U in St. Louis, where I came to complete my cardiology training and also research a brand new area in medicine, using radiation therapy to cure abnormal heart rhythms noninvasively. I was honored with various awards for my research and ultimately went on to create my own innovation venture that became SafeBeat Rx. Although in most cases doctors don’t get to apply for independent NIH grants until several years after training, I got to apply for an NIH STTR grant as a PI, and my research team just won a ‘Big Ideas’ innovation grant to develop this technology further. I feel so fortunate to be living my dream already!"
The Value of Entrepreneurial Frameworks
"I’m honored to be a member of the entrepreneurial community, because I feel that I can learn so much from successful founders that may otherwise be tough to access directly. I’ve done almost 15 years of higher education thus far (good thing I started early), but there’s not really much formal education that can teach you to build something new, until you do it yourself. There’s no courses on how to get people (in my case, often non-medical people) interested in your technology and get excited enough to share your passion and invest their own resources.
Blueprint came at a perfect time for me. I had just developed a detailed research protocol in applying for several grants, so I had a very strong understanding of the research needed to validate the technology. But from a commercialization standpoint, I think that’s the area that’s tough to navigate without direct feedback and learning from others.
I knew that having a structured approach and hearing from prior successful founders, especially those in the early stages, would be incredibly valuable. Learning how they tackle specific things like, in my case, FDA regulation and insurance reimbursement would go a long way."
Entrepreneurship: A Continuing Education
"It was so valuable to hear from people just like me — to hear from those who have started from a background that is highly technical, and to hear their successful journey toward commercialization.
Blueprint provided hands-on applications of various principles we were learning in the didactic lectures. The template model helped me think through crucial aspects of my business model that would have not otherwise come up at this stage. I’ve had all of these things in the back of my mind, but having to formalize each aspect of my timeline and revenue model and put it on a slide was extremely helpful. The direct mentoring from technical and business experts at The Engine on SafeBeat Rx was incredibly meaningful and validating as we continued on this journey.
We now have a very clear sense of what the upcoming goals are for commercialization and for phase I and phase II validation, FDA regulation, and more. These steps will all be critical to taking SafeBeat Rx from an exciting research idea to a viable product that directly improves the lives of both patients and doctors."