Mike Klein: Using AI and DNA to Diagnose and Treat Rare Diseases
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse stories with the mission to inspire kids and youth around the world to become empathetic entrepreneurs. This series features interviews with founders working on SDG 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing by a character named Spiffy. Health is on a lot of our minds these days, so let’s see what’s being done!
Hi everyone! What a weekend! I’m Spiffy, the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth. It’s great to be back interviewing entrepreneurs making a difference in healthcare for all of us around the world. Today it is my privilege to talk to Mike Klein from Genomenon.
Spiffy: Welcome, Mike! With a name like Genomenon, I have a few ideas about what you do, but why don’t you tell our audience what health challenge you are addressing.
Mike: It’s great to be here with you Spiffy! At Genomenon, we’re changing the world of precision medicine by using AI (artificial intelligence) to organize the world’s genomic knowledge to help doctors diagnose and treat babies born with rare diseases, and help researchers develop drugs to treat these rare diseases.
Spiffy: Wow! I was going to guess it had to do with genes or genomes! What motivated you to work specifically with babies?
Mike: Well Spiffy, did you know that 1 in 20 babies around the world are born with a rare disease, caused by a genetic mutation that is often difficult to identify?
Spiffy: 1 in 20? I had no idea! That must be tough for the children and their parents.
MIke: You’re absolutely right. These children spend, on average seven years, seeing dozens of doctors and getting hundreds of tests trying to get a diagnosis. By connecting these children’s DNA with all the scientific research done around a rare disease, we’re able to put the diagnosis and treatment information at doctors’ fingertips and end these diagnostic odysseys.
Spiffy: I’m sure that’s a welcome shortcut for these families and physicians.
Mike: It’s huge Spiffy! You know, rare diseases impact children around the world, without regard to social or economic circumstances. By making DNA-based diagnoses readily available, and advancing drug development for these rare diseases, we can save and improve the lives of many of these children.
Spiffy: Now I understand you are broadening your focus to other types of diseases and age groups. What’s next for you?
Mike: Well, Spiffy, we recently expanded our work to neurodegenerative diseases. We’ve developed the first-ever comprehensive genomic landscape for ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. By identifying all the genes and disease-causing mutations associated with ALS, we work with pharmaceutical companies and academic researchers to streamline and accelerate drug development to treat ALS based on patients’ genomic profiles.
Spiffy: I keep reminding myself that a cup of success often includes a tablespoon of failure. Do you know anything about failure?
Mike: Six years ago, we started Genomenon with nothing more than an idea on how we could change the world of precision medicine. Life in a start-up is a series of (hopefully small) failures that help you course-correct onto a successful track. It takes a lot of grit – persistence and belief in our mission, willingness to learn from each failure, and carefully listening to customers to ultimately build a successful business.
Spiffy: Those are wise words, Mike! Is there anything else that has surprised you lately?
Mike: With my background as an engineer, I’m continuously amazed at the complexity of human biology and how much there is to learn. I’m surrounded by an incredibly brilliant team of scientists and I’m constantly learning about the impact of genetics and molecular biology on rare diseases and cancer.
Spiffy: It is a field many of us know little or nothing about. What can we be looking for over the next several years?
Mike: Spiffy, I believe that precision medicine – diagnoses and treatments based on your individual genetic make-up, or the unique genetic make-up of a cancer tumor – is going to revolutionize the world of medicine over the next 20 years. We’re not far away from being able to detect early stage cancer with a simple blood test. It’s exciting to be able to be part of this revolution in how we diagnose and treat rare diseases and cancer.
Spiffy: It’s incredibly exciting, Mike! I wish you well – and thank you for being a beacon of light to so many families and physicians.
Mike Klein is a 4X serial entrepreneur with several successful exits under his belt. He is currently the CEO of Genomenon, the genomic search engine company that connects patient DNA with the billions of dollars of genomic research to help doctors diagnose and cure cancer patients and babies with rare diseases, and pharma companies develop genomic-driven precision medicine. (Nominated by Red Cedar Ventures)
© 2020 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jill Landis Jha. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s stories of founders building a more equitable world at www.ladderworks.co/blogs/spiffys-blog
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.