The Voice of Experience: Sastry Chilukuri

President, Acorn AI


7 July 2020

3 min read

We have made remarkable progress over the last century to double human life expectancy and conquer debilitating diseases. This was achieved through innovations in sanitation, vaccines and other therapies. However, I believe our best days are still ahead of us.

Just as healthcare in 1930 looked very different than healthcare in 1830, healthcare in 2030 will look very different than healthcare in 1930. Artificial intelligence (AI) will enable us to detect diseases even earlier, create a holistic view of the patient, develop treatments that are incredibly precise and individual and dramatically expand access to care across the globe.

A whole new world

We’ll move from a world where physicians make decisions based on training to one where AI and data will inform decisions, training and planning. Regulators won’t just regulate therapies; they will regulate the process of medicine manufacture too—a critical move to ensure effective personalized treatment.

Earlier this year, I would have predicted that we would start seeing these changes over the course of the coming decade. However, COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated this timetable. It used to take years to see information exchange lead to better standards of care; now it is happening in a matter of days. Industry bodies around the globe are publishing data to continuously update the way physicians work, and regulators are pushing therapies to market quicker. We also are seeing a dramatic rise in the use of data, AI and social collaboration tools, which are accelerating an evolution in the way we treat patients.

The questions that matter

Acorn AI has a vital role to play in this new world of healthcare. By making data “liquid” across the entire lifecycle, allowing it to flow freely from R&D to commercialization, we provide actionable insights to the front lines of decision making. Liquid data is possible thanks to our success in building one of the largest regulatory-grade repositories of anonymized clinical data in the world. That data allows us to provide the insight needed to accelerate access to care and to innovate new therapies quicker than ever before.

Ultimately, we are focusing on the questions that matter. How do you make the right choice in terms of which therapies to accelerate and which ones to drop? How do you change the design and execution of clinical trials to speed up time to market? How do you match the right patient to the right treatment at the right time? Acorn AI focuses on these questions and many more—questions that we can answer in new and even more sophisticated ways as we add even more data sets to our repository. We’re already making breakthroughs. In fact, we’ve begun to reduce the impact that COVID-19 is having on clinical trials, thanks to our pioneering work on virtual trials.

Why are these needed? A friend of mine is in late-stage cancer,  and his physician advised that it would be riskier for him to come into the hospital to trial new drugs than to stay at home without treatment. Without access  to clinical trial treatments, my friend feels like he has been handed a death sentence—and he’s one of thousands facing the same dilemma. However, thanks to our development of intelligent digital trials, we are figuring out how to provide safe access to care during the COVID-19 lockdowns, facilitating the therapy that is desperately needed without putting further lives at risk.

Great data science begins with great data

We’re also making huge advancements in the push toward truly personalized healthcare. What’s clear, and what cannot be underestimated, is that personalized healthcare can only be achieved with great data—exactly what Acorn AI brings to the table.

Our structured, standardized clinical data is further enriched with data from insurance claims, medical records, and more—and then given life thanks to AI and virtualization. The insights that can be created from this will impact the entire patient journey, helping to create personalized pre-surgical planning, post- surgery care, more effective implant products, and better rehabilitation programs. It also will help us to understand the progression of diseases on a case-by-case basis. For example, what is different about those patients who deteriorate quickly with COVID-19, versus the ones that are asymptomatic? Our data, which is the largest repository of its kind, is helping us to understand how to effectively attack the virus at an individual level, without compromising the immune system.

In the future, we will be able to take this even further.  As digital twin technologies advance, we will be able to assemble a complete digital replica of a patient—a replica which, in a virtual environment, can be used in digital trials and matched with the most  effective  treatment. The possibilities these kinds of advances promise are mind-blowing—and will potentially save millions of lives.

While times are difficult at the moment, it’s important to recognize that this isn’t the first pandemic humankind has faced, and it won’t be the last. And we are in an incredibly strong position: the greatest minds on the planet are singularly focused on delivering a solution, which means that, we will come out of this crisis stronger than ever. These may be dark times, but a lot of light is on the horizon. ˜

PROFILE: As president at Acorn AI, Sastry Chilukuri is responsible for accelerating the development, go-to-market, and delivery of capabilities that help life science clients accelerate their innovation. Chilukuri has 20 years of experience in healthcare technology. He most recently was a partner at McKinsey & Company, where he worked for 13 years advising bio-pharma, medical device, technology, public sector and regulatory clients around the world. Prior to that, he worked for GE Healthcare in software engineering, product development and operations.

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