Is This Scientist The Elon Musk of Medicine?
Jo Bhakdi likes to think big. So big, in fact, that he is pursuing a mission to build the future of precision medicine, one DNA sequence at a time. CEO and Chief Engineer Jo Bhakdi has a vision for revolutionizing the healthcare system that is so ambitious that he starts looking more and more like the Elon Musk of Medicine. The German born engineer and entrepreneur is currently CEO of Quantgene, a machine learning and precision medicine powerhouse that helps to detect dangerous diseases with unprecedented accuracy. Bhakdi's objective is to transform our flawed healthcare system from the reactive to the preventative, finding diseases years before they develop into symptoms so we can intercept disease of all kinds before they become lifethreatening.
How is Quantgene different from other DNA sequencing services? Conventional approaches only try to profile our standard DNA as it occurs in every healthy cell in our body and looks for variants, meaning letters in our personal DNA that are different from the average "reference" genome. Quantgene, on the other hand, investigates millions of DNA fragments in a blood sample to achieve single molecule precision, meaning the ability to read every single copy of DNA in a blood sample. In short, while 23andMe is playing checkers, Quantgene is playing 3D chess.
Quantgene's approach combines extreme precision with a fundamentally holistic idea: in the future, every researcher could have access to Quantgene's database of mutational cancer patterns across hundreds of thousands of patients, providing the deepest and most comprehensive pattern recognition technology in cancer detection and offering an unprecedented window into our mutational profile and what these mutations mean for our health. But Bhakdi's ambition goes even beyond cancer: he believes his platform will create the foundation of an entirely new frontier of preventive medicine.
The technology behind Quantgene pushes the scientific frontier beyond what most experts thought possible just a few years ago: it combines the power of proprietary machine learning algorithms (used to identify clinical conditions) with the most revolutionary technologies in genomics like errorcorrecting nextgeneration sequencing (NGS) technology which generates the genomic data points. The results are extremely promising: preliminary internal results showed a 90 percent sensitivity and 100 percent specificity across a first small batch of early stage cancer patients, indicating the strong performance of Quantgene's approach in early cancer diagnosis. The secret lies in the unique combination of machine learning, new chemistry and sequencing innovations that outperforms comparable approaches by over 10,000 times in costadjusted accuracy.
Bhakdi may have just laid the groundwork for a technological revolution not only in genomics but also in precision medicine. He's brought together a network of leading, like minded scientists and engineers to get his company to lift off, with backgrounds from Memorial Sloan Kettering CC, UC Berkeley, Stanford University, Google Life Sciences, Illumina, and Merck. But he thinks that this is just the beginning. The principles of innovation that allowed Quantgene to outperform some of the biggest names in biotech could one day also be applied to fields beyond medicine in education, energy, media, and all other aspects of our lives.
Bhakdi has a technical background: he's worked everywhere from Menlo Park to Beijing, holds a Masters in Economics with a focus on financial theory and statistics from the world renowned Tubingen University, and has previously held top executive positions at WPP and Omnicom. At his core, he is a big picture thinker, fascinated by questions of unlocking and deploying underutilized human and financial capital to create bold solutions to humanity's greatest challenges.
"I started to realize that the future is not some random reality that happens to us but one that is created by the choices we collectively make," he explained, "the way we make our choices is not arbitrary, but follows a perfectly clear logic. As humans, we will always seek out the best opportunities available to us and then we will choose the best method we know to achieve these goals. Everything comes down to our awareness of what is possible and our knowledge of how to engineer our future. If we understand this psychology and put all of our efforts into creating this wisdom, our potential is unlimited."
"Of course, we will make all kinds of mistakes on the path towards the future," he cautioned. "We can envision the wrong goal, or we can take the wrong actions. But if we do this and fail, we just start over and try again. The people who embrace this fundamental truth and become the most relentless pioneers are the people who build the future."
This is what Bhakdi calls "reality engineering": a circular, iterative and creative process in which we as humans study our reality, imagine wiser alternatives and begin to engineer the unknown. By becoming aware of this process and its potential, we can refocus our energy on eventually solving the biggest challenges in the world.
"We are still at the earliest civilizational stages in building this awareness, but we already see individual pioneers emerge who generate more progress than entire governments and corporations. Our old capital and governance systems have a lot of catching up to do; they
still fail to recognize this new reality. Capital isn't efficiently deployed into new, massive opportunities for growth and progress," he warned. "If we become better at understanding how to engineer our reality, empower more pioneers and become aware of our true power, we can maximize the pace of progress for all. Then, we will have gained the ability to engineer any future we want in a short period of time. The future is ready to be changed in medicine and beyond."
Jo Bhakdi is leading this change.