Health Tech: Dr Jurgi Camblong On How SOPHiA GENETICS’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On…

Posted on

Health Tech: Dr Jurgi Camblong On How SOPHiA GENETICS’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Having a cloud-based solution that can be constantly enhanced. As mentioned above, I believe knowledge is power — especially when it’s distributed. One of our biggest assets lied in our community of users, that is contributing to make our cloud-based solution a little stronger everyday by sharing their knowledge through our platform.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jurgi Camblong.

Dr. Jurgi Camblong is a CEO and entrepreneur who, along with his company SOPHiA Genetics, is pioneering the data-driven medicine movement around the world. He is a molecular biologist who has been published in Cell, Science & Nature, has a PhD in Life Sciences from the University of Geneva, and an EMBA in Management of Technology from EPFL/HEC Lausanne. In addition to his work at SOPHiA GENETICS, Dr. Camblong was a member of the Advisory Council on Digital Transformation to the Swiss Federal Government, and was personally recognized by EY as Emergent Entrepreneur of the Year.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I grew up in the southwest of France in a region called Basque Country, speaking three languages (Basque, French, and Spanish), so in a way, I was truly European by birth. I grew up in a family full of idealists. My older sister, older brother and I attended a Montessori-type school, which was a very different structure of education than most experienced growing up in France. We were encouraged to define our own rules, which was instrumental in shaping me into who I am today. Also, I also greatly enjoyed playing football (i.e. soccer) in my childhood. School and the football club were like my extended family, and many of the values that I learned from these are still with me, including teamwork and solidarity.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Soon after founding SOPHiA GENETICS, I had a pretty special meeting with Marc Coucke, one of our first investors and a Belgian entrepreneur. Upon arriving at his home, we ended up playing a round of foosball. It wasn’t until I scored three goals that he finally turned to me and said, “let’s talk.” I’ll never forget that first meeting. If I had been terrible at foosball, I have no idea where I’d be today!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I think there are many people but my wife would definitively come first. Second, I would probably cite our Chairman. As a CEO you can feel pretty alone, and if the partnership with your Chairman is the right fit, they end up become a coach with whom you can be really honest. I’m lucky to have had an excellent Chairman who has been there to help overcome challenges together.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” -Colin Powell

Many people believe that you become successful when you have a great product or a great idea. But in reality, it’s all about working hard and continuing to work hard. Hard work is never finished. You always need to get better.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Ambition is probably the most significant character trait that led to our success. SOPHiA GENETICS was founded in Switzerland, and there are not many Swiss companies that have the ambition to dominate the world in a very competitive industry. I knew this when I started the company, and it’s something that’s driven me since day one.

Transparency is also something that’s at my core — which is probably why it became such a key focus for SOPHiA GENETICS as a company. It’s imperative to be transparent, even when the message is constructive, otherwise we can never improve. This doesn’t just apply to my colleagues, but to our customers as well and the data insights we provide them. This is the reason why we want to break down data silos and share knowledge globally.

The final trait that has served me well, despite perhaps its negative connotation, is my tendency to obsess over things. I’ve always known where I wanted to be, and because I remain committed to that vision, that sometimes means I’m my own toughest critic. When I chart a course, I keep moving in that direction until I’ve achieved my objective. Professionally, that direction is simple: I’m on a mission to offer the tools to enable health scientists to speak the same research language, accelerating our collective ability to improve health outcomes worldwide.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

SOPHiA GENETICS was founded with the vision to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases by merging new capabilities in life sciences, such as genomics and proteomics, with technological advances in mathematical computing and machine learning. This idea has proven to be a game changer in the field of cancer, ultimately leading to the development of the SOPHiA DDM Platform. Today, the company helps to diagnose one patient every four minutes, and over the course of a month, benefits thousands of patients with cancer or hereditary diseases all over the world.

For breakthrough medical research to occur, labs need to be able to replicate laboratory procedures, and that means standardized protocols for sample collection and common metrics for analysis. Today, however, labs use different machines for analysis, different sample sources and different algorithms. But if they standardize data, harmonized researchers can produce desperately needed solutions in record time with peers working in labs across the globe.

Our mission at SOPHiA GENETICS is to provide the tools needed to standardize this data, ensuring equal access to research knowledge and capabilities by democratizing data-driven medicine.

How do you think your technology can address this?

We address this with our cloud-based SOPHiA DDM Platform that enables healthcare institutions to get quick, robust insights from their data. We apply our technology to diseases, such as cancer and inherited disorders, where combining genomic and phenotypic information is vital to support discoveries, treatment decisions, and drug development efforts.

The SOPHiA DDM platform is one of the largest technology-agnostic networks of connected healthcare institutions worldwide. Our data-sharing methodology also helps researchers and healthcare professionals work together as a community by sharing and leveraging patterns identified via AI and machine learning. And it keeps getting smarter: our universal platform is designed to improve as we analyze more and more data over time.

The company has seen an exponential growth in the number of genomic profiles on our platform with more one million to date.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

A lot of founders in healthcare have very personal stories that connect their business to a heartbreaking personal tragedy. I’ve been very fortunate in that our origin story at SOPHiA GENETICS didn’t come about because of a loved one with cancer, or some similar debilitating illness. I founded SOPHiA GENETICS for a simple reason: I knew I was living in a world where resources are limited.

Knowledge is power — especially when it’s distributed. I knew I had a social responsibility to create a better world helping to translate the data that every human being carries inside of them so it could be accessible to the widest range of people possible.

When I struck upon the idea for SOPHiA GENETICS, I knew how significant an impact it could have in helping hospitals, research labs, and other institutions break down data silos and create the collective knowledge to improve people’s health across the globe. How could anyone walk away from a mission like this?

How do you think this might change the world?

We’re already changing it. Our platform is used by more than 790 institutions in over 70 countries. When it comes to cancer care, we provide better insights to oncologists to show how other patients reacted to different types of treatments, helping doctors to make better-informed decisions. This is only possible when health data is not siloed. Access to better data enables broader perspectives and makes us smarter as a community.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Honestly, no. I suppose the biggest twist that we’re risking is a world where everyone is healthier and living longer thanks to better access to health data. We could be poised for a unique population boom (because of fewer deaths) unlike anything we’ve experienced in human history.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

  1. It’s creating the right product for the market. Developing smart algorithms, like AI, that are capable of detecting the signal better than any tech player. For SOPHiA GENETICS, it was important to find a way to stand out in a very competitive industry. That’s why we’ve been obsessed with accuracy from day one. We were always committed to creating the right — and best — product for the market.
  2. Having a great network of partners to help you get traction into the hospitals, labs, and other healthcare institutions. For us, partnering with the right players in the field have been instrumental to building the SOPHiA community.
  3. Perfecting your sales team to reach the right institutions. This was primordial for us when we started; your product can be the best on the market, but if you don’t manage to open doors and reach the right customers, it’s useless. People in the field are the representatives of the company and their pitch has to be as sharp and efficient as possible.
  4. Having a cloud-based solution that can be constantly enhanced. As mentioned above, I believe knowledge is power — especially when it’s distributed. One of our biggest assets lied in our community of users, that is contributing to make our cloud-based solution a little stronger everyday by sharing their knowledge through our platform.
  5. Continuing to offer new solutions. For SOPHiA GENETICS, this means going beyond genomics data to other greater solutions across multiple modalities, including radiomics, digital pathology, proteomics, and metabolomics.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Let your motivation and passion guide you. If you want to change the world, you have to let go of your own ego and truly make it about your contribution to that vision.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The Dalai Lama. It would be fascinating to understand his wisdom, perspective on life, and idea of reincarnation.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Please follow us on Twitter and read the latest about our work on our blog.

Health Tech: Dr Jurgi Camblong On How SOPHiA GENETICS’ Technology Can Make An Important Impact On… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.