Tech Tonics: Dr. Lynda Chin – Bringing AI to Medicine Through Infrastructure

March 9th, 2020 |
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Taking on challenges is nothing new for Dr. Lynda Chin. It started with learning English well enough in a couple of years to graduate valedictorian of her high school, evolved to a distinguished career as a physician-scientist and then full professor at Harvard & the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and ultimately led to her current role as founder and CEO of Apricity, seeking to bring digital technology to improve the care of oncology patients.

Lynda Chin’s family emigrated to the United States from China when she was in high school.  Through determination, and with the help of television (she cites “Starsky and Hutch” as her primary vocabulary inspiration), she taught herself English, graduated at the top of her class, and went to college at Brown University, where she created her own major – neuroscience – and conducted research involving echolocation in bats.

Over time, she became interested in molecular biology, attended medical school at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and continued her training in internal medicine and dermatology, while developing a research program on mouse models of cancer, which she was then recruited to Harvard to pursue.

An unanticipated setback at the lab – a mouse hepatitis virus infection in the mouse facility wiped out her engineered mouse colony, putting much of her research program on hold– led her to focus on the emerging technology of transcriptome profiling at scale.  She adapted it to engineered  mouse tumors for cross-species comparison, and more broadly, to an expertise in translational oncology, which she pursued at both the Broad Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project.  She was particularly proud of the work in building the genomic data analytic pipeline (Firehose) to enable not only access to but use of TCGA data by the broader community.  She rapidly rose through the ranks to the level of full professor, and was elected to the National Academy of Medicine for her research contribution.

Lynda ultimately decided she was ready for the next challenge: she joined MD Anderson Cancer Center with the idea of creating a forward-looking translation-centered department to develop technology and analytic infrastructure to enable Genomic Medicine.  She was also interested in the promise of AI, and helped set up a collaboration with IBM Watson to explore its application in cancer.  This project surfaced important hurdles for effective and responsible application of AI in the healthcare context.

Lynda is now applying these lessons as CEO of Apricity, a digital medicine company seeking to leverage data and AI to close the gap between promising clinical trial outcomes and the often more disappointing results in real-world care.  She is also championing the importance of pragmatic implementation of AI and other technologies in medicine, a focus of an upcoming conference she is leading in Boston (David is also on the organizing committee).

Tech Tonics is sponsored by Manatt Health, a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that includes a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help clients grow and prosper.  Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.

Show notes:

David’s recent Wall Street Journal review of Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy here.

“AI and Big Data In Cancer: From Innovation To Impact” Conference, March 29-31 in Boston, more here.

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Posted in: Audio Podcast, Healthcare, Tech Tonics, Technology