twoXAR Announces Business Advisory Board


From Day 1, our vision at twoXAR has been to “improve health through computation”. We’ve taken many steps along this journey, such as collaborations with leading companies like Santen and breaking new ground in the path to more efficacious treatments in liver cancer. As we continue to build momentum and scale our aspirations to help as many patients as possible, we’re increasingly drawing upon the expertise of industry veterans to guide our strategic decision-making.

Given this, I’m pleased to announce the formation of twoXAR’s Business Advisory Board and welcome Judy Lewent, Jonathan MacQuitty, and Howie Rosen as we move forward on our company’s journey. Each of our advisors brings a unique perspective to our business as we continue to launch disease programs in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies, investors, and drug development teams…

READ THE FULL POST AT MEDIUM.COM 

elevenXAR, Inc.

April 1 is an exciting day for twoXAR, Inc. as we are now re-launching the company as elevenXAR, Inc. This comes after tense negotiations with all of our staff. But finally, we are pleased to announce that everyone on the team has agreed to legally change their names to Andrew Radin! We will of course continue the tradition of unique middle names. It’s our honor to welcome Andrew Carl Radin, Dr. Andrew Nikolay Radin, Andrew Aaron Radin, Andrew Tewei Radin, Dr. Andrea Karen Radin, Dr. Andrea Marina Radin, Dr. Andrew Isaac Radin, Andrew Dane Radin, and Andrew Michael Radin II as our new namefellows.

Go, Duma!

Identifying Solutions for Neurodegenerative and Psychiatric Diseases

I suppose you could call me one of the men behind the curtain at twoXAR. I’ve been here all along, you just haven’t heard much from me. I’m a Data Scientist on the team, and I’m a graduate student at MIT where I’m developing techniques for studying the molecular mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases. My passion is rooted in this research, and I’m excited to tell you about it and how I’m using it to develop our company.

I share Andrews’ excitement for blazing new trails. My work gains insights into how diseases exert their detrimental effects and charts the process of technology development, which involves a lot of hacking and tinkering. My focus is on neurodegenerative diseases because very few effective drugs have been found to treat them. twoXAR is interested in them for the same reason.

In my opinion, it is the lack of mechanistic understanding of these diseases that makes drug discovery for them very difficult. This is also true of psychiatric diseases like autism and schizophrenia. twoXAR’s approach is a promising alternative to testing individual molecular targets experimentally, which academia has spent many earnest years searching for with very poor results. As an experimental scientist, I dream that the data that I work so hard to generate can be used not only by me, but by other scientists, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and beyond, who can leverage them to better effects. (Side note from Andrew A.: We’ll have a post soon about our take on the benefits of capitalism for medicine and society as a whole.)

As you already know, twoXAR has developed an algorithm that can discover new drugs through a computer, rather than a wet lab. However, that algorithm still relies on gene expression data from patients and healthy individuals, so we’re using the same hard data from flesh and blood samples. Instead of using them ourselves, we borrow data from scientists who actually processed these samples. In order for our algorithm to work accurately, these data are carefully inspected and annotated, which is where I come in. My role is to identify the most suitable data sets about the diseases we’ve chosen to focus on from published scientific studies for our algorithm(s).

We’ll get into the nitty gritty of my work for twoXAR in a later post. For now, I’ll jump on the band wagon Desiree started and let you guess which of these three facts is false. It’s another round of Two Truths… and a Lie!

  1. I went as an enzyme to last year’s Biology department Halloween party.

  1. In my off-time, I enjoy a solid game of table tennis and a good cookie.

  1. This picture captures me injecting brains into a tube.

 

We’re Growing: A Warm Welcome for Dane Bedward

Dane Bedward is no stranger to the pharmaceutical business. After ten years working as a product manager and then director of marketing at Johnson and Johnson and MDS Nordion, Dane was tapped to open the offices of Genzyme Canada. In little more than fifteen years, Dane worked his way up to the top of Genzyme, one of the largest international pharmaceutical companies in the world. He eventually became a Senior VP at the mother ship office in Boston. Needless to say, Dane knows the pharma industry inside and out.

Dane has just joined our advisory board this week. We’re pretty sure that with the the wealth he accumulated from Genzyme, a leader in biotechnology, he is acting as Boston’s unofficial Batman. But we don’t have any hard evidence yet.

Dane is filling a lot of those gaps we talked about in our previous posts: he is someone who has years and years in the business Andrew and I are entering for the first time. Genzyme in particular is a company that focuses on rare diseases, which is a popular topic of conversation in our discussions with potential investors. Genzyme also prides itself on its cutting edge research, and as a former leading member of the team there, Dane is very familiar with our unique methods of drug discovery. In a future post, we’ll explain why the world of biomedical informatics isn’t just for very special nerds.

[In husky, deep Batman voice:] It’s the wave of the future.

Computational Pharma: An Emerging Rotation

After three years of medical school and a whirlwind year of clerkships, I’m taking a detour from the strictly medical and enjoying a trek through the biotech pharma universe. It’s Day 10 on this special Silicon Valley incarnation of my medical, technological, and entrepreneurial interests, and I’m into it so far.

I recently decided to take a break from clinics and get to know the startup world, and I attended a Hacking Medicine event at Stanford to get a sense of what was out there and meet some interesting people. Andrew M. was one of them, and our conversation wooed me to join the team in business development at twoXAR, while also offering my medical know-how when and where it’s needed. Here are a few things they didn’t know about me before signing me up. The catch: one of them is false. That’s right, here’s a good old-fashioned game of Two Truths and a Lie:

  1. I performed in a med school a cappella group called the “Lymph Notes.”
  2. I consider biking a superior form of transportation to skateboarding, though it’s not always faster in Palo Alto traffic.
  3. My beverage of choice is butterbeer. I’m obsessed with Harry Potter.

Before I reveal the Lie, I’ll tell you a little more about why I’m excited about being at twoXAR that may or may not help you figure out which it is.

I’ve always been interested in computation as a way to push forward and improve on existing systems and processes. When it comes to work I’m passionate about, I’ll step outside my comfort zone to solve a problem from multiple angles. Thus, I’ve gone from cutting cadavers in medical school to investigating ways that technology can expedite cures by making sense of countless tissue samples of data. Of course, now I don’t have to touch or interact at all with human tissue, which is totally okay with me. I’m more than happy biking to the twoXAR office and spending the day tackling problems in pharma.

Have you figured it out yet? Here’s a hint: I’m keeping twoXAR well-stocked with buckwheat tea. No butterbeer here.

A Dose of Weekend Hacking: Hosting Stanford Medical School Hackathon

Last weekend, as part of MIT Hacking Medicine, I helped host the CareInnovations Patient Engagement Hackfest at Stanford Medical School. The Hackathon is an innovative weekend program that aims to create “more effective and reliable connections between patients, clinicians, and the information that can improve the quality and cost efficiency of healthcare” (Find out more here).  You may have seen my tweets about it all weekend. The event was sponsored by CareInnovations, (an Intel and GE joint venture) and went from Friday through Sunday, with about 100 participants attending the event. It was a really exciting crew of people with extremely varied backgrounds – it was just my type of crowd.

A large percentage of participants were clinicians, business & medical school students, software developers, and designers with industry experience. When you collect brilliant doctors, organization leaders, and computer scientists in the same room to discuss solutions in the healthcare space, you hear a lot of creative and fresh ideas about how to revolutionize medical care.

This weekend’s focus was on patient engagement, so we concentrated on questions like how to make it easy for patients to take their medication, how to collect accurate patient data in a useable format for physicians, and how to create medical tools that allow the patient to directly engage with their own health. It started with 30- and 60-second pitches on problems and solutions in the space and over the course of the weekend, teams self-assembled based on the specific problems they wanted to solve. In the end, 9 teams hacked and presented some pretty innovative hardware, software, and service-based solutions.

The most valuable element of this experience was seeing that these diverse teams could create incredible and unexpected solutions to a given problem and it reminds me that a diverse team is what makes for a successful business venture. I’ve worked on teams made up completely of engineers and teams composed of MBAs, and inevitably teams of people with the same ways of thinking will miss something important. The best way to create a sustainable solution to a problem is to have a team that can ideate from as many angles as possible.

I came out of the event energized and ready to tackle big issues in healthcare. As an entrepreneur in the space, I was inspired by the teams at the hackathon. I got to see firsthand and with immediate results, how unconventional and diverse approaches to old problems are not only effective: they can change our world.

At twoXAR we embrace this mindset and strive to build a team with radically different backgrounds and ways of thinking who can effectively come together to improve lives through computation. In fact, post the hackathon, Stanford medical student Desiree Li joined the team to support us both on the science and business development side. I guess Silicon Valley is the place to find the crossover between doctor and entrepreneur.

We Filed Our Patent!

About five months ago, before twoXAR had a name or a team, Romy Celli, an intellectual property and biotech patent expert at Alston & Bird, had a close look at the drug discovery research Andrew had been working on at Stanford. Andrew’s first inclination was publish what he developed. It was only under advice from a friend—“You’re not going to publish this, you’re going to patent it”—that he found Romy. She had a feeling he’d discovered something exciting, and she took it to her colleague, Ishna Neamatullah, another biotech patent genius, to get a second opinion.

We’re grateful that these two people took a huge risk in helping twoXAR with this brainchild: they didn’t charge us a dime up front because they believe in what we’re doing. Not only that, but when Ishna took on the task of writing the patent (under Romy’s guidance), she turned a fifteen page academic paper into a comprehensive one-hundred-page document – and didn’t miss a thing. I could try to tell you how many people we’ve told about our technology and how many of them have said something along the lines of, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, but it sounds really interesting!” But I’ve lost count. Ishna, who is both wonderfully in synch with the wild workings of Andrew’s mind and incredibly humble, was on point in her rewriting the idea down to the smallest details. This is especially striking because the fifteen-pager really only described the function of the algorithm. It didn’t get into the thought-process behind it, or how we intended to apply the technology. Essentially, Ishna, through a few meetings, managed to get on Andrew’s wavelength and translate it all in legalese.

Which leads up to last week, when we filed our patent thanks to these generous and impressive lawyers, and twoXAR threw a cupcake thank you party for Romy and Ishna. Trader Joe’s gluten-free chocolate cupcakes are the best.

Building the Team: Adventures in Finding a Chief Science Officer

We have titled this post Adventures in Finding a Chief Science Officer because it has definitely been adventurous. There have been rained out tennis games, planes and buses to and around the east coast, and lots and lots of phone interviews with some… interesting characters.

In Andrew M.’s travels to the east coast a couple of weeks ago, he got on a Megabus and rode six hours from Boston to New York for one special guy. The guy said he was super interested, then he stood us up. So that wasn’t great.

There’s a different guy who says he knows the pharm biz like the back of his hand. He won’t answer any of our specific questions, but he emails us everyday. We don’t really get it.

There was somebody else who explained that Google was a competitor we should watch out for because of their new research into how to end death. We don’t really get that either. And yet another explained to us that we shouldn’t be looking for a Chief Science Officer, but a new CEO. So those didn’t really work out either.

Between Andrew M. and me, we’ve got computational biology and business strategy covered, but we need someone who really knows drugs. You know what I mean. Someone who can further validate the technology we’ve created with the science pharmaceutical companies already know and trust in a wet lab.

And, s/he has to be cool too. We’re kind of hoping to find an Andrew Z. Radin (since we’ve already got an A and an M Radin) who has had extensive experience managing CROs in drug discovery. The Andrew Radin bit is probably optional.

Recreational Protein Folding

A favorite pastime of bio-geeks is to search the amino acid chains of proteins for everyday words or phrases. This is, of course, a silly endeavor, as applying the English language to the single-letter codes that represent each amino acid might as well be random noise as far as Mother Nature is concerned.

But, I couldn’t help myself from looking. Given that my name and my co-founder’s name has been the source of much fun, I went looking for it.

The closest match to ANDREWRADIN in protein language is in the oxidoreductase protein which is expressed in a form of bacteria known as sulfitobacter. This best-match amino acid sequence is AENREWRADI. Hmm, not exactly a perfect fit.

My namefellow decided, after I shared my dissatisfaction with him, to head over to raptorx and render an imaginary protein comprised of CARLFARRINGTANANDREWRADINANDREWRADINHEFFSAN, which represents the names of some of the people who are working with us at twoXAR. With only twenty-two letters of the alphabet available as codes for amino acids, some liberties had to be taken. For your viewing pleasure, an image of the CARLFARRINGTANANDREWRADINANDREWRADINHEFFSAN protein is included with this post. See the pink, swirly pasta noodle thing? I was surprised to see an alpha helix in what is otherwise random characters. Perhaps there is some order in the randomness of our names after all.