An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Dave Billiter, the co-founder and CEO of Deep Lens, who was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Deep Lens – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
The initial idea for Deep Lens came together when my co-founders, TJ Bowen, Simon Arkell and I realized that my digital pathology inventions from my days as head of innovation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital could form the basis for a completely rethought approach to clinical trial recruitment. I was able to license these inventions, so the three of us incorporated because we had such complementary skill sets. I am the pathology innovator with pharmaceutical strategy expertise from my days at Cardinal Health, Simon is a serial analytics and AI entrepreneur who has started 7 companies and raised a lot of VC over the years, and TJ is the cancer genetics PhD and strategy consultant from his days at LEK Consulting. Our idea was to create a new company that could use pathology as a differentiator to disrupt a massive industry – clinical trials in oncology
The problem is that today’s precision medicine can overwhelm healthcare providers. Only 5% of eligible, motivated patients successfully enroll in clinical trials. Due to limited visibility, eligible patients and their care teams miss opportunities to learn about cutting-edge trials in the small window when treatment decisions are made.
The challenge facing biopharma and CROs is finding patients to fill trials. The complexity and siloing of patient data means eligible patients are slow to be identified, or worse, missed.
From the inception of the idea to today, our team has been true to form, growing with major biopharma, providers, and strategic partners to take on the status quo and provide a truly groundbreaking approach to clinical trial recruitment so that patients can get the therapies they want and deserve.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Like any startup, we encountered a few. Initially, we were successful in licensing a digital pathology platform but evolved our strategy aggressively when we realized how small the market is for digital pathology (under $1B then) compared to oncology clinical trials ($65B). This made us re-architect and extend our platform so that it could truly be for clinical trial recruitment, with an entirely different user persona. Once we did this and sharpened our message, we were able to successfully raise a $14M series A VC round and were off to the races.
What does the future hold for Deep Lens?
We see our work as very important and we are all very driven by the mission of helping move the needle in the fight against cancer. This can turn into a big business because the market need is massive, the tech is transformative, and the people are excellent.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Columbus?
In a word, “vibrant”. The ecosystem is growing and there are new, innovative companies springing up all the time. Incubators like Rev1 and VCs like Tamarind Hill are building the base and making it an exciting place to start a company!
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
First: Be passionate and find a real problem that exists that you, your tech, and your team can solve. The rest will fall into place.