As a venture capitalist, Jim Breyer has invested in many game-changing technology ideas over the past few decades, names we all know and interact with daily like Meta and Spotify. But the biggest of all could be next, he says, thanks to the combination of artificial intelligence and the branches of science involved in medicine.
Since 2017, Breyer says his No. 1 job as a venture capitalist has been focused on finding the best disease and medical data from top research hospitals like Memorial Sloan. Kettering, MD Anderson and Johns Hopkins – highly exclusive and important data to lay off in startups Breyer Capital backs.
“AI and medicine are perhaps the most attractive new investment opportunity I’ve ever seen,” said Breyer, founder and CEO of Breyer Capital, at last week’s virtual CNBC Healthy Returns Summit. .
Breyer says he’s not alone among tech leaders with this view, citing a fireside chat he recently had with Michael Dell, in which the PC pioneer agreed, and private conversations he’s had with tech CEOs. “Over the past 12 months, mega-cap companies, based on direct encounters with Satya [Nadella, Microsoft CEO] and Tim Cook [Apple CEO] and others don’t just double, triple health care and medicine, it’s 10x, 50x,” Breyer said.
But the opportunity will not translate into success without a new form of collaboration between the great traditional technological talents and the medical field.
“Bringing together the brilliant 32 or 35-year-old machine learning specialists from Amazon, Google or Microsoft and having them work closely with Nobel Prize-winning doctors, great hospitals and great medical specialists is really difficult. , but that’s where decisive returns on investment will be in public and private companies,” Breyer said.
Dr. Sanjiv Patel, President and CEO of Therapeutic relay, who works at the intersection of new experimental techniques for drug discovery and computer science, says unlike the “false auroras” of past decades, it’s for real this time. “It’s not science fiction anymore, we have three in clinical trials,” Patel said.
But he warned the change would face many hurdles and an uncertain timeline. “There’s a lot of hype. People say you push a button in the metaverse and you get life-changing medicine, and I just don’t think there’s been any,” said patel. “We envision incremental changes over time…and there are significant challenges to overcome.”
Some of these challenges will be case specific as AI attempts to transform healthcare across the entire value chain; some will relate to the general problem of clean, high-quality datasets – “it’s not easy to get,” he says; and a third will be the bringing together of the scientific talents cited by Breyer.
“The availability of bilingual scientists is going to be a rate limitation for us,” Patel said, defining that as scientists well versed in computational research and one of the basic sciences important to medicine – physics, biology or chemistry. “It’s a big deal,” he said.
All knowledge-industry workers should assume they will need AI technology and be open-minded about its use, says Dr. Vineeta Agarwala, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. One of its portfolio companies, Insitro, was founded by Stanford AI researcher Daphne Koller (co-founder of Koller’s edtech company Coursera). She cited an example Koller used 30 years ago with workers who said they didn’t need personal computer technology as it became more commonplace. “It would have been crazy for knowledge industries to say ‘We’re fine. We’re fine the way we are,'” Agarwala told CNBC Healthy Returns.
Her VC is “on the prowl,” she says, for founders who say they want to use AI to augment what they can do, so they can do more. “That’s how we see things, companies, researchers and entrepreneurs,” Agarwala said. “Adopting AI should be a bit like those who adopted computers a few decades ago… it will be inconceivable in the future not to adopt this.
Unlike the evolution of the PC, which took three decades, she expects that in the case of AI, it will be “obvious” within five to ten years.
As a doctor, Agarwala says the amount of medical information she needs to stay current is already at its “peak”, from medical literature to clinical trials and learnings from large patient datasets. And she noted that Microsoft has already integrated ChatGPT into its medical dictation software for doctors. These types of AI bridges will help address immediate workflow issues that contribute to physician burnout. “Just in the workflow of seeing patients and interfacing with the payer ecosystem, there may be a way for great language models to contribute to a reduction in burnout,” he said. she declared.
After that comes the “real biology,” she says.
Already, AI is being applied to make better decisions for medicinal chemistry teams to pick better molecules or predict the toxicity of certain molecules in advance, and over the next five to 10 years, expect that talents who choose to use AI to augment their roles have this “super power,” Agarwala said.
“It’s not AI that can do what a human expert does, but a relentless focus on where AI can give me insights that no human could have had,” he said. she declared. “There are many exciting opportunities for great talent from big tech and large-cap pharma,” she said. “The two must come together to build businesses.”
Cloud services run by big tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon (Amazon Web Services) will benefit in the years to come, but for the workers already at those companies – who have made heavy job cuts over the the past year, including some layoffs from nascent health science efforts — Breyer is focused on mid-career talent who sees where AI and medicine go together.
“The biggest challenge, day-to-day, week-to-week, for me is to bring people and cross-disciplinary teams together… biotech, computer science, specialty chemistry… and make them all work together,” Breyer said. .
“The talent I see is the 30 to 35 year olds of these companies, Meta, Microsoft and Alphabet, who want to get into this field on a mission, either out of personal family history or opportunity view, c is where they want to spend the rest of their careers,” Breyer said. “And rarely have I seen the 10-year-olds of these mega-caps say that.”
As Breyer speaks to the next generation of professionals, students from schools such as UT Austin, Harvard, Stanford and Columbia, his message is clear: “This is the greatest opportunity I have seen. However, make sure you’re studying linear algebra and calculus and chemistry and biology, because all of the fundamental opportunities are in those technologies that lie at the intersection of calculus and science.”