What is the biggest unmet need in clinical trials you see now in the US and perhaps beyond?
I see three clear unmet needs: First, the need to develop and deploy a community-engaged approach to clinical trials. Next, We must address social determinants of health to promote equity. And finally, address the need to promote the discoverability of clinical trials for anyone, anywhere.
From your own experience, how has diversity and inclusion, or a lack thereof, affected your life and career? Does it relate to your current work today?
I arrived in the US as a refugee of the first Gulf War. I learned English as a second language and had to navigate being part of a minoritized community in North Carolina. This personal background has given me the conviction to serve vulnerable populations and helped me deeply understand the importance of inclusivity.
Talk about your program and how it will address the diversity issue.
After nearly a decade of studying inequities in clinical trials as a physician and academic researcher, I felt that I needed to build a solution that would fundamentally transform the way we think about oncology clinical trial recruitment today. I spun out the public benefit company ‘Trial Library’ from the University of California, San Francisco in order to change the landscape for oncology clinical trial access. I wanted to create a discovery software for clinical trial identification that helps providers identify clinical trials at the point of care, integrated with a solution that uses technology and touch to address social determinants of health.
Tell us about your work at UCSF to develop your program.
Through my research program, I generated a deep understanding of the factors that drive clinical trial inequity and had the opportunity to test interventions that address these factors. The key learnings from this work inform my thinking about the necessary solutions in clinical trials.
What was your experience working with the Innovation Ventures team at UCSF to create and launch your company?
My experience working with UCSF Innovative Ventures was transformative. I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Marlene Grenon, the Director of Digital Health and AI on the EOD T. She encouraged me to consider building a company informed by my research. She helped me create my first company deck, engage in market research interviews, and develop a business plan. She broke down the process of how to spin out and build a venture-backed company. She served as a key mentor and now remains a friend and advisor. It is due to her support and mentorship that I was able to see this opportunity and become an entrepreneur.
How do you hope to change medicine with your new company?
I hope to fundamentally change the way we think about research and development by making it a more inclusive and equitable process.
Can you tell us a little more about yourself on a personal basis? As a mom, how do you juggle all the different aspects of life? Any advice for your colleagues, who are thinking about starting their own company?
When I started my career in medicine, I did not know that it would take me down an entrepreneurial path. I happened upon this path because I recognized that spinning out a venture-backed company would help build a strong team and a transformative solution. I feel fortunate to have received guidance from my UCSF community to discover this possibility and to make this life-changing transition.
While I identify as a physician, researcher, and now an entrepreneur, my most important identity is being a mother. I have three children, and the youngest is a mere 3 weeks old! Homelife admittedly feels chaotic at times, however, I believe that becoming a mother has led me to bring a deeper level of focus and conviction to my work. I balance my work and home life by having the benefit of a supportive partner and being able to create healthy routines around wellness, such as regular physical activity, that enhance my productivity.