Interview Series: Yan Chow

Yan Chow interview series

Yan Chow, MD, MBA is a Medical Director in the Medical Sciences Early Development Group at Amgen, a leading human therapeutics biotechnology company.

His prior engagements include Chief Innovation Officer at LongView International Technology Solutions, a federal health IT services provider ranked #5 in Washington Technology Magazine’s 2014 Fast50 list; and former national Medical Director of the Innovation & Advanced Technology Group (IAT) at Kaiser Permanente, the largest private integrated care delivery system in the nation.

IAT assessed and made internal recommendations on over 2,000 new and emerging clinical information technologies with the potential to impact health care within a decade. Primary areas of focus were telehealth, mobile, and analytics, but many other areas were included, such as interfaces, IoT, robotics, social media, genomics, and behavioral research.In addition, IAT operated a successful employee innovation grant program.

IAT is affiliated with KP’s Garfield Innovation Center, an award-winning care delivery simulation laboratory that hosted over 55,000 visitors, including delegations from 43 countries, in its first eight years of operation.

Dr. Chow hasadvised and founded a number of startups, including a venture-funded analytics startup. He has 3 U.S. patents.

Dr. Chow earned his A.B. with honors from Harvard University and his M.D. from UC San Diego. In 2005 he received his MBA from UC Berkeley, where he graduated as valedictorian.

Q: What is your vision on the intersection of 3D Printing and healthcare?

A: I believe the new field of 3D bioprinting makes possible a potentially massive expansion of the therapeutic repertoire that healthcare providers can draw upon to fight disease and improve the human condition. The ability to create customized tools and medical products on a just-in-time basis promises to make health care much more efficient, personalized, and accessible. It also portends the increasing role of the patient in shaping his or her own health care, which is a good thing.

Q: What do you specialize in? What is your passion?

A: My interests are in the area of healthcare technology innovation, particularly technology strategy. The pace of innovation is increasing exponentially, driven by progress in multiple technology domains as well as new and unique synergies between domains. These are as diverse as wireless tech, big data, telemedicine, IoT, robotics, interfaces, 3D printing, nanotech, cyber security, human behavior, genomics, and medical research. The result is a tremendous amount of noise and uncertainty. The challenge is to focus on use cases compelling enough to drive adoption in highly risk-averse industries like the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

Q: What inspired you to do what you do?

A: As a youngster, I loved to read science fiction. I grew up in an era when the common person was beginning to be enthralled by the potential for technological achievement, such as landing on the moon or exploring the depths of the ocean. Authors like Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein painted fantastic pictures of life in the distant future, mostly oriented around technology. Today, many of those depictions have become reality, and it’s actually challenging to find a feasible tech scenario that is far enough in the future to be labeled ‘sci-fi’ — with the exception, perhaps, of time travel.

Q: What is the biggest potential impact you see 3D printing having on the healthcare industry?

A: This probably depends on the time frame. In the long term, I think the greatest impact will come from 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs for repair, replacement, and research. However, some areas, such as enhancement of human ability beyond what is naturally possible, will call forserious ethical, moral, legal, and regulatory discussion.

Q: What challenges do you see arising in implementing 3D printing in healthcare sector in the next 5 years?

A: One of the major challenges will be how to regulate 3D bioprinted products and tools for safety and efficacy, especially since these products are often customized, and the venues and means of production distributed, heterogeneous, and not controlled for quality and reliability. Regulatory scrutiny should be appropriate to the level of medical risk posed by a 3D-printed item (an implant, for instance, would be high risk). One possibility is that some elements of the traditional manufacturing process may need to go with a 3D medical printer, such as printing precision, a quality auditing system, or even a mini clean room or cleaning system.

Q: What is the best business lesson you have learned?

A: There are quite a few lessons I’ve learned (and forgotten). One of the most important is to try to see through someone else’s eyes. Try to understand what your customer is thinking, not just in the scenario you’re dealing with, but broadly as part of an ecosystem that you may or may not be familiar with. Why are they reluctant to adopt your product or service even when the logic seems impeccable? It might bea good exercise to alsodo this with your end users, investors, competitors, partners, regulators, and payers.

Q: What is the biggest business risk you have taken?

A: Co-founding a startup has to be near the top of the list. It takes a certain kind of personality and mindset to want to spend time, effort, and money to pursue a dream. The strange thing is that most entrepreneurs don’t see their startup ventures as risky. The trade-offs and sacrifices they make seem reasonable for what they are hoping to achieve, whether commercial success or a social good (or both). As an entrepreneur, you must hold a powerful belief in your idea, and sometimes this belief can make it difficult to understand why the world does not immediately beat a path to your doorstep.