1% Better S3,

Jo Bhakdi – Defeating Cancer, Precision Medicine, & the Ladder of Improbability! EP103

April 10, 2019

Jo Bhakdi is the founder of Quantgene,a company that combines precision genomics, AI and a new perspective on medicine to detect disease at early stages.

Bhakdi galvanized a network of world-leading scientists and engineers to tackle computational and clinical challenges in DNA sequencing to accelerate the pace of modern medicine, arming us with a tool that is changing the future of human health.

A pioneer in precision medicine, Bhakdi’s utilization of big data combined with advanced DNA analysis detects dangerous diseases with unprecedented accuracy before symptoms even occur. Unlike other DNA-centered initiatives which look for variants against our reference genome to detect abnormalities, Bhakdi’s company can read millions of DNA fragments at a time, achieving single molecule precision; truly changing the game for healthcare and making reactive medicine a thing of the past.

Bhakdi holds a Masters in Economics and Psychology from Tubingen University, 
one of Germany’s leading academic institutions, with a focus on financial theory 
and statistics.

This is one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve done and if Quantgene delivers on its promise, which I believe they will, expect to be hearing a lot more about Jo Bhakdi in the years to come.

I think I broke a show notes record for this one….here’s a summary:

  • Started the company in 2014 working on this as a side project
  • Working on a product that detects 12 different cancers at early stages in the blood
  • Next Gen Sequencing, Machine Learning Breakthrough
  • Family background in Medicine
  • Breakthrough idea in 2014 – the idea on pattern recognitions – specific way looking at DNA in the blood!
  • Massively increasing the precision
  • First a theory – so compelling that it became the main focus
  • Checked the idea with leaders in the field in UC Berkley
  • Raising funding and working up the ladder of improbability
  • How the idea formed?
  • Key takeaway – if an idea everyone can have, you’re not in a good place
  • Have an idea about a very specific area – it’s unlikely others will have it
  • Cancer Cells don’t have the same DNA – these are the ones to look for?
  • Sequencing Cells – how would you know it’s a cancer mutation or not?
  • In 2009 collecting huge data sets on cancer but too big to analyse
  • Asking the right question and the data sets are available
  • Try to make a systematic analysis of this data sets
  • Identifying someone in his network that can do the magic
  • Get the Data Set – key idea
  • Ask the Right questions – Screening, Patterns, Minimize and see what comes out?
  • A Polymath – Financial, Innovation, Health and other areas
  • Always been broadly interested in a topics
  • Logical thinking & Critical Thinking are key
  • Know what you know and what you don’t know!
  • Using First Principles to get to high level of certainty
  • Eg – Data Set & Mutation to detect patterns, then you have a solution to detect cancer
  • Fascinated by the idea of solving any problem
  • Just how to generate the right knowledge – the conviction was always there
  • EQ & IQ – What is the overlap?
  • IQ = Intuition Quotient
  • People with very high IQ – often the miss something like big picture or common sense
  • Maintaining both levels is the biggest challenge to maintain both levels
  • Trying to Stay Stupid is difficult
  • The T Paradigm – go very broad and then pick one thing go very deep!
  • Approaching Complex Problems – go very deep and then jump back out
  • The importance of taking a step back – a universal cancer detection test will work!
  • Smart people often get sucked into digital thinking
  • Mapping the T model to the System 1 and 2 thinking
  • Intuition – thinking, experiences and logical – the Jo Bhakdi theory
    1. The Brain is a giant complicated processor
    2. When you stop thinking about a problem, it goes into the subconscious
    3. The problem then gets worked on a lower resolution
    4. Intuition works on the lower level taking in many building blocks
    5. Examples from science of how this could work in history – the Benzol Molecule
    6. How the solution came in a dream – the snake biting its own tail
    7. Experience and Thinking uses the logical and provides a solution!!
  • Quantgene – what are the motivations to go in this direction
    1. Living way below our potential in medicine – Being very health conscious and a desire for more healthy life – ridiculous speed of innovation currently
    2. A general obsession about being a pioneer – pushing the boundaries and disrupt entire industries
      • These are the normal people
  • The impulse of most children is to solve problems – this is what happens with Gates, Jobs, Musk, etc
  • Why does nobody study Elon Musk? Decipher and study how he thinking
  • Revolutionize Education – taking a step back and ask what is the purpose of Education?
    1. What was the purpose back when it was created – to educate the peasants to be able to read!
    2. Think more about our best and brightest
    3. Create more great minds by studying great minds
    4. Set up pioneer training camps – not very hard!!!
    5. Not be so passive, be more active and try to solve a problem
    6. Drapier University for Super Heroes
    7. Elon Musk founded a school for his kids
    8. Start-up acceleratorprecursor for Universities like Y Combinator – creating a pressure cooker of innovation – 3 months to get it done! – Why is there no studies of this?
    9. Education is the central civilization technology
    10. The downside is very limited with the upside is key
  • Inspirational figures like Elon Musk
  • Deep appreciation for the American Culture & the Innovation spirit
  • Using podcast to spread ideas
  • Drawing energy from people that do things a little difference – making people more daring and pioneering
  • Learning from Mistakes & Failure and a process to unpack it
    1. Not good at celebrating victories
    2. Strategy is to minimize the emotions in both directions – success or failed
    3. Do it, get the information and continue
  • How to balance work & life?
    1. Switching off by working on different focuses
    2. Building a pioneer academy
    3. Not work life balance, focusing on different things in parallel
    4. Deficits in life and sacrifice working 24/7
  • The precision medicine – western v eastern
    1. Ignorance and Arrogance
    2. A misunderstanding that science means everything needs to be explained by defined scientific concepts
    3. It’s the opposite – you need to be open
    4. Real science – observation – imagination and theory building and then creating evidence of these theories – start and end in evidence
    5. Eastern is all about the evidence
  • Clinical Studies is all about $$ – without it you can’t do the trials
  • The only way to do studies is with population and big pharma with $$
  • Great medicines out there that aren’t be funded for Clinical trials?
  • To provide it for FDA costs $50m – it’s impossible – the Baking soda example
  • Needing a plan how to make the money back is key
  • Are you a Leader? Not liking people that want to be led!
  • Taking the initiative and trying to motivate others to do things too!
  • Show others WHY it’s worth doing something, not WHAT
  • Paining the vision or future
  • Lead and inspire by example
  • Goal Setting & Getting things done?
    1. First Principles focused – a high level of certainty when you’re right!
    2. Planning is key – being agile
    3. Within these strategic objectives – be very flexible all the time
  • Plan everything excessively but be aware everything will change – be ready to change the plan on the spot!
  • The Next Steps for Jo & Quantgene
    1. Likely to have something to change people’s lives
    2. Taking the roll out step by step
    3. Being doctor driven initially
  • How testing works? 45 times days
    1. A mutation landscape of a patient?
    2. Outline the steps next
    3. Single molecule precision – stay on top of cancer
  • Staying on Top of Cancer – reducing the fear and probability is very low
  • Overlaps with 23&Me, Ancestoray.com
  • Not looking forrisks or probability of cancer – they look for cancer!

Check out more about Quantgene and Jo at the following links:


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JOBhakdi

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jo-bhakdi-5048811/

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