Creating a Company that is Useful from the Start

Creating a Company that is Useful from the Start

March 21, 2023
Robbie Allen
Robbie Allen
Creating a Company that is Useful from the Start

Bionic Health is helping people improve their healthspan by building precision medicine.

Today I'm excited to announce that we are publicly sharing news about my new company, Bionic Health. The mission of the company is to bring precision medicine to the masses. For those that have followed my entrepreneurial journey, Bionic may seem like a departure from the technology-centric companies I’ve built in the past.  With both Automated Insights (the first commercial generative AI company in 2010) and Infinia ML (one of the first ML-focused startups in 2017), we built the proverbial hammer (technology) in search of nails (customers). We started with a technology and tried to find a market to apply it to. This is a hard way to build a business because you aren't starting with a customer problem but a solution that can hopefully solve a problem.

With my next venture, I wanted not to repeat that mistake. I wanted to start a company that was useful from the start to some number of people. Out of the gate, I wanted the company to impact people's lives in a meaningful way. I took a strong interest in doing something in healthcare. Everyone is concerned at some level about their health and improving it.  

Since I’ve never worked in healthcare, I approached the smartest person I knew in the field, Dr. Jared Pelo, in the summer of 2022. I got to know Jared when he was building his first company, iScribes. He asked me to join his board of directors as the independent board member, which I did in 2016. Jared was trying to automate the doctor note writing process by recording patient visits and automatically transcribing them, but before we could fully realize the mission, Nuance Communications acquired the company. Shortly after that, Microsoft bought Nuance, where Jared’s worked the last couple of years.  

Jared and I started with first principles when looking at the healthcare experience for both patients and doctors. Why was it so bad? While there was a lot of "low-hanging fruit" we decided we wanted to go after a big swing. There were two big trends we saw that could be a game changer for the healthcare experience.

The first was the rapid innovation happening in medical science especially with longevity medicine and preventative care. New research, new medications, new diagnostics, very little of which was available to the general public. They were only available to those that could afford concierge medicine or took the time to find one of the niche companies on the Internet that provided testing for the genome or microbiome or myriad other options. Now there is good data to show that if you follow certain protocols for fitness, nutrition, and sleep, and keep your biomarkers within particular ranges, you can have a positive impact on your long-term healthspan (i.e. how many years of "healthy" life you have remaining).

The second opportunity was around machine learning. What we are seeing now from OpenAI, Stable Diffusion, Google, and others represents exponential improvement in machine learning capability. With the release of models such as GPT-4 and MedPalm, we are already at human-level performance across a number of fields including healthcare. And it's not stopping there. I've been told by someone with inside knowledge that every major release of OpenAI’s GPT has seen a 100x improvement from the previous version and they expect to see another 100x improvement from GPT-4 to GPT-5. Imagine if we could make a human 100x smarter in any field. That's where we will soon be venturing in machine learning. The implications in the healthcare domain are significant and our initial testing has yielded extremely promising results.

You put those two things together and now we are at a point where the promise of precision medicine can be realized. We've talked about the potential for precision medicine for many precise medical guidance based entirely off a person's unique biology, but it's never happened. With the increase in data that's available and our ability to analyze that data, precision medicine's time is getting near.

Bionic Health will be building a precision medicine infrastructure. To do that, we need a clinical setting to collect data and figure out what parts of the doctor-patient interaction are best to automate. Fortunately, my co-founder is a medically trained doctor (previously an ER doctor) that is an expert in longevity medicine. We've opened a clinic in Durham, NC and started seeing patients. We've designed a program we call the Bionic Journey to help people that want more than what you get from primary care. The Bionic Journey is focused on preventative care that helps increase not only your lifespan, but more importantly, your healthspan.

The great thing about starting with a clinic is we are helping people today get healthier. The company is useful from the start. We are not in search of novel ways to apply technology. We know the healthcare system is broken and the patient experience is woefully inadequate. It is our mission to make it better and we are going to help a lot of people along the way.