Deep Tech Daredevil: Entrepreneurial Scientist Dean Ho
“We are all parabolas,” says Dean Ho, Singapore-based biomedical engineer. That might sound like the kind of corporate gobbledygook cooked up in a lab, but if Ho is right, it could one day become a medical truism that underpins drug delivery. Every individual, Ho says, has a unique parabola depicting their response to particular drugs. Even two individuals with the same genetic make-up will have different parabolas. With just three data points—each a different dosage-response measure—an individual’s parabola can be plotted, all through the CURATE.AI platform Ho has developed.
“In treatment for any disease right now, what do people do? They say, let’s use these two or three drugs because they attack different pathways. Let’s go look for the dosage… I say something different. I say the drug finds the dose and the dose finds the drug. You need both to be right at the same time, you have to simultaneously find both. It is a multi-dimensional space, it is virtually infinite and we can also do that with our parabolic quadratic phenomenon,” says Ho.
By simply comparing inputs (drug and dosage) and outputs (efficacy and safety), this parabolic approach accounts for an individual’s “unique pharmacokinetics, genetics, proteomics, all the mechanisms that drive disease”. Ho says that by using a single patient’s own data to calibrate and optimise his or her care, CURATE.AI can achieve true “N of 1” personalised medicine.
For Ho, appointed in 2018 as Provost’s Chair Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology at National University of Singapore, one of his signature successes involved a prostate cancer patient with metastatic disease. CURATE.AI suggested that a 50% reduction in dose would improve the efficacy of the drug that he was on. Much to the surprise of the patient’s medical team, within a week he was responding positively to this “unconventional ultra-low dose regime”.
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KYAN Therapeutics, Ho’s firm, is deploying its “disease-agnostic platform” in partnerships with drug development firms, with ongoing trials in infectious disease (tuberculosis), oncology (gastric cancer) and solid organ transplant management.
As an undergraduate at University of California (UCLA), Ho wanted to become a lawyer. Yet he was also inspired by college mates who were already entrepreneurs, “to watch the learning process of how important failure was to them to drive them to do even greater things”.
Ho never made it to law school but completed his PhD in biomedical engineering at UCLA in 2005 and then spent time at Caltech. “I learnt that it is a blend of fundamental and translational knowledge across multiple disciplines that will ultimately help people.”
In the Deep Tech Daredevils: The Rise of Entrepreneurial Scientists Insights Paper, we interviewed founders and experts who shared their journey from lab to market. Download the full report to read more on their motivations, views and experiences.
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