BioBoss

#26 - Eran Eden: Co-Founder and CEO of MeMed

September 15, 2020 John Simboli Season 2 Episode 12
BioBoss
#26 - Eran Eden: Co-Founder and CEO of MeMed
Chapters
BioBoss
#26 - Eran Eden: Co-Founder and CEO of MeMed
Sep 15, 2020 Season 2 Episode 12
John Simboli

Eran Eden, co-founder and CEO of MeMed, shares his thoughts on leadership and how MeMed is working to translate signals from the immune system into diagnostic insights to treat infectious disease and inflammatory disorders. 

Show Notes Transcript

Eran Eden, co-founder and CEO of MeMed, shares his thoughts on leadership and how MeMed is working to translate signals from the immune system into diagnostic insights to treat infectious disease and inflammatory disorders. 

Eran Eden :

If you think about yourself too seriously, I think it limits your ability to imagine.

John Simboli :

That's the voice of Eran Edan, co founder and CEO of MeMed, headquartered in Haifa, Israel. Listen in now to hear my conversation with Eran, his thoughts on leadership, and how MeMed is working to translate signals from the immune system into diagnostic insights to treat infectious disease and inflammatory disorders. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss. Today I'm speaking with Eran Eden. co-founder and CEO of MeMed Diagnostics. Welcome to BioBoss, Eran.

Eran Eden :

Thank you very much; happy to be here.

John Simboli :

How did you find yourself as co-founder and CEO at MeMed?

Eran Eden :

Well, it actually started as a game. I was doing my Ph.D and I met my partner in crime, our other co-founder and CTO, Dr. Kfir Oved. At that time, he was not a doctor. And we were playing around in trying to combine, to synthesize different ideas in science. I came from a background of molecular biology and computer science at the Weitzman Institute. And he was a medical doctor, or at least trained to be a medical doctor and a Ph.D. And so we said, well, how can we combine our worlds into something that would be meaningful? And the idea of trying to do something together was, I would say, the first step towards having a company at that point. No CEO, no co-founder. It was just let's do something together.

John Simboli :

So that moment, when you, maybe independently or together, said "Wait a minute, there's something going on here. Was that an "aha?" Or something like, yeah, this is a natural progression?

Eran Eden :

So we were working, actually, for quite some time on projects around cancer immunotherapy. And for a few years had some academic merit coming. out of that. And at that time, I was living in Tel Aviv, and he was living in Haifa. And I guess we both have different motivations, right? So we're doing quite well academically, I can tell you about my motivation. So publishing really nicely and was going for a career in academia. But then there is a gap. There was a gap between the impact that some of the work that I was jointly doing with my colleagues from an academic perspective and the ability to actually impact real people in the real world, or real patients. So we teamed up and we said, well, what if? What if we play this game called let's build a company, we're probably going to fail 99.9%. But, heck, we're going to enjoy the ride. And so that was, I would say, it was a moment. But the point where we actually got to what the company is going to do, that was much more of a continuum, almost a year of trying and testing different very bad ideas or trying to solve imaginary problems until we came up with the endpoints that the meaning it was based upon. So it was a both a single point but also a continuum.

John Simboli :

Was it clear when you came to that endpoint that you were at that endpoint? Or was it a difficult thing? Sometimes it can be hard to say, yeah, we're done choosing; this is where we want to go.

Eran Eden :

I think when we got to it, and I'll tell you in a second how we actually got to that. Yet it was clear that's something that we want to start and probably fail, but it's something worth starting. The point of getting there was filled with, as I said, many micro failures of trying to branch out with different ideas that turned out, again, to be either bad ideas or imaginary; trying to solve the imaginary problems. The point where we got to the idea was a day that Kfir came from med school where he heard this lecture and he came up with some very concrete topic, which I'll tell you about in a second, and then he said, "Let's go for it." So that was a pivotal moment that he said, "Let's start from here."

John Simboli :

As you and he came to the clarity of what this might be, did it go through your minds, "You know, I'll take this to some big place, some big pharma, some big med-tech, some something, and that structure will already be in place. I won't have to go through all the heartache of lifting off the ground and getting airspeed. I'm sure you at least asked yourself that question.

Eran Eden :

I think we were quite naive. When we started, we didn't even understand the fraction of what it takes to build a full-fledged company. Today, when I look at this in hindsight, eight years, I think we're still coming every day to work and sometimes find it hard to believe how far we've gone. And you know what, what has happened. When we started this, again, there was no big presumptions. Let's just start. And let's see what happens, how this develops. And I think this helped us, not taking ourselves too seriously and really have the courage to try to do something as insane as what I'm about to tell you.

John Simboli :

Well, you've definitely piqued my interest. Please walk me through with that. How you chose that moment you were just talking about.

Eran Eden :

Okay, so let's start first of all with the realm, the neighborhood. So the neighborhood of what we wanted to do, we wanted to do host response. What does that mean? It means we're basically using the signals of your body, the molecules, the molecular, bio-chemical signals of your body, together with different sensors and algorithms to try to answer questions that do not have an answer in 21st century medicine. Now, that sounds like something very bombastic. And let's reduce that to practice. So we went with a lot of questions that, as I said, turned out to be not that interesting. Then the question or the first question, we went after, something that again, Kfir back from med school, and it's trying to tackle the following seemingly simple problem. So you go to the doc with your child, and they're sick and they have a fever. I have three of these little buggers back home. And you mostly feel sorry for yourself because you have to go to work after not sleeping at night. They don't go to the kindergarten. And often the clinical question comes down to, well, is it a bacterial or a viral infection. If it's a bacterial infection, you need to treat it with antibiotics; if it's a viral infection, basically send home with chicken soup. And the problem is that we usually don't know because bacterial and viral infections are often clinically indistinguishable.Now I say seemingly simple problem because this uncertainty gives rise to several issues including antibiotic overuse, and consequently, the rise of resistant strains of bacteria, which is arguably the biggest healthcare challenging challenge of our time—well, second right now to COVID, obviously. So that's when we had this "aha" moment. By the way, it's not only children, it's also adults. It's also you and me, or our parents, this issue of distinction between bacterial viral infection to treat or not to treat is something very fundamental. In medicine.

John Simboli :

The perfectly intelligent adult you are meeting, perhaps throughj your family, who you haven't known before, who, you know, the whole, "What do you do for a living?" At least here in the New York area that's all you ever hear. And so you don't want to, I'm sure, say, well, I'm a CEO. How do you answer when people say, what do you do for a living?

Eran Eden :

What I say is that I'm part of a company that tries to solve real big, ugly medical problems that don't have an answer in 21st century medicine. That the first problem we went after is the one that I just told you about, trying to determine whether a patient has a bacterial or viral infection to treat or not to treat. And in the process, the team here, we've created these transformative technologies that can actually help you tackle this problem, and I'll tell you in a second, how we we've done that. But now that we're about seven, eight years into the journey, we can use this platform technology to go after other very meaningful problems. So that's what we're doing. We're trying to use your host immune response, to try to tackle big problems. That's the essence. How we do that? That's technical stuff. And look, we're all geeks. We love it, right? We love the science. We love the bio-chemistry, we like the algorithms. But it's not about that; it was always about the problem, and then finding all the ways to try to solve that problem. So we define ourselves via the problem rather than via the solution or via the technology.

John Simboli :

Did you at some point in your transformation from being in school to thinking about your academic work, did you ever, prior to taking on this game that you described—forming and building this company—did you ever think to yourself, "You know, I think I really want to be is a CEO?"

Eran Eden :

No, actually, no, this was this was not on the agenda. The agenda was going to science. I was enjoying science tremendousl and had a very well thought through plan how to go through an academic career. This just started as a game. And again, I think it's a good thing because if you think about yourself too seriously, I think it limits your ability to imagine. Thinking about everything that you need to do to create a disruptive technology that reads the host immune response in order to tackle big clinical dilemmas, you're probably going to fail. So if you start thinking about yourself in too serious terms, it at least for me, it would paralyze. By saying, look, I want to be a scientist but I have some spare time. So let's start a game. And guess what, maybe some good things are going to happen along the way; that allowed us to grow. Obviously, today, things are much more serious. You know, we've raised a significant amount of capital. We're backed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the European Commission, what have you, collaborators around the globe, but it takes time. We had that time to grow into role and it didn't just happen in one day. None of us by the way, everybody here on the team, I think all of us are doing today, things that we did not think that we would do three years ago and three years ago, we did not think that we're going to do these things. So every three years, we've basically reinvented ourselves.

John Simboli :

Can you remember when you were a kid, maybe formative years of, I don't know, let's say eight, nine, ten, something like that. That self image you may have had of yourself, perhaps through family or for watching TV, or God knows where people get their self image at that age. But can you remember how you pictured yourself as a grown up?

Eran Eden :

Yes. I love to play computer games. And so I thought I'm going to design and create computer games, graphics, what have you. And I'm very, very far from that, for sure. This is not where I thought I'm going to end. Life has basically taken a very, very different course. Sometimes I get to do a little bit of graphics in the PowerPoint, when marketing here allows me as long as I don't spoil it too much, but that's probably as close as it gets. The playing part did remain, but not not in terms of playing computer games.

John Simboli :

What have you learned over the years, so over the years is, I believe seven or eight years with MeMed, what have you learned over the years about what's your management style? What works for you?

Eran Eden :

A colleague or a friend gave me this book called The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of management theory. And I thought, look, I'm gonna learn how to become a manager. Great. And I open the book and one of the first things he says there was, well, if you want to learn how to manage, first and foremost, you have to learn how to manage yourself. That was interesting, about 80% of the book was about how to manage yourself. So that's probably one of the most important things I can think about when talking about management styles. First of all, knowing how to manage yourself, being disciplined about your time. Your time is the most precious resource you have. So how do you allocate it wisely? Then, when it comes to others, I think an important thing that I've learned is be authentic about what you know. Be also very authentic about what you don't know. And especially if you go in such uncharted territories, things that are the borderline of what's known and what's unknown in science, you're bound not to know everything. And when you're entrapreneur you definitely don't know everything. And if you're in such a multidisciplinary team, definitely, a multi-disciplinary environment you don't know everything. So being candid about this, that has been, I think, very effective, because it allows others to help you. I remember in one of my early board meetings we brought on board a hotshot professional board member, industry veteran as part of representatives of the co- founders. And in the board meeting they're asking me a question. And I said, well, I don't know. But we'll figure it out until the next board meeting. And after the board meeting he was catching me and telling me, "Whoa,, I've not been in too many situations where the CEO in the board meeting says, I don't know. And I tell him well, but that's the truth. I mean, I can fake it. But what does that mean? I'm not saying I don't know and I'm never going to know. I'm saying I don't know and we're going to figure it out. And that gives you this flexibility, again, to learn fast, to ask the right questions, rather than being stuck or having to pretend. So that's something that I try to use quite often in my management style. And the last thing is talking about the problems. So I was participating in a big conference in Silicon Valley and spending some time with CEOs of other companies and co=founders. After two, three days, I had to go on stage. And I couldn't help myself. I couldn't resist and tell him, look, I've been here for three days. And I really envy you guys because everybody here in Silicon Valley, they have challenges. At MeMed we do not have challenges. We have big "F" problems. That's what we have. And we wake up every morning to try and solve them. Now, if it's a challenge, it can grow on you. It's fine, you go to sleep with it at night, you wake up in the morning, but if it's a big problem, you unrest. You have a lot of uneasiness, you have to go and solve it. So talking about the problems—that's something that we cherish here; talking about the problems and then talking about the solutions. That's part of the journey. So these are the three elements, manage yourself, be authentic about what you know, you don't know, and talk about the problems in order to find the solutions.

John Simboli :

How do you know when to personally get involved in making that decision? How do you know when to step back and have someone on your team make a decision?

Eran Eden :

First of all, I often don't know. Often my gut feeling, at least in the early days was anything. Any problem I see you run to the rescue; you run, you see a fire, run with a host of tried to take out the fire. That's your first instinct. And it's fine when you're small. As you grow and bring people that are better than you, and in many instances, the people here are much better than I am or you know, the founding team are in multiple aspects, then it's easier because you know that if you're going to answer the question, you're probably going to get it wrong or not as good as some other people. And find the right balance? That's an art. The more you have people that you trust, and trust is something that's gained through time, the more you can you can release. And I'm sure that I err, sometimes to both sides. And this is, I would say, if you ask me this, maybe in two, three years, maybe I'm going to have a more calibrated answer. This is still trial and error.

John Simboli :

As you and your co-founder were taking the idea about how this could be something and trying to actually build it and mechanically put the pieces together about what the platform was, I know that was a years long process, but can you take me through that a little bit?

Eran Eden :

So there's two parts to the solution. Solution part one: find a host immune response signature, that would somehow distinguish between bacterial and viral infections. Solution part two, if and when you find it, develop an apparatus that can actually measure it, where and when it actually matters. That means fast, quick, affordable. Two separate problems, each of which is daunting. Let's talk about the first part. Where do you find this hypothetical host immune signature, these molecule? So there's a really well known professor from the Hebrew University, a professor Eli Keshet, had this saying that three, four years on the bench doing experiments can save you up to four hours in Google. So we said, let's do the other way around. Let's start with Google. So we went out there and looked at everything that people have published, and then did some experiments. At that time, we were still not funded. So we took a little bit of loans, took a little bit of blood from family and friends, infected them with different bacteria and viruses outside their body, not inside their body, obviously. They love us, but they do not love us that much. And we failed. One of the things we learned early on, the mere fact that something participates in the immune response doesn't mean it has diagnostic merit. So we deepen the search, more literature survey, more brute force, more bio-informatics, without going too much into that technology itself. And then, at some point, we're able to identify a few potential candidates; try to go and raise some initial funds, failed miserably. People are telling us look, what you found is outside the human body, in vitro, it does not mimic what's happening in vivo, inside your body. And therefore, it's not the real thing. What about your kidney filtration, lymphatic communication, and other stuff? So we said, okay, we have to do a real clinical study. But how do you do that without funds? So to the rescue came a few good souls, including Professor Israel Potasman from Bnai-Zion Zion Center, who was willing to join on board for a little bit of equity and a lot of goodwill. And we did a first small scale clinical study. Some of the molecules died from the journey from outside the body, and some of them survived. And at that point, we became financeable. At that point, we could start scaling the studies. At that point, we went and did a huge clinical study, over 1000 patients where we screened the entire human proteome; it's the largest proteomic screening ever to be conducted at the human response to infections. And we started hitting our targets. We found some of those hypothetical molecules. An interesting anecdote—so we found, for example, one of the first, maybe the first virally induced protein that is used as part of routine care. In 21st century medicine, we didn't have even one protein of your body that goes up against viruses that is used for diagnosis. We actually identified a lot of its properties and to that we added a few others. We gave them names of ice creams because we were afraid somebody's going to steal them so we had toffee, cherry, pecan, mocha. Every conference room has a name with another ice cream, so toffee for example, which is the professional word for that is TRAIL, it's a protein called "TRAIL" will shoot up in your bloodstream when you have a viral infection, whether you have a rhinovirus influenza, or, guess what, COVID, COVID-19. It's going to go up in your bloodstream when you have the viral infection; it's going to go down if you have a bacterial infection. Whether you're a three-month old baby or a 93 year old lady, whether you're a hypochondriac, or somebody who comes in after a week. And so we were able to aggregate and find these different biomarkers and combine them with the right algorithm into a signature that we then published the results. After four years, I was able to do this with an accuracy of over 90%. That was the first four years of the journey trying to solve problem number one. And then we find out it was not good enough. And we got a phone call. We published the results in a reputable journal. We got a phone call from an interviewer from BBC was telling us, "Look guys, this is potentially transformative Very, very nice. But I'm very skeptical. I'm skeptical because the field has been plagued with over promise and under delivery. It's not enough that you, a bunch of young PhDs and MDs, running around are saying that this works. You need external, not internal, prospective, not retrospective, double-blind studies, not the one that you do peek-a-boo that are led by super doctors, not you guys, with all due respect, and are published in The Lancet and New England. And most companies and academics don't go through this reproducibility issue. And those that do often fail and spend, in the process, tens of millions of dollars. Good luck. That's what she told us. And she was absolutely right. What she didn't know, that we decided as a team, to take the ris about three years before the interview and we said, let's give the technology to external super doctors across the globe. Let them play with it. Let them test it. And if it doesn't work, let's do something else with our lives. It's fine, right? Sometimes you fail. And then the data started coming out. So, but one year after the interview, we had Professor Louis Bont, from Utrecht Medical Center, who ran a huge study, about 777 children. In a completely double blinded study, we actually signed an agreement with the hospital that if the results don't come up well, they can publish it, whatever happens can kill the company. That's a big risk. And when we opened the books, it was obviously. the tension was high, we almost lost Kfir to a heart attack. A not very recommended, I would say, experience. But to make a long story short, the results that we got were very similar to the first study: over 90% by and large sensitivity specificity. And that got published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, which is the leading journal in the field and then we open the books. And then another one and another one. So we're running about 10 clinical studies today around the globe tens of thousands of patients. And at that point, when other people around the globe started getting the same results across different populations, because one of the biggest challenges, will it work, despite the differences that you have between you and me, different ethnic groups, different age groups, different pathogens, different types of symptoms, onsets, gender, etc, etc. And once we started having this real hard core data, then we knew it's real. At that point, I think we all buried the dream of going for academia. And we said, okay, let's make this a life purpose. So that's when we knew we had solution number one, well, we knew we were in the right direction. But that was not good enough either. Why is this not good enough? Because we could all measure this in a lab by a Ph.D. And it takes about three to four hours. And turnaround time is about 24 hours. When I'm coming with my daughters, I want to get the solution here and now; I don't want to wait. So that I would, say leads us to solution number two.

John Simboli :

How did you then set out to address question number two?

Eran Eden :

So the problem was how do you measure toffee, cherry, pecan, the actual names are TRAIL IP-10, in good old C-reactive protein, the last one is actually a well known protein. How do you measure them within 15 minutes, 15, in a rapid, easy to use, affordable manner? So again, you always resolve the simplest solution out there. So we said let's use off the shelf boxes. We tried to use some off the shelf boxes, teamed up with a few companies, spent quite a lot of cash and again failed miserably. And the reason was that one of the proteins, particularly the one called TRAIL, the one that goes up in viruses, which is the most important one of the signature, it is in a pico gram per millilitre concentration. Now let me take you through what pico gram per ml means; pico gram is 10 to the power of minus 12. It is the equivalent of having a soccer field, or a football field, covered with about two kilometers of M&Ms. And then I hide a random number between zero and 1000 Skittles. You have to go and count the Skittles, you have 15 minutes, go. That's the problem. Now go and develop a device that can do that. The eventual solution came from an idea that Kfir had was that we really suck in biochemistry as a human race. It's more like cooking couscous. We don't really understand all the boundary conditions, but we're pretty good in engineering. So the idea was let's take a large machine, the cost may be $200K, or $500k. It's out there already. Devices like those of Abbot and DiaSorin, and some other and Siemens, and let's miniaturize the device. It's an engineering problem and not biochemistry problem. And again it took almost six years, at a certain point, DOD stepped in. And the European Commission gave us almost $35 million, no strings attached, just to push this thing forward. And then it started working. And so today we basically have a platform. A we just got it cleared in Europe about two weeks ago, which is a huge milestone for us. We're actually using it right now on patients. And the platform can measure B versus V, bacterial versus viral infection, in 15 minutes from serum, from blood. And interestingly enough, while we created the platform, because we wanted to own our destiny, we wanted to be able to measure bacterial versus viral infections, but that platform can actually measure any protein in your body. And that maybe when you come to talk a little bit about what MeMed is planning for the future, we've created these core assets, and now you can recycle and use them to solve additional problems. So that's solution number one. And solution number two, to the first problem we went after.

John Simboli :

At that, probably critical moment when DOD and some of the European agencies said, "We see that you're close and with some money, maybe you can get over this hurdle about the miniaturization. Why was it that they saw that? What was the need that they said, this is significant? We need to help.

Eran Eden :

So I think they saw two needs. Need number one, reduction of antibiotic misuse. Because we don't know If it's a bacterial or viral infection, we often give antibiotics just in case. Now, that really changes across different countries; in the U.S., there's more overuse; in certain Nordic countries in Europe, there's under use, which also has a price. But the overuse leads to development of resistant strains of bacteria. Now, why are people interested in this problem? Resistance to antibiotics can basically shake the most fundamental pillar of modern medicine. If you lose potency of antibiotics, you almost lose modern medicine. You cannot treat preterm infants that would die due to a weakened immune response. You cannot treat oncology patients that would die due to parasitic infections. It would be very risky to have your wisdom tooth pulled out due to the infection, or going through a hip replacement. So that's critical and we're actually going, as human race, in the wrong direction. There's a rise of resistant strains of bacteria. We're not creating enough new antibiotics. And so ideas that can help disrupt this equilibrium, this direction that we're going after, is getting a lot of attention. When we started to work on this, we couldn't find a VC that would touch us with a stick, even if our life depended on it, nor a government. But as things progressed, this curse became a blessing because we were much more advanced, this field was deprived from any real resources, and the reason that DOD, the European Commission, and then some very well regarded VCs from Silicon Valley—the reason they came on board, it was for one single reason, I believe, data. We have the data, we have the technology and hopefully a very good team as well. So that was the biggest differentiator; we really had the time to work out the problems and come up with concrete solutions. The second part was that this type of technology, it's called MeMed Key(TM), the little box, because it opens central laboratory precision at the point of need. This box, you can basically use it to measure or quantify any protein in your body. And I believe DOD, European Commission, they all recognize the potential there, you can use it for cardiology, for oncology, for wellness, for infectious diseases for inflammation, even for veterinarian purposes. And so it really opens the floodgates for all sorts of tests. They're really important and are, right now, locked in the central lab, or require a technician. Suddenly, you can mount them in this small box on the MeMed Key(TM), and you can bring them into the workflow. So that was motivation number two, and right now we're working with different partners, both commercial and enough nonprofit organizations, to see how we can leverage this core technology to bring additional content to where it's actually needed.

John Simboli :

Eran, what's new at MeMed?

Eran Eden :

Two things: first of all, we just got our second generation platform cleared in Europe. And this was an uphill battle, for years. There was a lot of a blood and sweat, particularly blood, in our case, there's a lot of blood involved, obviously, which is huge milestone. We call this the Zero to One after Peter Thiel's famous book. So we went from zero patients to patient number one, and from zero diseases to one disease. It was extremely gratifying. And now, the story is shifting from developing the disruptive technology to having impact on patients, and right now teaming up with additional entitie. So that's one thing that's really big. We're obviously working right now, also with the FDA to get this cleared in the U.S. So that's one thing. The second thing that is new is that we're starting to work on additional big problems. And maybe I can give you one example. So another related clinical question, when somebody has a fever, is it a bacterial or viral infection? To treat or not to treat? And another one is what are the chances that this patient is going to deteriorate? So you have seemingly similar patients, same background, most of which the infection is not going to be that severe, but some will. And there's a lot of value in knowing who to send home and who do I admit and even take through to the ICU. We've just seen that in the COVID..COVID was a logistic problem. The question is, who do I send home? Quarantine? And who do I admit to the ward of the ICU? We've done this quarantine to try to solve this logistic problem, and to make sure that we do not overwhelm the healthcare system. So what if we had a technology that could tell you that? And guess what, the immune response can actually give you that information, this paradigm shift of looking at the immune response of the host immune response, rather than trying to detect the bacteria or the virus gives you this orthogonal information that's complementary to what's out there today. And so we've identified in the last few years a set of molecules that have that information. And right now we're working to combine them together with the right algorithms, and validate that. We're validating this in two ways: number one, on COVID patients and we've done remarkable work here. The team has actually volunteered to work in hospitals, effectively with COVID, to actually get access to patient samples and we got access to thousands of clinical samples of COVID patients, and we're testing it on that. But also, after this pandemic, there's going to be the next pandemic, or there's going to be many days of peace. And so this value of being able to say, severe/non-severe, we call this MeMed Alert(TM) has significant value, also outside the days of pandemic. So that's one direction that we're going very assertively. And we have quite a lot of very nice clinical data already around that.

John Simboli :

Your solutions, whether they're for children or adults, COVID or not COVID, they can reach millions of people, I would think, depending on how things work out for you. And I know you're right in the throes of working out the details of trying to find out exactly what the data say. Do you allow yourself at this point to step back, sigh, and think, you know, what I originally wanted to do was help people; this could actually help a lot of people. Do you ever get the time to think in those terms at this point or is that for later on?

Eran Eden :

Absolutely. I think this is something very integral in the journey. So we've used the first generation product, the one that works in 24 hours on over 15,000 patients. And that is extremely gratifying. And I personally had a chance to use it a few times on my children. So as you can imagine, you get a lot of extra bonus points with your mother in law, which is strategic. If you're an entrepreneur and you're going to work very hard and are not going to be, many nights, at home, having the support of your mother in-law, is critical, right? So yeah, so that's an anecdote, right? And it really gives a sense of purpose to the families here. And I think we all feel that what we're doing means a lot. It's also there's a lot of weight on our shoulders. So it's a bipolar type of an attitude on one hand, gives a lot of motivation, but it's also a lot of let's say, a burden. You understand that what you're doing here can have a big impact on many patients.

John Simboli :

When you're at a presentation and you try to describe some of the things you've been describing to me today and help people understand what it is about MeMed that is different from any place else, any other work that's being done, sometimes people will come up afterwards and say, thank you, I've understood. And you think I've done my job. Other times people will come up and say, thank you, I've understood x but it's not x, you think, Oh, no, that's not what I intended. I'm sure that's never happened to you. But at that moment, is there any kind of pattern about what kinds of things do people or can people misunderstand because of filters they have in place and then how do you help them to understand what you're trying to help them understand?

Eran Eden :

The story about bacteria versus viral infection, to treat on not to treat, everybody gets it. Every hysterical father and mother on the face of this planet, me included. You get it. However, the part of the host response and the fact that you can use the same type of paradigm, the same type of technology, whether it's the hardware, whether it's the machine learning, whether it's the biochemistry, and where you can take that. That's less well understood, because it's more abstract. So then people say, Well, okay, great, but what does that mean? And really, there's a lot of opportunities here. I'll give you one example of one thing, the MeMed Alert(TM) that we're working on, but there's a bunch of additional projects and products that we're working on, that hopefully, as we are able to share more and more and things become more more advanced, I think it's going to be clear for people to understand where we're getting, But basically what we want to be in five years from now, we want to be the host response company. If you have a problem, where listening to the host immune response can give you the answer, we want to be on top of that. Not all questions require the host response or the host immune response. But it turns out there's a subset of questions that listening to then your response to the host response is the right way to go and solve that question. And that's where we're at. And that's more abstract. That's harder. I think, people don't always get that.

John Simboli :

When you give that answer you just gave to me as a clarification, what kind of response do you get them?

Eran Eden :

I think people people understand this a, they definitely get the B versus V, the bacterias, viral infection to treat or not treat. Everybody understand that because because we all experienced this a few times every year, whether it's ourselves or our children or our parents on the host response in the host response company. That's a more abstract idea. And I think that takes more time to to comprehend, but when understanding what we did for for B versus V for bacteria of infection, if you start imagining, well, if you use the same paradigm, the same capabilities, the same technology for other problems, what else can you do? Then the imagination starts to come into play and people do get it.

John Simboli :

At the very beginning, you were talking to me, I believe, about what I would call democratization of medicine; you're very starting ideas had to do with trying to make things that were accessible to lots of people, and was not a very expensive specialized piece of equipment. It sounds like that idea continues today, even after all this progress, that was one of the things that's really interesting to you is to be able to help people in lots of different places in lots of different ways. Is that still, where you started from? Is that still where you are?

Eran Eden :

One of the most important ways that we measure ourselves is patient impact. We actually have two KPIs: patient impact and return on investment. And it's a blended average of the two. And patient impact is also captured by the number of lives that you've been able to touch. And it's also very relevant to the problem we're going after, at least the first one, because bacteria and viruses, they don't really care about boundaries or borders, they don't really have a passport, as we've seen with COVID. Right? So whatever you have today, whatever resistant strain that you have today in San Francisco, tomorrow you have in New York and the day after that in Tel Aviv, and after that in Munich. So you really have to look at this from a global perspective and see how can my solution be deployed across different settings, countries? No single entity, by the way, can do it by itself. So that's why we're teaming up with different commercial and nonprofit organizations to really bring this technology to as many patients as possible. The most important part and maybe even more important than the technology is the people. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter. how fancy the problem is, doesn't matter how fancy the technology is, you need people to actually execute and make it happen. And so I think the reason that we've been able to reach the point that we've reached, not to say that we don't have a lot more to go, is because of people that are waking up here every morning, and literally giving their, as I said, blood, sweat, and mostly blood, and literally blood and there's a lot of blood that we've given in the process to do some experiments. And I think that's probably our secret weapon. I would call this an anti-disciplinary team. We don't care about disciplines. There's actually a jungle of disciplines here. We have doctors, molecular biologists, machine learning folks, system engineering, commercial folks. It's not about the discipline. It's about solving the problems. So it's this anti-disciplinary team that works together that's actually our secret sauce.

John Simboli :

Thanks for speaking with me today. Eran,

Eran Eden :

Thank you very much for having me.

John Simboli :

As Eran talked with me about leadership, I heard him describe two qualities that shape his work as a biotech co-founder and CEO, attributes I've heard from several BioBoss guests. One is, not surprisingly, Eran's dedication to rigorous, data-driven science. The second quality is Eran's willingness to approach challenges as a game, open to problem solving through imagination and play. As Eran said to me, "If you think about yourself too seriously, I think it limits your ability to imagine." Playfulness is a characteristic we often associate with artists and poets, rather than biotech leaders. But if we think about the history of science, pairing, scientific rigor and creative freedom makes a lot of sense. Many of us remember reading about Albert Einstein's thought experiments, where he attempted to visualize a mental model within an imaginary scenario. As Einstein wrote to a friend, "Combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought." Eran went on to make a related point when he said to me, "An important thing I've learned is to be authentic about what you know. Be also very authentic about what you don't know. In science, you're bound not to know everything. And when you're an entrepreneur, you definitely don't know everything. That leads to what Eran called his secret weapon. The anti-disciplinary team he's built at MeMed. Eran says, "We don't care about disciplines. There's actually a jungle of disciplines here. It's not about the disciplines; it's about working to solve the problems." And with problems like the ones MeMed is working on, including helping doctors predict the severity of the coronavirus and other diseases, that's a good th ing. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss.