Bio: I am a physician-scientist and inventor with 60+ prizes, publications, and patents. After losing my grandmother to COPD, I left a surgical career to found Samay (“to breathe deeply” in Quechua). I have raised $4.2M to build an AI-powered management platform for COPD. Before Samay, I completed a postdoc at Harvard, started a plastic surgery residency at UChicago, completed an MPH at the University of Washington, and an MTM at UC Berkeley/UCSF. I live in Mountain View, Calif., with my 1-year-old daughter, husband, and three pets. In my free time, I enjoy flamenco dancing and singing, traveling the world, and fostering diversity inside and outside the workplace.
Org Info: At Samay, we are building the first AI-assisted platform that leverages the power of acoustic resonance to understand lung health. Our mission is to allow patients, doctors, and therapeutic developers to understand how respiratory patients progress at home while improving respiratory care delivery and research/development. We are starting with COPD, a condition that not only took my grandmother’s life unexpectedly but affects 30M Americans today, drives over $49B in healthcare costs, and kills one person every four minutes.
What motivated you to pursue your current work?
My grandmother, Sylvia, suffered from COPD. When her symptoms were exacerbated, she was unable to identify her deterioration. Although we come from a family of physicians, we lived six hours away. Despite calling her daily, we could not diagnose her decline on time. She deteriorated rapidly and had to be admitted to the ICU, where she died two weeks later from complications from invasive ventilation and hospital infections. I abandoned my medical career to devote myself to devising Sylvee–named after my grandmother–so that no one else would suffer as she did.
What distinct value does your work bring to the digital health field?
Today, questionnaires are the standard of at-home care for respiratory diagnosis and monitoring. As a result, half of the exacerbations go undetected. Our hardware/software solution assesses pulmonary function metrics 24/7 (without asking patients to blow out forcefully) with a similar equivalence to the hospital gold standard (up to 98% of sensitivity and 90% in precision). No other product in the respiratory market has achieved these results with COPD. We also are the first to detect air trapping, an early predictor of COPD exacerbations. Undoubtedly, better metrics are crucial to predict, prevent, or treat respiratory diseases and facilitate public health delivery.
How does your work impact your target end-users or stakeholders?
COPD remains underserved. People living in rural or poor areas have double the risk of having COPD compared to the overall U.S. population. More importantly, 5.5M Americans live in counties without pulmonary care access. Although an estimated 80M are affected with chronic respiratory diseases post-pandemic, there are ~15K pulmonologists nationwide. Facilitating digital health experiences could help close the gap, either by enabling tele-health for established providers or by having us deliver it to the millions who have decided to forego care because they live too far from help.
What is one exciting update or near-term opportunity that you would like to share with the digital health community?
Samay is advancing rapidly. We secured our 7th patent and entered into a partnership to develop additional features and complete a proof-of-concept with a $30B respiratory strategy by Q3 2024. We are launching a raise this year to enable us to execute this partnership and expand our research and development services with pharmaceuticals and medical technology companies in the next 12-24 months.