Recently, One Brave Idea welcomed Daphne Zohar, founder and CEO of PureTech Health, and Jim Harper, founder of Sonde Health, to its Phenotype Phorum. Phenotype Phorum is a recurring event designed to convene individuals from across academia and industry, and diverse areas of medicine, science, and engineering, to discuss new approaches to phenotyping, and how they could benefit fundamental discovery and clinical care.
Ms. Zohar provided an overview of PureTech’s general approach, which is to identify important unmet needs, and assemble teams to rapidly vet the potential of novel approaches in this field before forming a NewCo. Many of the hallmarks of PureTech’s approach resonated with those that One Brave Idea aspires to, including their freedom to explore unconventional ideas, think creatively, rapidly test ideas, and pivot nimbly if an initial approach does not bear fruit.
Their portfolio includes biotech and medical device companies, including a number of companies that utilize novel phenotypes (e.g., Akili Interactive, which is developing a digital therapeutic that may also have potential as a phenotyping and stratifying tool). One of their portfolio companies, Gelesis, recently won FDA-clearance for a novel oral biomaterial for treatment of obesity.
Another phenotyping portfolio company is Sonde Health, which uses vocal biomarkers to assess health and disease. Currently the vocal phenotyping is based on a prompted task vocalization that lasts a few seconds; however, it is a minimally obtrusive phenotype that can be acquired at scale in outpatient ambulatory populations. With attention to appropriate user privacy and transparency safeguards, the profusion of voice assistants raises the theoretical possibility of passive health monitoring and phenotyping. Current efforts are directed at conditions such as depression, asthma, and heart failure, and the scalability of the phenotyping platform has resulted in many tens of thousands of voice samples already collected.