The Next Generation of Digital Health

A UC Santa Cruz Live in Silicon Valley Alumni Event

SANTA CLARA CAMPUS—Imagine owning all your health data and being the only one to control how it’s used and who has access to it. What would it be like to bring your personal genomic data along on a doctor’s visit to help chart out your targeted treatment plan or upload decades of your health data via your phone?

“Patients are becoming consumers,” said panelist Sam De Brouwer, a cofounder at, a Silicon Valley startup that has created a digital platform based on secure blockchain technology and deep learning computations on quantified biology to develop predictive analytics and personal health insights.

De Brouwer was one of four panelists at a recent gathering of UC Santa Cruz Live in Silicon Valley, a quarterly event for alumni of UC Santa Cruz and UCSC Silicon Valley Extension. She joined entrepreneurs, an investor and UC professors in a wide-ranging discussion about how new technologies are revolutionizing healthcare. It is changing the relationship patients have with their own personal health data.

“We’re seeing more cross-collaboration of academia and entrepreneurship,” said panelist Kimberly MacPherson, a UC Berkeley School of Public Health professor and executive director of Health Management at the Haas School of Business. There is a need for a cultural shift in how people see their own data so that it will be increasingly available for important research.

This complex convergence of information technologies and life science technologies is an interesting them for investors, according to panelist Greg Yap, a partner at Menlo Ventures. The field of digital health, however, has been challenging for funders. Yap predicted that the value of some of these digital plays will start to emerge over the next 12-24 months.

“I do think this next year the ability to drive the convergence of these massive streams of data to really get patients to change behavior, and to be able to generate better outcomes—the concept of digital therapeutics—is finally starting to bear fruit,” Yap said.

At, which recently closed a $10 million offering with investors, people will be able to upload their health data securely and make it available to researchers to benefit treatments. The data is secure via a global network of computers. The platform plans to bring together buyers of information such as researchers and the people who want to add their health data into the available pool as a donation or for a price.

“I believe in the value of medical data and the value I generate through my data is almost a civil right,” De Brouwer said. “That value should be mine.”

Another panelist, David Deamer, a UCSC professor, invented the central technology licensed by Oxford Nanopore Technology for analyzing DNA, RNA, proteins, and small molecules. ONT, which can analyze the genome of relatively simple bacteria and fungi, is working on a way to upload your genome via cell phone so it can be analyzed via the internet.

“I can carry my genome into the doctor’s office and have him or her plug it in and compare it with tens of thousands of others and see where I differ,” Deamer said. He found out he was pre-diabetic. “I would’ve like to know that as a teenager.”

It’s exciting to see the opportunities, but the challenge “is really about finding the right link to customer needs,” Yap said. “How is this going to really fit a customer need? Where is that addressing a burning need…given the market dynamics today? That’s going to differentiate the winners from the losers in these spaces.”


For information about UCSC Alumni events in Silicon Valley, visit Extension Events or the UCSC Alumni Association page.

You can find more information about our certificate programs in Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, or Business at our website.

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