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Genomics as the Next “Information Technology” Investment Category

Posted on January 4, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Many of you know that I read various venture capital blogs as my hobby. My favorite is Fred Wilson’s blog. I’ve gleaned so much from his blog that’s helped me personally and professionally. When I know I have some blogs from Fred in my feed reader (which I usually do since he blogs every day), it’s like anticipating a delicious dessert since I know reading his blogs will be a fun experience (yes, I’m a nerd like that).

My Fred Wilson fandom aside, I was fascinated by Fred’s 2017 predictions including this one about genomics:

Tech investors will start to adopt genomics as an additional “information technology” investment category, blurring the distinction between life science and tech investors that has existed in the VC sector for the past thirty years. This will lead to a funding frenzy and many investments will go badly. But there will be big winners to be had in this sector and it will be an important category for VCs for the foreseeable future.

The timing for this is interesting since this week is CES. Last year at CES I moderated a panel on genomics. I led off the panel by saying, “Thanks for coming in from looking at all the iPhone cases to talk about something a little more substantial.” Needless to say, I’m quite bullish on what’s going to be possible with genomics. Although, I think Fred might be a little ahead of the curve on when tech and genomics will merge.

What’s interesting is that there should be an overlap in tech and genomics. How is creating some sort of healthcare analytics any different than doing the same with genomic data? Certainly, you could argue that genomic data is much more challenging and complex, but at the end of the day it’s still about culling through and understanding the data. For some reason though when we say genomics we think that it’s a unique class of investment. In most cases, it’s shouldn’t be all that different.

I do think Fred is spot on when he talks about many genomic investments going badly and many of them being big winners. In that way, it kind of feels more like pharma investment than it does technology. Maybe that’s why people feel like genomic medicine investments aren’t technology investments.

It’s going to be fun to see the genomic market play out. I’m also interested in the companies that are going to make our efforts available to a much broader group of people. I imagine that’s the type of investments that Fred Wilson and USV would like to make. They aren’t likely as interested in investing in the genomic findings, but the genomic tools that will empower anyone to make a genomic discovery. Or possibly the platform that will share and commercialize genomic findings. Those are both really interesting areas that I bet hits Fred’s investment themes well.

Access to Encrypted iPhones – The Apple Encryption Debate

Posted on February 19, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The tech world is in a frenzy over the letter Apple’s CEO Tim Cook sent to the FBI in response to a request for Apple to create essentially a backdoor to be able to access the San Bernardino terrorists iPhone. It’s a messy and a complex situation which puts government against industry and privacy advocates against security advocates. Tim Cook in his letter is right that “this moment calls for public discussion.”

My favorite venture capitalist blogger, Fred Wilson, summed it up best for me when he said this in response to Tim Cook’s assertion that the contents of your iPhone are none of Apple’s business:

That is not an open and shut case to me.

Of course I’d like the contents of my iPhone to be out of reach of everyone other than me. But if that means the contents of the iPhones of child pornographers, sex slaverunners, narco gangsters, terrorists, and a host of other bad people are “none of our business” then that gives me pause.

I don’t think we can have it both ways. We have to choose one way or the other.

I think this is also complicated by the fact that Apple had unlocked phones previously. Albert Wenger expresses my fears around this subject:

We cannot and should not be living in digital fortresses any more than we are living in physical fortresses at home. Our homes are safe from thieves and from government not because they couldn’t get in if they wanted to but because the law and its enforcement prevents them from doing so. All we have to do is minimal physical security (lock the doors when you are out).

Please repeat after me: Surveillance is a political and legal problem, not a technical problem.

This quote is particularly interesting to me since this weekend when my family and I were away on a trip for President’s Day weekend, someone broke into our house (Side Note: We’re all fine and they realized once they got in that we didn’t have anything valuable to take. We mostly just had to deal with a broken door).

I feel similar to my favorite VC who said “I am struggling with this issue this morning, and I imagine many others are too.”

Turning to the healthcare perspective, privacy and security of health information is so important. It’s literally the intimate details of your life. I’ve heard some argue that Apple creating a way for the FBI to access this one phone would mean that all of our health information on iPhones would be at great risk of being compromised. I think that’s an exaggeration of what’s happening, but I understand the slippery slope argument.

What’s interesting is that none of us want our healthcare data to be compromised. However, if we were in a coma and the life saving information was on our iPhone, we’d love for someone to have a way to access that information. I’ve seen startup companies who’ve built that ability into the iPhone home screen for just this purpose.

I guess I’m torn on the issue. Privacy is important, but so is security. This weekend I’m going to be chewing on “We cannot and should not be living in digital fortresses any more than we are living in physical fortresses at home.” The problem with this concept is that fortresses are something we can plan and build. The other solutions are much more complex.