Slone Partners’ quarterly Leadership Series opens 2019 with an exclusive interview with Kevin Hrusovsky, President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quanterix. Kevin Hrusovsky is an American biotech entrepreneur, engineer, and healthcare visionary who has dedicated his 30-year career to transforming medicine from reactive “sick care” to preventive and personalized healthcare. As President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Quanterix, a technology-driven precision health company which empowers researchers primarily under its Simoa® biomarker detection platforms, Kevin is on the cutting edge of modern scientific healthcare.
Slone Partners: Quanterix markets Simoa® – a digital biomarker detection technology utilized in oncology, neurology, cardiology, inflammation and infectious disease – which gives researchers the ability to examine critical proteins and nucleic acids at ultra-low levels. As CEO, what is the ultimate impact you would like the company and its products to have on the healthcare industry?
Mr. Hrusovsky: Our number one goal is to transform what we have now – which is “sick care” – into actual healthcare. What I mean by this is that much of what medicine does now is diagnose and treat people after they’ve already shown symptoms. When it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s – and some types of cancer – this is often too little, too late, as those illnesses have already advanced very far. Our Simoa® technology aims to change the entire approach: we want to find disease or the likelihood of getting disease years in advance, when treatments and lifestyle changes can still make a positive difference.
Slone Partners: What is the reality of precision medicine today for patients? What do you foresee this personalized approach having on both patients and scientific providers, like Quanterix, in 2, 10 and 20 years from now?
Mr. Hrusovsky: Precision medicine has come a long way in allowing clinicians to customize treatments to individual patients. That’s a huge step forward, and I think in time we’ll look back on mass-produced medication as primitive and barbaric. It’s also important to note that precision medicine, like most medicine right now, is essentially reactive. It mostly involves treating patients after they already have a disease, not discovering that disease before it strikes and preventing it from occurring in the first place. That’s how I see medicine evolving over the coming decades. We’re already doing the “precision” part. Now we need to do the “health” part.
One trend we’re already seeing is an emerging revolution in drug testing. Last year, the FDA authorized the first blood test to evaluate concussions using biomarkers. The current FDA commissioner also issued guidance on using the biomarker Minimum Residual Disease (MRD) in clinical trials of drugs to treat certain blood cancers. More recently, the FDA granted accelerated approval for the cancer drug Vitrakvi based on biomarker evidence. I believe using biomarkers will greatly speed up the process of discovering whether drugs are working, as researchers won’t have to wait to observe symptoms (or lack thereof) in patients. And crucially – and here’s the “precision” part again – biomarkers allow researchers to observe differences between individuals in how they react to treatments, enabling more customized drug therapies.
In the longer term, I think more research on biomarkers and the acceleration of precision health will allow us to measure an individual’s baseline of health rather than just track progression of a disease. I foresee costly medical treatments giving way to simple and affordable blood tests that enable people to understand how they can change their lifestyles to avoid or mitigate future disease. This will be true not just for diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancers and heart ailments but possibly even for addiction – a disease that inflicts many of our loved ones and continues to make headlines with the ongoing opioid epidemic. Effectively, this will make healthcare a unique experience for everyone.
Slone Partners: You’ve been described as a healthcare visionary after decades of founding and leading numerous companies, sitting on many boards and committees, winning entrepreneurial awards, and seeing unrealized promise in future medical approaches. What was it about the healthcare field that first attracted you and continues to drive your multi-pronged approach to solving the most pressing healthcare challenges?
Mr. Hrusovsky: I first became involved in the healthcare industry when I was running the pharmaceutical business with FMC Corporation. I saw how technological innovation could help people fight disease and live their lives. At the time, it was a new concept that someone could take one tablet and have the medicine release throughout the day, rather than having to undergo continuous treatment. This increased convenience as well as compliance, as it didn’t infringe on people’s daily routines. Inspired, I wanted to think even bigger, and that’s how my current journey began.
Today we face so many crises in health, from rising rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, to the spiraling costs of treatment that prevent people from getting affordable care. Where better to work tirelessly for new solutions? Innovation can lead to breakthroughs in any industry but in healthcare the results are particularly groundbreaking. They can save people’s lives, not just introduce consumers to a new product or service. My sense of purpose early in my career guided my lifelong ambition to transform healthcare as we know it.
Slone Partners: You founded Powering Precision Health Summit in 2016, the nation’s first forum which advances the deep science behind precision healthcare, with the latest Summit conducted in Amsterdam this past December. For those who didn’t attend, what happened at this European gathering of medical minds?
Mr. Hrusovsky: Since 2016, our Powering Precision Health movement has grown exponentially. We were thrilled to expand our annual Summit to Europe in 2018. The 2018 event followed a similar format to past summits, gathering healthcare pioneers – including innovators, scientists, physicians, patient advocates, government officials, regulators and investors – to debate and collaborate around the latest breakthroughs in proactive healthcare. Speakers included renowned European healthcare leaders such as Professor Jens Kuhle from the University of Basel, Professor Charlotte Teunissen from VU Medical Center in Amsterdam, and Professor Henrik Zetterberg from the University of Gothenburg. We also had representatives from leading pharmaceutical companies. You can learn more about Powering Precision Health or see our conference agenda and videos by going to poweringprecisionhealth.org.
Slone Partners: The customers of Quanterix are a “Who’s Who” in pharmaceuticals, academic research and life sciences. Genentech, Pfizer, Merck, Lilly, Washington University, and National Institutes of Health all rely upon your technology. What are your approaches to business development, servicing customers, and servicing investors?
Mr. Hrusovsky: Having a “science-first” mindset is our main approach to business development, servicing customers and servicing investors. Each day, we prove to our partners and investors that we are not another Theranos. By comparison, we provide peer-reviewed research paper after peer-reviewed research paper showing exactly how our technology works. And we’re up to nearly 300 published research papers validating our technology. We’re also driving a Precision Health movement, gathering renowned scientists, researchers, physicians, investors, athletes and patient advocates to collaborate and debate the latest technological advancements in our field. I believe this atmosphere of open conversation shows our commitment to science and our dedication to our mission.
Slone Partners: Bring us inside the workplace culture of Quanterix – what are the prevailing behaviors and attitudes you and your management team bring to the people in your organization? And was this culture defined and designed, or did it sort of evolve organically?
Mr. Hrusovsky: Our management philosophy was defined and designed as AT and T: Accountability, Teamwork and Trust – the guiding principles for everything we do. If there is a great achievement, we celebrate it; if there is a challenge, we acknowledge it and face it head on, as a team. Everyone has the opportunity to speak freely and provide input to the leadership team, and vice versa. In return, the leadership team is transparent about what we’re doing and where we’re headed. For example, I’ll frequently send emails (with photos and video) when I’m out on the road discussing where I am and what I’m doing. We also have face time as a team in our “boost meetings” where we meet to inspire our field sales and commercial teams with team-building exercises that culminate with an action-packed dinner celebration for the entire company. I’m very grateful to have such a passionate and motivated team, and I think it reflects how we’re all in this together with one end goal: to eliminate the pain and suffering of those inflicted with disease.
Slone Partners: Navigating employee strengths and weaknesses, personalities, emotions, and professional aspirations can be really demanding. Would you consider yourself a natural born leader and manager of people, or are these skills honed over time and experience? Where does hiring fit in?
Mr. Hrusovsky: I believe leadership skills are honed over time and with experience, but I also believe my intense passion for the work we do has always been present. My cousin passed away from cancer too soon, my neighbor – who was only 12 years old – passed away from cancer too soon. I think all of us have stories we can relate to, and I think my genuine passion for prevention and belief in our technology comes through to our team. It’s important we attract talent that carries the same intense passion and drive for disease detection and prevention.
Slone Partners: What makes you personally happy?
Mr. Hrusovsky: This one’s easy: time with my family and supporting the Ohio State Buckeyes in any way I can!
About Slone Partners
Slone Partners delivers the leaders who build amazing organizations – People Are Our Science™. Since 2000, Slone Partners specializes in delivering world-class C-suite leadership, executive, and upper management talent to the most promising and established life sciences, research, diagnostics, precision medicine and laboratory services companies. With coast-to-coast presence in the most active healthcare industry hubs of Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Research Triangle Park NC, and Washington DC, Slone Partners uniquely and precisely provides an array of executive search and advisory services to exceptional clients. Our full suite of services includes identifying, negotiating with, onboarding, and relocating talent, in addition to post-placement mentoring, success monitoring, and culture fit services.
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