INTRODUCING: The 10 people transforming healthcare

Business Insider

Healthcare takes up nearly a fifth of the US economy, but it sometimes feels like we’re not getting much for all that money.

Meet the 10 leaders trying to upend the status quo and change that.

Some are pioneering new ways to treat diseases and care for patients. Others are simply trying to make sure we can afford it all.

Their approaches range from high-tech to decidedly analogue, but all are pushing for new ways to do a better job of keeping people healthy and living longer.

Read on to see our full list of the 10 people transforming healthcare.

Rick Doblin hopes to turn psychedelics like ecstasy into mainstream treatments for brain diseases through the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

On his 18th birthday, Rick Doblin, who is now 65, decided he wanted to become the first therapist to legally administer the drugs. It was 1972, and psychedelic drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD were illegal, with one exception, ecstasy, or MDMA.

In academic pockets across the US, Doblin discovered an “underground network of psychedelic therapists,” clinicians who were intimately familiar with MDMA and who helped guide patients through using them to boost the outcomes of traditional therapy. Doblin wanted to be one such therapist, only he wanted to do it out in the open.

“It’s normally too painful for people to process these kinds of thoughts,” Doblin told Business Insider. “But when we can do it with MDMA and therapeutic support, the anxiety levels that people normally experience diminish over time.”

So at age 20, Doblin created the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. Under his lead, MAPS has raised $US70 million for research into psychedelics’ ability to treat a variety of mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Investors and clinicians are increasingly embracing psychedelics to treat diseases like depression, and a drug based on ketamine was recently approved for the condition. More may be coming, thanks to MAPS.

Jennifer Doudna, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, helped invent blockbuster gene-editing tool Crispr

Alexander Heinl/Picture alliance via Getty Images

Jennifer Doudna learned by email that a scientist in China had used the blockbuster gene-editing tool she’d helped invent to reportedly edit the DNA of a pair of twin baby girls.

“It was pretty shattering,” the 55-year-old University of California geneticist told Business Insider. “I was quite stunned.”

Doudna had unearthed the tool, called Crispr, in early experiments with bacteria in 2012. Since then, she’s envisioned dozens of applications for it, from treating diseases like sickle cell to creating tastier produce and even making drought-resistant crops. For years, she’s also feared that someone might use it in secret to mess with human DNA.

And that’s exactly what reportedly happened when the researcher, He Jiankui, edited the twin girls’ DNA. To address it, Doudna said we need to provide anyone who’s thinking about tweaking the genes of human embryos with “very concrete sets of criteria recognised by international forums.”

Doudna is still hopeful about Crispr’s applications in other areas, such as treating diseases and creating superior foods. “I think in the next five years the most profound thing we’ll see in terms of Crispr’s effects on people’s everyday lives will be in the agricultural sector,” she said.

Rushika Fernandopulle, the CEO of Iora Health, is inventing an entirely new way to go to the doctor

Fifteen years ago, Rushika Fernandopulle had a radical idea.

The primary care doctor started to realise that insurance wasn’t covering what he wanted to do for his patients.

“Working in the system, you have to be blind deaf and dumb to not realise that the system is broken,” Fernandopulle, the CEO of Iora Health told Business Insider.

So he decided to create an entirely new kind of medical practice. He could charge them around $US40-$US50 a month and wouldn’t take insurance. In return, Fernandopulle could give them longer doctor’s visits and more hands-on care.

Since then, he’s been able to prove that the approach is worth covering. Instead of having patients pay the monthly fee directly, Iora works with “sponsors” – employers or Medicare Advantage health plans for the elderly – that cover the monthly fee.

Today, Iora has about 34 practices around the US, with plans to get to 50 by the end of 2019. The way he sees it, Fernandopulle and the Iora team are building something entirely different from what exists today.

“We’re building a radically new consumer-centric relational model for healthcare that’s not a little different than the current transactional ‘Do stuff to people’ model,” Fernandopulle said.

Ken Frazier, the CEO of Merck, might be the CEO that pharma needs most

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2017, President Donald Trump was called on to condemn white supremacists and their deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. When he didn’t, Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of the $US210 billion pharmaceutical giant Merck – and then one of only four black CEOs in the Fortune 500 – decided to do something about it.

In protest, Frazier quit Trump’s council of top executives. Seven business leaders would follow before Trump disbanded the group entirely. “As CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism,” Frazier said.

Read more: The CEO of Merck says he got the best advice of his life from his father over getting trendy new sneakers, and it helped him turn the company into a $US210 billion drug giant

The 64-year-old Harvard Law graduate has had a remarkable life and career. While working at the law firm Drinker Biddle, he helped free a wrongfully convicted man who had been on death row for about 20 years.

Frazier has worked at Merck for the past three decades and became CEO in 2011.

Frazier has shown by example how to lead successfully and in a principled way. He plans to stay in the role through late this year, but has already suggested he’s eager for a next act, likely in public service.

As the pharmaceutical industry grapples with scandals, it will need leaders like him more than ever.

Atul Gawande, the CEO of Haven, is using his healthcare experience to fix the industry’s flaws

Courtesy of Haven

Atul Gawande has the $US3.6 trillion US healthcare industry on high alert.

Gawande, a surgeon, Harvard professor, and New Yorker writer, in June became the CEO of Haven, the joint health venture started by JPMorgan, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway that’s aimed at lowering healthcare costs for the companies’ employees.

Established healthcare companies, including the biggest one in the US, are taking the venture seriously, raising concerns about how it might affect their businesses. And for good reason. Haven oversees the $US4 billion the three employers spend each year on their 1 million employees and their families.

Gawande’s experience working in the healthcare industry made him a compelling candidate to lead the ambitious venture. “Atul Gawande has a big brain and a big heart. His work ethic is extraordinary. He’s trustworthy and he cares,” JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon told Business Insider. “He has real-world experience and understands where the flaws are.”

Scott Gottlieb won rare bipartisan praise running the FDA

Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Over the past two years, the US Food and Drug Administration has turned clich├ęs about slow, plodding government agencies on their head.

The FDA approved a steady stream of new drugs, hitting an all-time record last year, and pushed to crack down on youth e-cigarette use and tobacco products.

For that you can thank Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, the 46-year-old businessman, physician, health-policy expert, and cancer survivor, whose work at the FDA has won bipartisan praise.

The father of three just stepped down from the role to spend more time with his family. But it has been a hard step to take, he told Business Insider, calling the FDA gig a “dream job.”

Gottlieb has set a precedent of an agile and dynamic FDA, led by an available and outspoken leader. He also told Business Insider that he took office at a unique moment, when the rules for new and transformative areas of medicine hadn’t yet been written.

The FDA was able to start defining those rules, he told us, and “that’s going to have a profound and lasting impact on the ability to take forward and advance whole new areas of science.”

Read more: The FDA’s top leader says anti-vaxxers could bring about a national health crisis

Annie Lamont, the cofounder of Oak HC/FT, is betting on companies that can lower the cost of healthcare and make going to the doctor less terrible

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

After carrying Steve Jobs’ bags during the Apple initial public offering road show, Annie Lamont, 62, was bitten by the entrepreneur bug.

But rather than starting up her own company, she decided to pursue a career in venture capital, a relatively unknown area at the time. She landed at Oak Investment Partners where she spent the next three decades investing in biotech, healthcare companies, and software.

In 2014, she and her team spun out into Oak HC/FT, a venture firm investing in healthcare and financial tech. The firm now has $US1.1 billion under management, backing companies like Medicare Advantage insurer startup Devoted Health, palliative-care company Aspire, and primary-care company One Medical.

“Our mission is anything that lowers cost and improves quality, we’re in – with the right people,” Lamont said. “That means that we are focused on keeping patients out of the hospital and having them get the right care in the right setting.”

Read more: A top VC who’s spent 3 decades investing in healthcare shares her best piece of advice for investors

Karen Lynch, the president of Aetna, is meeting members at the CVS pharmacies in their communities

Courtesy Aetna

Early in her life, Karen Lynch, the president of health insurer Aetna, was exposed to the healthcare system in the US. When Lynch was 12, her mother killed herself. Later, her aunt, who was caring for Lynch and her siblings, was diagnosed with lung and breast cancers and ultimately died from the conditions.

“When you have those personal events happen reasonably early in your life, I had that mission and passion to be able to help transform how people transform healthcare,” Lynch told Business Insider.

Lynch has spent the past three decades working in the healthcare industry. She joined Aetna in 2012, leading the company’s specialty products division and rising through the ranks to become president in 2015. Following Aetna’s merger with CVS, Lynch is now leading the Aetna business in the place of former CEO Mark Bertolini.

As part of the newly merged company, she sees her role in transforming healthcare as finding ways to meet people where they are, whether that’s in a CVS store in their communities, in their homes, or through technology. In some stores, CVS has been piloting “health hubs” that commit more of the store to healthcare services like clinics, wellness rooms, or medical equipment.

Steven Pearson, the founder of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, is preparing us for tough decisions about costly drugs


US drug prices are high and getting higher. Steve Pearson is leading the charge for solutions. Pearson’s nonprofit, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), has become an important independent and authoritative voice about how much cutting-edge new treatments should cost.

“Sometimes with drug prices, we’re getting tremendous value,” Pearson, 58, said in an interview. “Sometimes patients and the public are getting ripped off.”

ICER helps make that distinction. The group pairs information from patients, medical experts, drugmakers, and health insurers with economic analyses to determine the price points that are cost-effective for the US health system.

ICER usually finds that drug companies’ price tags are higher than they should be. And drugmakers are certainly paying attention: In at least two public cases, they have used ICER’s analyses to set their prices.

Pearson and his organisation’s innovative role will only get more important for the healthcare industry and the US as newer and more expensive medications become available. ICER is already preparing for how to judge a wave of new, expensive treatments that could cure serious diseases, Pearson said.

“Because tougher decisions are coming down the pike. And we just need to make sure that we’re ready for them.”

Click here to learn more about how ICER is standing up to Big Pharma and setting its own price tags for new drugs.

Anne Wojcicki, the CEO of 23andMe, is helping people learn what their DNA could mean for their identity and their health

Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Anne Wojcicki, the CEO and cofounder of genetic-testing startup 23andMe, thinks that by giving people a glimpse at their DNA, we can begin to prevent diseases instead of dealing with them after they’re diagnosed.

“If I know your blueprint, I know essentially what you’re made of,” Wojcicki told Business Insider.

23andMe’s tests provide insight into your ancestry and your risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and breast cancer. With 10 million customers, the company is one of the first to give people a basic understanding of how genetics affect their lives, something experts say will be increasingly important as our DNA becomes a cornerstone of personalised healthcare.

“It’s all about activating our customers to be advocates in their own health,” Wojcicki said.

23andMe’s tests aren’t comprehensive. Like a handful of other tests on the market, they analyse only small chunks of DNA that have been strongly tied to certain characteristics and illnesses.

23andMe has faced criticism from outside experts who have argued that the insight the tests provide is limited and could be misinterpreted. Others have raised privacy concerns.

Wojcicki said those questions come down to choice.

“People who are not comfortable with it shouldn’t do it,” she said. “People who are comfortable should absolutely do it.”

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