My guest today is none other than Dr Daniel Kraft; a physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur, and innovator. He has over 25 years experience working across health care innovation, biomedical research, and clinical practice. He is the Chair for Medicine at Singularity University and the Founder and Chair of Exponential Medicine, and we dive into his work at these organizations in depth on this podcast.
He’s earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University, finished medical school at Stanford and was Board Certified in both Internal Medicine & Pediatrics after he completed a Harvard residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital & Boston Children’s Hospital. Oh, and he also completed fellowships in hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Stanford.
Now you might think that with all that, I’ve completed the introduction. But you’d be wrong.
Daniel is also an avid pilot and he served in the Massachusetts and California Air National Guard as an officer and flight surgeon with F-15 & F-16 fighter Squadrons. He has conducted research on aerospace medicine that was published with NASA, and he was a finalist at NASA for astronaut selection. Oh, yeah, and he has two young children under 3.
The man is on the move, and I hope you do get a chance to meet him in person. He brings an incredible energy when he gets on the stage and he must have a lot of energy to keep up his schedule.
- ‘The Singularity’: What it is and what it means to medicine
- Challenges and opportunities in medicine
- The most exciting area in health technology today
- Educating, Empowering and Enabling leaders
- How to catalyze today’s leaders to address the grand challenges
- “Previvors” and Stage 0 patients
- The XPRIZE and creating a new mindset to tackle audacious but achievable goals.
Links and Resources Mentioned
Quantified self to quantified health: how tech helps doctors fill gaps in patient records (Wired UK Article by Daniel Kraft)
Singularity University Executive Programs
MatterNet – from SU.org
Made in Space
The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
Contact Daniel Kraft on LinkedIn
Daniel Kraft on Twitter @daniel_kraft
Hololens at Case Western
Brain Power – tools empower children and adults all along the autism spectrum
Digital Health Events
Dan Kendall @ HealthTechDan
Join Digital Health Today
Lightning Round Answers
Q: What advice do you have for other innovators who are working to make a difference in health?
A: Get out of your silos, experience, play, mix it up with others in areas different to your.
Q: What’s a favorite quote or saying that motivates you?
A: “Best way to predict the future is to create it.”
Q: What book do you recommend to listeners and why?
Q: What technology, tool or app would you recommend, and why?
A: Twitter – ability to share information and learn and collaborate.
Q: If I gave you $5million to invest in healthcare today, where would you invest it?
A: In data analytics – turning all this data that’s being created into knowledge.
Q: We will be making a financial donation to a charity of your choice. What charity have you selected?
A: American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
More Articles and Links
“Our Health is In Our Hands” WIRED article by Daniel Kraft, May 2014
40 of the Smartest People in Healthcare
The Top-10 Internet Smart Doctors in the World (2013)
Pharma Voice 100: Annual list recognizes the most inspiring leaders in Life Sciences, as determined by their readers.
Dan: Dr. Kraft thank you for joining me and welcome to the program. I Just gave our listeners an insight to your background and some of the work that you’ve done from medical school to astronaut training. Can you give us a little insight into how your path and opportunity have combined to create this really unique and body of work?
Dr. Kraft: Great question, I sometimes wonder myself and you know particularly as a medical student here at Stanford all the things happening around here from technology to being involved in everything from space exploration to early digital health. I always find a challenge when you have to decide what’s one specialty, to choose a particular field of practice after medical school because I like everything, particularly the mix of field, and so I ended up doing a combined residency in trauma and pediatrics, and some specialization in hematology & oncology and I always was attracted to multiple fields and later in my career I got pulled into the first summer program at Singularity University as a favor to my good friend Dr. Peter Diamandis. Which is really a bit of my sweet spot you know, the convergence of technology and how to leverage those not just in health care but also about environment, education etc…
Dan: You mentioned that you were part of the very first summer program in Singularity University. Many of us will know the name Singularity University, but can you tell us about the mission and the work there? And since you were there at the very beginning can you tell us a little bit about the background and how you came to be involved?
Dr. Kraft: It goes back when I was a medical student, I was involved with things outside medical health care, I was taking a class during my first year in medical school in space engineering, designing missions to Mars with the Soviets at that time in Stanford and I had a long-term interest in space and flying and I went to this thing called The International Space University which Peter also co-founded where-in the idea is the future of space will bring together folks from medicine, astrophysics and politics etc., and so now fast forward 15-20 years Peter had read the book the Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil a pretty famous Inventor and Futurist. With that sort of exponential mindset the singularity often a challenging terms but sits roughly around the idea about what happens when technology and computation get too powerful that you can fit all the computers today in your laptop. To help create a future you can’t be in your narrow little silo, you might have a Phd and know everything about one section of the brain but catalyzing the future is not only standing where technology is today or less likely to be into 5-10 years but particularly when it’s writing its exponential trends.
Dan: So you obviously you have a wide range of interest you’re not afraid of hard work and you performed at the very top academic organizations in the country. Those experiences might help prepare you but, often progress comes down to having the courage and the will to seize opportunities and build new relationships. How did you and Peter meet and how did you begin to build a vision behind what is now singularity university and exponential medicine.
Dr. Kraft: Peter and I share, hopefully, an optimistic view of the future of what technology can achieve. Peter is well-known for founding the XPRIZE which stimulated the first rockets to go to space that were not built by NASA. And now touching in healthcare, ranging from medical tricorder to genomics to cancer so Im thinking with his background as a Physician trained in Harvard and MIT about and his expertise in what technology can do. This idea of bold and abundant thinking realizing while today the world, there may be a lot of challenges in terms of its potential and other elements we do need to address these grand challenges by educating and enabling today’s leaders and understand these technologies in smart ways.
Dan: But just to be clear this is not a conventional university. You have programs that you run for various times per year. For organizations and individuals, you have a summit. What should listeners dig into when they visit the website?
Dr. Kraft: There is a lot to talk about, you can go to to our website there is a lot of information. The key one which many of your readers may want to join is our ten week summer global solutions program sponsored by google. It’s a full scholarship for 80 participants from around the world where they spend ten weeks in our Nasa headquarters and develop new companies and idea to impact the future. We also have one week executive program where folks can come for 5 days 6 days in our main campus and kind of get their heads rewired, as well as an accelerator for startups that have an exponential global impact to come and have a seat at our campus and cross connect with our community and learn grow and expand from there.
Dan: Excellent! I’ll include links to those programs in the show notes. But, I’m just trying to get my head around this, so part of your role as a chair of medicine at Singularity University, you’re the founder and chairman of exponential medicine, you’re thinking and designing and creating exponential technology that will transform the world beyond the most anything that most of us can imagine. Do you also spend time in clinics and research labs and experience the day today limitations of our technology? The tools and techniques that are currently being used that is a huge dichotomy. What’s that experience like for you when you’re dedicating so much energy to the advantage of technology, to achieving singularity but you still work day today with this slow and clunky technology in the health systems.
Dr. Kraft: That’s where you see the opportunity. In healthcare things move more slowly than we might like we’re still using fax machines to communicate. Often time the magical electronic medical records are more often billing machines which are very frustrating which actually hinder actual clinical care. What is inspiring about mixing the clinical setting and some of this new technology is there’s there’s so many unmet needs, so many pain points whether it’s how to prescribe a smart prescription or how to communicate with the patient when they’re not in the clinic or in the hospital. So lots of challenges and lots of opportunities and also frustration because things in medicine do take some time and we can catalyze to speed things up. We seen companies like Apple, Samsung and Google get into healthcare and companies like Apple have platforms now like a research kit which are catalyzing very low cost cheap distributed clinical trials.
Dan: Let’s switch gears a little bit. You mentioned XPRIZE earlier and that’s another organization that has dedicated to exponential thinking and another organization created by Peter. I was actually on the team that competed for one of the XPRIZE competition i was working with a company that makes an implantable sensor based in Chicago. We also competed for the Nokia challenge back in 2015 and since then that XPRIZE has been creating more health related challenges expanding its reach internationally as well. Can you give us some background on X prize and explain some of the things that are being done in organization to move the needle on healthcare and wellness?
Dr. Kraft: The XPRIZE in a nutshell, what it tries to do is to initiate and catalyze solutions to difficult problems that are not quickly addressed otherwise. The idea is to have an audacious but achievable goal. So you need to catalyze and bring in startup and different companies together and create a partnership and we saw that with many XPRIZE programs. We saw that with different XPRIZEs that have been completed. We have in oil cleanup, from oil spills and they double the speed and lower the cost of cleaning up oil, others related to the environment and ocean cleanup and on education. So XPRIZE again as catalyzing body. There’s a lot of information you can go to xprize.org
Dan: That’s amazing. I’ll include links to the XPRIZE website and some of the competitions and concepts that you have mentioned. Now when we have completed we did not win the big prize but we did a pick up a distinguish award and for that we got a nice medal and the company got a nice six-figure sum that went to further development and based on my experience, the organization was extraordinarily well, everyone was helpful and sharp about moving that competition forward and even if we didn’t win anything from that and some teams did we did move our own solution to work at a pace that definitely would have not been done if not for that competition in the horizon. You and I attended the ces show earlier this year and there’s no exhibition quite like it everything from self driving cars or drones and robots and wearables and virtual reality it’s a fairly easy to get excited about some of those technologies and imagine their power being applied to gaming or transportation or home automation and when you attend a meeting like that and see some of the power of these technologies were does your thought process go ? how do you see this technology is being applied in healthcare?
Dr. Kraft: A few examples, medical education. I was in london with a group called the medical reality and they made the first live stream VR surgery, they had 5000 people watching the surgery real-time through their smartphone while they did the surgery. You could now record surgery or pre-op instruction for patient or post op care elements. You can enable a patient to understand their anatomy or their disease by flying them into their body that has an issue. We’re seeing VR used in medical education or augmented reality. These are the things that are here today, for therapy were seeing virtual reality being used to put a patient in a very cold environment where they can interact with snowballs they can get far less painful way for therapy or medicine. So, lots of opportunities for vr or ar, things can get cheaper and becoming more and more a consumer effective and I think we would be surprise about some of the applications being built on top of these, from helping surgeons through the use of technology like Google glass. So, like the saying – the future is already here – it’s just not distributed evenly. So, I encourage people to be an early adopter. Try some of these technologies, discover and innovate.
Dan: If you have to focus in on one area of health innovation what has you most excited for the future of medicine?
Dr. Kraft: Great question. A lot of things are exciting today on the cost of really transforming the world. The idea that you can edit genes, the ability to read and write dna, biopharma, we now have smarter ways to really personalize that individual patient’s prevention and wellness, we cando smarter earlier diagnostics. We now have access to bigger and better data and we can use that to catalyze more modern clinical trials and learning at the same time. We can start to move and improve to the world of intelligence space medicine not just evidence-based.
Dan: I recently attended a gynecologic oncology meeting in Lisbon and I met D. Karen Lu. She introduced me to a new term. She talked about some of the work they were doing on breast cancer, and they are identifying carriers that has no previous cancer history and offering them prophylactic surgery to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. She refers to those individuals that had intervention before developing the disease as Previvors. In what other areas do you think will see this Previvor treatment coming into practice?
Dr. Kraft: I like to call that stage zero medicine. Being an oncologist, I’m a cancer doctor, we most often see patients coming to us with stage 3 or stage 4 cancer which is often too late or really expensive and a lot more difficult to cure. I like that term Previvor, we are already seeing some of that, obviously with the case of Angelina Jolie she was a high risk for ovarian cancer, so she decided to take the extreme view and do some preventive surgery. So you can see that on one end, but hopefully not just with cancer but with other diseases as well like Alzheimer’s which is a huge issue with our aging population but now there are technologies that we can do like video games, eye tracking diagnostics , brain scan that can predict who is likely to get dementia maybe you can potentially not wait for the disease to occur, there are not a lot of therapies for Alzheimer. Again, leveraging all of these new exciting technology and information blend it with AI, blend it with crowdsourcing and information so we can get to the point where we can identify folks before they get the disease and have the ability to do something about it.
Dan: Fascinating and exciting times are you glad that you choose to practice medicine at this point in history?
Dr. Kraft: I think it is the most exciting time not just in medicine but in healthcare and I am fortunate to play a role on that with Singular University and with Exponential Medicine and we bring all cohort from all around the world into this and work around technology and how to solve this challenges and catalyze a whole new initiatives and platform and hopefully democratize healthcare and bring in lower costs and more effective prevention diagnostics and therapy. I think it is really an exciting time for all of us.
Dan: You know we both have two young children and yours are a little bit younger than mine and I get really excited about this technologies and how this treatments are going to impact my own children and the generation to come. So thank you for your work and your leadership in exponential thinking it’s really making a difference.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As an engineer and business leader, I've worked to develop, launch and scale innovative products and solutions that impact health and wellness. As an entrepreneur, I know firsthand what it takes to start a business, build a team, and compete in the global marketplace.
On Digital Health Today, I leverage my experiences to help great leaders and innovators tell their stories and connect to users, investors and other stakeholders.