INDUSTRY Q&A: Jeff Saffer and Vicki Burnett, founders of Quertle Industry, biomedical big data analytics company

Q: What brought you to the Las Vegas Valley, and how long have you lived in Henderson?

A: The primary motivation for our relocating from Boulder, Colorado, to the valley was the favorable tax structure. Plus, as a global organization, we needed to be nearby a world-class airport that is rarely interrupted by bad weather. We have been in Henderson for six years.

Q: With your extensive background in different medical fields, how do you see technology and its information systems affecting the industry in the next five years?

A: Medicine is being revolutionized in two interconnected ways.

First is the move toward personalized medicine. Instead of basing medical decisions on “standards of care” (that is, what treatments have been found to help the average patient), we now recognize that every person is different and, hence, the treatment must be specific to that individual.

Secondly, assimilating the flood of information (what many call big data) requires major advances in how we find the needles in the haystacks and how we recognize the importance of the threads that tie some needles together. Information technologies are improving at an incredible pace and are beginning to have a significant impact on improving medicine.

Q: How exactly does your new BioAI platform help researchers and health care providers?

A: One of the most critical sources of information for advancing personalized medicine is the authoritative information contained in medical journals and related sources. Yet, up to 30 percent of research budgets are spent rediscovering previously published information. In the biomedical field, that is about $80 billion dollars wasted every year. And, physicians and other health care providers simply do not have the time it takes (sometimes hours or even days) using old-fashioned search engines to find information they need.

Q: You market yourself as having the first “artificial intelligence” for the biomedical literature. What do you mean by that?

A: Quertle’s new BioAI platform uses artificial intelligence (AI), specifically designed for the complexities of the biomedical field, to tease out critical information from text data so the researcher or physician is not overwhelmed by the flood of information.

Artificial intelligence (intelligent behavior by computers) is able to go through incredible amounts of data in a very short time. BioAI uses neural networks (methods that can learn from the information being examined) and natural language processing (understanding human-written text) to discover relevant bits. This AI then powers visual analytics, which put the discovered information into a form that is easy for humans to understand.

Q: How do you see the local medical industry changing?

A: It is an exciting time for the Las Vegas Valley medical industry, with new medical schools, a new hospital, and a priority on increasing residency opportunities in the region. We need more physicians and other health care professionals, but the increase in numbers is only one step in improving the quality of health care. Furthering local efforts to incorporate modern personalized medicine and information approaches will contribute to that goal.

Q: How does Las Vegas’ medical industry rank in its use of technology to make processes more efficient and accurate?

A: Like elsewhere, Las Vegas’ medical industry is incorporating electronic health records, but it does not stand out as a region of innovation. Many of the well-known hospital systems have created innovation centers (such as Mass General’s Stoeckle Center and the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation). As the area’s medical opportunities grow, incorporating innovation as a core value would be an asset.

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