October 5, 2021

Lyfebulb and Arena Pharmaceuticals

A Celebratory Conversation with the Winner of the 2021 Innovation Challenge in IBD

At Lyfebulb, we believe that personal experiences with chronic illness can lead to potentially lifesaving and definitely life-improving innovations. One example of this success can be seen through the Lyfebulb and Arena Pharmaceuticals 2021 Innovation Challenge in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The Winner is Atray Dixit, PhD, the Co-Founder and CEO of Coral Genomics. He was inspired by a family member who suffered with IBD. On September 14th, Lyfebulb spoke with Dr. Dixit and a small panel of guests as part of their virtual Fireside Chat Series.

The chat was moderated by Lyfebulb Founder and CEO, Karin Hehenberger, MD, PhD. Other panelists included Tina Aswani Omprakash, a Lyfebulb Patient Entrepreneur, Founder at Own Your Crohn’s, and Co-Founder at IBDesis, along with Brad Vale, PhD, DVM, who is the Co-Founder and General Partner of Treo Ventures.

The award-winning product by Coral Genomics involves a special type of genetic screening that helps identify which medications will and will not possibly work on a particular patient by identifying critical biomarkers. In the Fireside Chat, Dr. Dixit said that the first application is a blood-based clinical test to help doctors decide on best medications for their patients, with the goal of avoiding unnecessary surgeries. The process includes obtaining information on the patient’s clinical history, such as what clinical drugs they have tried in the past, because all the details are important for a biological learning model. Dr. Dixit hopes to collaborate with other companies to develop infrastructure for clinical studies, especially “to help track patients in the middle of the before and after time points.”

Ms. Aswani Omprakash, who lives with Crohn’s and a permanent ileostomy, has been personally affected by her father and other relatives who lost their lives from IBD. She understandably praised Dr. Dixit, saying she is grateful for all entrepreneurs who bring the community together with new innovation, medications, and metrics that improve quality of life, such as the biomarkers identified by Coral Genomics. Noting that it is difficult to predict how IBD will present and evolve over time, she says that biomarker technology will hopefully help that; anything that makes the patient and caregiver’s life easier is crucial. Ms. Aswani Omprakash added that this innovation helps make her more comfortable and hopeful about her future. However, she believes that we need more IBD specialists, not just gastroenterologists, “for better patient access and to eliminate disparities.”

Dr. Vale has also had a long-term interest in diagnosis, therapy, and “getting the work done that ultimately leads to improved patient care.” In response to Ms. Aswani Omprakash’s reference to eliminating disparities, Dr. Hehenberger asked Dr. Vale about diversity as a venture capitalist. He noted that “diversity manifests itself in open mindedness in patients we’re going to treat to create a bigger market.”

In later discussion, when Dr. Hehenberger pointed out the evidence of so many drugs only working on a specific racial group, the advocate in Ms. Aswani Omprakash talked passionately about diversity in clinical trials, pointing out that the South Asian population, in particular, demonstrates how different phenotypes of disease present in different ethnic populations.

On this front, all agreed that Dr. Dixit’s innovation would address all their concerns about the ever-evolving IBD community and the varied needs of its diverse patient population. Hats off to Coral Genomics!

You can watch the Fireside chat here

You can watch the winner announcement here