Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
The healthcare world has found a range of strategies for driving more equality in care. For Dr. Jonathan Ng, this pursuit has meant developing an AI solution it says could become a “new standard of care” for GI disease interpretation.
Ng’s company, Iterative Scopes, has developed an AI-powered endoscopy tool to enhance detection for colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. But what makes the company’s solution, SKOUT, a novel approach to health equity is how it improves the accuracy and consistency of endoscopy readings, which could level the playing field for gastroenterologists with various levels of training and experience. In addition, it is working on multiple ways to measure difficult to quantify immunology diseases like inflammatory bowel disease by tracking changes in mucosa through computer vision.
“Iterative Scopes aims to improve global access to high-quality medical care and eliminate disparities in healthcare outcomes,” his nominator says.
Ng’s nominator adds his commitment to health equity goes back to his teenage years, when he and friends raised around $20 million over 14 years for improvements to the Angkor Hospital for Children in Cambodia, including establishing numerous hospitals and operating theaters across the country.
These experiences inspired Ng to study medicine and he ultimately completed his training in Singapore. Always on a mission to tackle healthcare challenges, Ng’s nominator says while he was in Singapore, he noticed there was “a shortage of access to MRIs at restructured hospitals and a surplus of access at private hospitals. Thus, Ng formed Optimimed to connect MRI resources across the hospital systems in Singapore.”
“Then, while at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Public Health and MIT’s Sloan School of Management, he recognized the potential of computer vision technologies to improve interpretation of visual cues in evaluating diseases, which led him to found Iterative Scopes in 2017,” his nominator says.
“The background of my desktop is a constant movement of photos of my time in Cambodia where I spent 14 years working on healthcare systems throughout the country. It constantly reminds me of my ‘why’ — especially when times get tough.”
Dr. Jonathan Ng
CEO, Iterative Scopes
Iterative Scopes says it has finished its first clinical trial for SKOUT, which is currently under review by the FDA.
In January, the company raised $150 million in a round of financing, less than two months after raising $30 million in its series A round. And in the space of a year, the team has grown from 25 people to nearly 200, which has meant that Ng, a self-professed introvert, has had to adapt his leadership style.
“I am still learning how to communicate effectively, and I now spend a good amount of time thinking about how to empower my teammates and amplify my voice both internally and externally to the company, to give voice to the really important mission that we are working on,” Ng says.
Colleagues say they are inspired by Ng’s ability to identify ways to address a problem, select the right stakeholders for partnerships and attract top talent to work with him.
“I also recognize the vast amount of privilege that I have received from other entrepreneurs mentoring me, and try to pay it forward by mentoring others who might benefit from it,” he says.
Ng hopes the company’s technology will provide critical insights at the point of care for providers, but also developed an innovation he believes will be easy to adopt.
“I think AI can be our great equalizer and I’d like it to be as widely accessible as it can be,” he says.