Dr. Bhanpuri’s primary role is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Virta Treatment with analytics and machine learning. He develops patient and clinician data products and evaluates new features and protocols. He also co-authors peer-reviewed publications on treatment outcomes. Read his full bio.

Interview with Nasir Bhanpuri of Virta Health

Q: What need is Virta Health addressing?

A: Virta Health delivers an evidence-based treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without the use of medications or surgery.

In the U.S. alone, type 2 diabetes and prediabetes affects 115 million people, and the economic burden is well-over $300 billion and growing. Our current approach to treating diabetes clearly isn’t solving the epidemic, which has the potential to ruin the health of our economy and our population.

The Virta Treatment has the potential to reverse this trend. In our clinical trial we have been able to achieve diabetes reversal in 60% of patients who complete 1 year of the Virta Treatment. This same group saw reduction or elimination of insulin in 94% of patients. Simultaneously, we’re delivering substantial improvement in blood pressure, inflammation, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and BMI. What’s even more encouraging is that these results are equal to and in many cases better in our commercial population. We’re saving payers money, too. Internal estimates based on trial data suggest savings of nearly $10,000 per patient in medical expenses over the first 24 months.

These are transformational health improvements for people living with type 2 diabetes, and for the payers responsible for the economic burden.

Q: What are the products and/or services Vifrta Health offers/develops to address this need?

A: Virta has pioneered two important innovations to drive these results. First we use a proprietary medical nutrition therapy based on carbohydrate restriction to restore metabolic health. This is what makes diabetes reversal possible for an individual. (Diabetes reversal is defined as lowering one’s HbA1c below the diabetic threshold while eliminating all diabetes-specific medications.)

Having the right intervention isn’t enough, however. To scale our solution to millions of people, we have had to reinvent the diabetes care model to allow for around-the-clock and remote care of patients. The traditional model—15-minute doctor visits every 3-6 months—is simply insufficient for diabetes reversal at scale. Virta’s model of Continuous Remote Care gives patients technology-enabled, 24/7 access to medical providers and health coaches, critical for safe and sustainable de-prescription of medications and restoration of metabolic health.

Importantly, our technology is rooted in data science and machine learning, which have the ability to guide coaches about issues and interventions on a patient-by-patient basis. Our continuous interactions with patients allow our algorithms to become more personalized as we learn from data.

Together these innovations are helping us treat thousands of people today, and millions of people in the future.

Q: What makes Virta Health unique?

A: Our uniqueness starts with our outcomes. Our goal is to reverse type 2 diabetes without the need for medications or surgery. What we have been able to achieve thus far—60% reversal among one-year completing patients and 94% of this group reducing or eliminating or reducing insulin usage—is a testament to how we are so different from the status quo.

Another thing that makes Virta unique is that “we put our money where our medicine is” as I like to say. That is, we go 100% at-risk for our fees, tying payment fully to performance for our employer and insurance payers. With our model, we align incentives from Virta to patient to payer. This is how all healthcare should be.

I would be remiss not to mention the importance of our Continuous Remote Care model to deliver our results and to support our ability to go “at-risk” for our fees. What we are doing goes well beyond telemedicine, and gives patients clinician access when and where they need it. We can even proactively reach out to patients with medical guidance and other forms of support based on biomarker and other feedback we receive. In addition, we provide unique health insights directly to patients based on the data they provide, which they can engage with and discuss with their health coach and/or physician. This type of proactive and remote care has the potential to change how we treat many chronic diseases well-beyond diabetes.

Q: What is your role at Virta Health and what excites you about your work?

A: On the data science team, our focus is to transform all aspects of Virta with science and algorithms that learn from data, in order to achieve Virta’s mission to reverse diabetes in 100M by 2025. In my specific role as a Clinical Informatics Data Scientist, I primarily work on analytics and machine learning to enhance and revolutionize the Virta Treatment. I work on cross-functional teams to continuously increase effectiveness of our treatment, efficiency of our clinicians, and provide our patients with data-driven guidance and insights to accelerate their journey to metabolic health.

Here are a few examples of the variety of work we do: (i) we develop machine learning models that can predict future outcomes and notify clinicians of patients who may need early intervention, (ii) we develop models that can estimate lab tests with high accuracy and thus reduce inconvenient blood draws, (iii) we help with evaluating the effectiveness of new protocol or product changes, (iv) we conduct natural language processing to draw insights from the millions of text messages between coaches and patients. Importantly, we are able to take data science initiatives from their earliest phase of conception all the way through the iterative development process and ensure the finished product is delivered and follow-through by measuring impact.

Working at Virta is exciting for two main reasons. First, we are a full-stack healthcare provider which allows for unique data and collaborations. Second, we put 100% of fees at risk, which aligns incentives—from patient to payer to Virta—and keeps patient outcomes as the number one focus. This combination is extremely rare in healthcare, and it’s helping create life-changing results for our patients.

Interview with Peter Marks of FDA

Q: The CBER’s Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy Designation program has been very successful, with about 100 requests for designation in the two years of its existence. Can you please tell us about the program and how it was put together?

A: The Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) Designation program came into being as part of the 21st Century Cures Act that was signed into law on December 13, 2016.

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Interview with Calum MacRae of Harvard Medical School

Q: What patient data do we need to better understand the underlying cause of disease and how to prevent it?

A: Medicine at present is highly underdetermined and data poor. To be precise, one must be comprehensive, so medicine (with our consent) will use not only what we currently conceive of as biomedical information, but also data from across our lives.

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Headlines from PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley

A big ‘Thank You’ to all of our presenters and attendees for celebrating 10 years of precision medicine progress with us! PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley was attended by 2000 participants from 35 countries, which included over 400 speakers in 5 parallel tracks!

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Interview with Ken Bloom of Ambry Genetics

Q: Tell us more about your organization/company. What patient population are you serving and which services are you specializing in?

A: Ambry Genetics is a recognized leader in high quality complex genetic testing. We seek to find the genomic cause or contributors to rare diseases, abnormal phenotypes and hereditary disorders.

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Interview with Lee Pierce of Sirius Computer Solutions

Q: What is the state of big data and analytics in healthcare, and how to best use the reams of data available?

A: More than ever, Healthcare organizations are achieving measurable value through use of their data and analytics assets. There is more raw material available than ever to create value. This raw material is the data flowing from internal systems and applications and also from devices and systems external to healthcare organizations.

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Interview with Anita Nelsen of PAREXEL

Q: There are various new, emerging technologies that bring us closer towards a cure for life-threatening disorders such as cancer, HIV, or Huntington’s disease. Prominent examples include the popular gene editing tool CRISPR or new and improved cell and gene therapies. By when can we expect these new technologies being part of routine clinical care?

A: Today’s emerging technologies are making the promise of individualized treatment a reality.

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Interview with Ilan Kirsch of Adaptive Biotechnologies

Q: The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: For decades cancer was viewed as solely a cell-autonomous condition.

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BMS buys Celgene | Lilly buys Loxo Oncology – Does this Signal a Return to Strong Deal-Making Activities in 2019?

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blockbuster $74B deal to buy Celgene creates an oncology powerhouse amid industrywide excitement about the rapidly evolving science and explosive growth of the sector. The agreement could signal a return to deal-making for the pharmaceutical industry in the $133B global oncology therapeutics market.

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Interview with Gini Deshpande of NuMedii

Q: What need is NuMedii addressing?

A: NuMedii, has been pioneering the use of Big Data, artificial intelligence (AI) and systems biology since 2010 to accelerate the discovery of precision therapies to address high unmet medical needs. Artificial Intelligence approaches are a natural fit to harness Big Data as they provide a framework to ‘train’ computers to recognize patterns and sift through vast amounts of new and existing genomic

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Interview with Minnie Sarwal of UCSF

Q: Genomic medicine is entering more hospitals and bringing with it non-invasive technology that can be used to better target and treat diseases. What are some key milestones that contributed to this trend?

A: Completion of complete sequence data from the human genome project, and the advances in proteomic, microRNA and epigenetic assays added a layer of pathway biology to the understanding of human diseases.

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Interview with Shidong Jia of Predicine

Q: Once sequencing has been validated as a clinical solution via trusted workflows, and coinciding with the technological developments driving costs lower, we can expect accelerated human genome profiling for clinical Dx. How soon, do you think, will we see accelerated growth and what can we expect?

A: We will see accelerated human genome profiling for clinical Dx in 2019 and the coming years as more biomarker-based cancer drugs are gaining approval.

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Interview with Iya Khalil of GNS Healthcare

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: I think that there’s a lot of speculation and uncertainty around AI, but I don’t foresee a time when we won’t need physicians.

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Interview with Ilya Michael Rachman of Immix Biopharma Inc.

Q: The Nobel Price in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” Besides CAR T-cell therapy what do you think next generation immunotherapies will look like to successfully combat cancer?

A: The next generation of immunotherapies will build on the insights discovered by immunologists like James Allison and Tasuku Honjo and extend them to modify the body’s response to tumors.

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Join me to Kick off PMWC Silicon Valley in the Santa Clara Convention Center, Focusing on Every Element of Precision Medicine

My team worked in collaboration with Bill Dalton, Kim Blackwell, Atul Butte / India Hook Barnard, Nancy Davidson and Sharon Terry to create a program that touches every component of precision medicine while bringing together all of its key stakeholders. Leading participating institutions including Stanford Health Care, UCSF, Duke Health, Duke University, John Hopkins University, University of Michigan and more will share their learnings and experiences and their successes and challenges, as they make precision medicine the new standard of care for all.

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Interview with Dominic Eisinger of Myriad RBM

Q: The Nobel Price in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” Besides CAR T-cell therapy what do you think next generation immunotherapies will look like to successfully combat cancer?

A: Next generation immunotherapies include CAR-Ts, TCRs, cancer vaccines, ADCs, bi-specific antibodies, and checkpoint inhibitors.

Read More
Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 17th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 21-24, 2020. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

See 2019 Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

See 2019 Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
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