Episode 53: Innovations in Personalized Cancer Care

In this episode, we talk with Dennis Watson and Cliff Reid, two entrepreneurs in the cancer space. They speak about the difference between genetics and genomics, and the role of genetic and genomic testing in clinical decision-making. They also touch on the history and impact of DNA sequencing and the challenges in applying genomics to cancer treatment. This conversation explores the development of Travera, a company advancing personalized cancer treatments. Dennis and Cliff share their hopes for the future of oncology, including the expansion of diagnostic tools and the increasing involvement of patients in their own care.

About our guests

Dennis Watson

Dennis Watson joined Travera in July of 2022 as the Vice President of Business Development. He brings 15+ years of extensive sales and management experience in the oncology molecular diagnostic space. Dennis spent nearly 10 years with Agendia, beginning as a field-based sales professional, working his way up to gain experience in multiple facets of the business, receiving top-tier awards and recognition throughout his tenure. He served 4 years as a Regional Director in the Central US, before moving on to lead the US commercial sales organization in January of 2018. Prior to his work with Agendia, Dennis spent 5 years with the Oncology division of Myriad Genetics. Before Myriad Genetics, he also held positions in the pharmaceutical, industrial services, and web services industries.

Clifford Reid

Clifford Reid was the founding CEO of Travera. Previously, Dr. Reid was the founding Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Complete Genomics (NASDAQ: GNOM), a leading developer of whole human genome DNA sequencing technologies and services. Prior to Complete Genomics, he founded two enterprise software companies: Eloquent (NASDAQ: ELOQ), an internet video company, and Verity (NASDAQ: VRTY), an enterprise search engine company. Dr. Reid is on the Visiting Committee of the Biological Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a member of the MIT Corporation Development Committee, and an advisor to Warburg Pincus.

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 25 minutes:

    “We always thought of cancer as a disease of the genome because it arises from DNA mutations, but it turns out it's just knowing the DNA won't get you to the answer. You need to know a lot more than the DNA, and in particular, you need to know a lot about proteins. And so we fast forward from you know, 2005 to 2023,18 years later, the total number of cancer patients that actually benefit from genomic sequencing their cancer and then matching them to a drug, it's about 10%, which is incredibly disappointing compared to where we were in 2005, thinking we were gonna get, you know, pushing 100%. And for the 10%, it's fantastic. When DNA sequencing and genomic medicine works, it's absolutely terrific. It just doesn't work enough of the time.”

  • 35 minutes:

    “These doctors are so busy, in fact, that these front line sales organizations of these different companies, whether it's a startup or an established product, they're often one of the more valuable tools that the doctors have to stay abreast of the things that are going on. There are so many innovations and so many new drugs and new studies and all of these different things coming out all the time that your average community based oncologist who is seeing 30 patients a day with 25 different disease types – that's not even to begin the discussion of how different management of a newly diagnosed early stage breast cancer patient is compared to a patient with late stage leukemia. I mean, these are completely different diseases and are treated and managed and all of that differently. And so it's really challenging. I mean, it's impossible really for any one physician to keep up on all of those different things. And so that becomes a lot of the role of the sales team and the commercial side of the companies is to keep the physicians aware of these things that are sort of happening and changing.”

  • 50 minutes:

    “Doctors are becoming more and more comfortable with their patients bringing them information. We live in an age of information that everything's available online, and AI tools are helping patients to find these things even better. But well-informed patients that are doing the reading, doing the research, doing the understanding, and they're taking things to their doctors with thoughtful, well-intentioned ideas about what they might be able to do to impact their own life. We're in a world where physicians, especially younger physicians that are coming out with this kind of experience, are becoming increasingly comfortable with that kind of patient interaction.”

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