- An Interview with John Nosta, a digital health expert and founder of his own company NostaLab
The IMPC Conference in Seoul, January 19th contributed many key speakers with big names such as John Sculley, (former presidents of Pepsi-Cola and Apple Inc) Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, (Commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration) and Dr. John Hariri (the founder and CEO of Celgene Cellular Therapeutics).
Mr. John Nosta is one of the key speakers of this big event and has graciously accepted me to interview him before the conference. I headed into a spacious lounge inside the Westin Chosun Hotel to meet him. A few moments later he entered the room valiantly with an award-winning smile and pumped my hand enthusiastically before sitting down comfortably for the interview.
Please introduce yourself
My name is John Nosta and I am a digital health strategist. My job is to help understand all the complexities that occurred in the convergence of technology and medicine. In today’s world it’s a very complicated perspective because we see not only advances in technology, we see changes in human need, advancing costs in healthcare, an aging population, we see the empowerment of individuals who now need or have the desire to take care of themselves as citizens. We look in companies like Apple and Samsung, partnering with other companies to look for advances in health. My job is to define and dissect the trends in the environment called digital health. My background is in cardiovascular physiology and for many years I worked in advertising and marketing for an agency called Ogilvy.
How did you come to participate in the IPMC Conference?
I have been working with the Chairman of this conference, Doctor Robert Hariri for a number of years. We are colleagues and friends and when he was helping put the program together, he was looking at a variety of stakeholders such as clinicians, scientists and he thought that my voice might be an interesting addition to the wide variety of speakers.
What topics have or will discuss in the IPMC and why?
My objective of today’s talk is to get people excited and have them understand that this is a very lucky time to be alive. We are seeing events that will result in a reflection point in human history. We haven’t seen anything like this in over 100 years and I will talk about the year 1916-1917 because 100 years ago, we saw the emergence of social strive, World War 1, the Russian revolution, the women’s rights in America, and we also saw technology not becoming an abstract, but part of our lives. We were able to look up, into the sky and see an airplane. What people experienced was a sense of wonder and concern but today we see a very similar dynamic with the driverless car. If a driverless car came to take you home, you probably be a little nervous. You might like to do it but most people would say, “No thank you. It’s really interesting but I’m really afraid”. It’s the same feeling of the airplane 100 years ago.
These factors coming together really reflect on what I believe is the beginning of the 21st century. That’s why today’s important; a point in time marking the beginning of something special. The year 2000 didn’t really mark the beginning of the 21st century. Interestingly, the smartphone that we consider to be one of the most important pieces of technology that changed our lives is 10 years old. It was launched in the year 2007. So in conclusion, I will talk about how a confluence of changes will redefine our lives and the trends such as artificial intelligence. If you take the letters “AI” and you reverse them, you get “IA”. It means “Intelligence Augmented”. That’s what we are seeing in clinical medicine today. We are seeing physicians have the opportunity of using their human’s skills but have them enhanced by technology. Now that’s a game-changer.
In your terms, what is digital health?
Digital health is the convergence of technology and medicine. Many people have different definitions but when I speak of digital health, I don’t talk about bold technological advances in medicine and I concentrate less on activity trackers. I look more on things about artificial intelligence, robotics, nanoparticles that can detect disease early and earlier so we can get to the notion of prevention. For example, we often diagnose cancer based on seeing a mass or feeling something. Imagine if we can find the very first cancer cell in our body and kill it. We actually share a border with prevention. So these are some of the ideas that I think about and when I talk about digital health I include bold initiatives around artificial intelligence, robotics, computer processing, and the emergence of genomics. Medicine is no longer a broad autonomous group of people, but about you and individualized therapy and that allows us to make therapies more targeted, more specific and more effective.
Are you aware about Korean digital health? If so, are there any points you were impressed about or have any advice to give?
What impresses me about Korea is that they have unlimited thirst for technology. Oftentimes that is one of the hardest things to achieve and move the adoption sequence, and what I find is that Korea is a technological savvy country that embraces technology. They also have a desire to improve and to expand healthcare. I think it’s a population size that is manageable and a wonderful opportunity to really become a leader in this area.
Another point which is very important is having the opportunity to bring people from around the world together reflects the new dynamic world that we live in. It’s less about control and more about collaboration and it’s vital because ideas are coming from a variety of stakeholders; It’s no longer just the doctors, electric engineers and university professors, and we are seeing people from a variety of backgrounds creating ideas that can truly change the world. It’s to bring smart people together, consider ideas, perceptive and concepts that comes from different sources. It’s a tricky time where the world changes quickly and it refers itself as “exponential growth”. It’s a big, rapid curve on the graph. That rapid change is important but for some if you’re not prepared for exponential growth, it could be troubling.
The early aspects of exponential growth actually dip below and what happens is that people begin to think that it’s failing. A medical environment is usually troubled by failure. In a business environment, they’re not meeting their quota and not getting sales. But when it takes off and you are not prepared for that either, you have a sense of confusion, not optimism. So I believe that people must understand exponential growth and change when necessary.
You founded your own company, NostaLab. What is the goal that you have yet achieved?
The goal of NostaLab is to empower innovation through creative thinking. A good idea that no one knows about is useless; it’s like winking in the dark. So oftentimes we have many good ideas but it’s significant that these ideas are communicated in a way that resonates with the audience. So my job is to still help develop ideas and strategies that bring ideas to life in exciting and dynamic ways. 10 years ago we didn’t have the opportunity to process data or sequence the human genes but now we can do it for fewer than 1,000 dollars and I believe it will go to 0; it will become free. For example Google gives us all sorts of information. But we give them something back. It’s the power of the entrepreneur. As we move forward with our ideas, we will move forward with some of the problems in the way.
Constance Williams firstname.lastname@example.org