Med Tech Gurus
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Now I'm Sylvester Harris, and I'm pleased to introduce your host for med tech gurus. Mr. Tom. Hey, what's going on out there. Gurus. This is Tom Hicky. You're host of med tech gurus, and welcome to episode number 148 gurus. What does it take to earn the patient's trust? In this episode, we have Mr. Brian Maurer co-founder at bristle and oral health and microbiome company.
Brian gets into why as society, we silo healthcare, what he and his team are trying to do to address. Brian also gets into how an organization can remain innovative and continue to bring cutting edge research into the marketplace. Brian is an amazing guru and he really delivers in this episode. But before we get to the episode, let's thank our sponsor.
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Okay. gurus here, comes episode number 148. And remember if you like what you hear, please subscribe, leave a review. And most importantly, have a friend welcome med tech GU. Today, as I mentioned in the introduction, I am really excited to have Mr. Brian Mauer. Co-founder at Bristle with us. Bristle is a pioneering oral health organization that focuses on oral microbiome testing and personalized recommendation and coaching.
Brian received his BA in international business from the university of San Diego. After receiving his degree, Brian spent seven years in the commercial organization at. Driving adoption of genomic technology and applications into new and emerging markets. Brian then joined twist bioscience to manage the growth of their genomic sequencing business in Northern California.
He has a passion for applying novel technology in healthcare to improve patient outcomes. Hey Brian, are you ready to be our guru today? I sure. Oh, that's great. We're really excited to have you, so say what's up to our other gurus out there and tell something fun or interesting about yourself or your family so we can get to know you a little better.
Excellent. Well, what's up everyone, so excited to be here and thanks so much for having me a fun fact about me as I was thinking about this was that my career in genomics in biotech probably never would've happened except for NPR, the national public radio. I was in college and looking for internships and, you know, mulling over what types of options or what types of careers to go into.
And I called my mom to catch up as I usually do. And she was ranting about how I needed to look into this DNA sequencing technology that she heard about on an NPR special and was very insistent that I look into the field and I didn't know anything about it at the time, but that week when I was looking at internship, Just by chance on our job board, there was an internship position in the commercial org at Illumina, who is the leader in next generation in a sequencing and was lucky enough to get in.
And the rest was kind of history from there. But so shout out in PR and my mom for making the career happen. Yeah, I love that. Right. You mom, moms, you know, giving that kind of great guidance. So what was there, was there something specific at the time that just intrigued the, the science or the biology? Or what, what was it that just triggered?
Yeah, I down, I was always a science and math nerd, the business major, but I think it was just as I learned more about the company and, and start to understood really what was happen. It almost felt like magic in a sense of, you know, being able to read DNA that you can't even see and start to learn so much about the world around us and, and how we can, you know, when you start thinking about the second order and third order implications of modifying and understanding our genomic code, it was just fascinating to me.
And I think from as soon as I kind of had that epiphany and realization, I was hooked and there was no way I was gonna go do anything. Yeah, that actually kinda leads into like my first question I had for you, because you know, you've really, you know, had some really interesting experiences as you started out, your mentioned Illumina and then you bioscience.
So, you know, continue on that journey, you know, walk us through that journey and little bit about how, how this helped you prepare launching your own innovative business. Can you, can you tell us that story? Yeah, absolutely. So, as I mentioned, started at Illumina and really just was able to get exposure. At the time to this wave that was taking place of adoption of genomic technologies.
I had some really generous mentors and people who took me under their wings to really teach me that the science and the technology, but the opportunities I was afforded there and at twist to work with incredible scientists who were performing cutting edge research. Oncology rare disease, rare undiagnosed genetic disease, pharma, the microbiome, all these different as applications all leveraging the same technology.
The exposure was just incredible. And every day I was getting the opportunity to connect with these scientists. Many of whom were starting their own clinical or commercial endeavors startups and understand not just their application and. The science behind it, but their journey, how they got to where they are today, what inspired them to take the leap and, and start the company and, and really get into the business and understand, you know, what does it take to launch a biotech company, or what does it take to launch any business and grow business?
So I really owe it to those opportunities at Illumina twist for exposing me one to just these incredible founders, the breakthroughs they were able to make, and it really inspired. To two, see where else we could apply genomic technologies to improve patient outcomes. As the story goes, one day I was with my now CEO and co-founder Danny and we were just sitting, having a beer, talking about some different ideas of where like some new applications we'd seen or some different ways.
We might be able to apply genomics. I was lamenting because I had a dentist appointment the next day. And I've had a tough time at the dentist throughout my life and, and it hit us, you know, why isn't anybody looking at the oral microbiome? We'd seen so many companies start in the space around the gut microbiome, skin microbiome, but you know, we have this oral microbiome that is actually the root of a lot of oral disease.
And we hadn't heard of anybody really looking at it or. And so that gave us the idea of, you know, we could start a company around investigating it and giving people a glimpse into their oral health. Like they've never gotten before. And out of that idea, that conversation bristle was born. Well, that's really fascinating.
And, and I'm struck by first of all, we've had other gurus on our show talking about how you need to really immerse yourself in, in your market. And it sounds like just through some of the mentorships, you know, you just got tossed into the deep end of the pool. Right. And just immersed yourself right away.
So is that kind of how it happened? Definitely. Yeah. A. My friends were a little I think a little concerned about me after college. Cause I kept talking their ears off about genomic applications and epigenetics and they weren't as excited as I was I wasn't doing a good job. You're so right. It really came down to justing yourself.
It really understanding the ins and outs of the applications and, and the industries to get inspired and, and to get the confidence to underst. We have what it takes to go out and try to do this. Yeah, that's terrific. So Brian, my pre research, some of the blogs and
IDs as society silo, which I think is absolutely right on, but I'm, I'm curious as to what are some of the barriers that you think need to be addressed? Breaking down these silos. Do, do you have any thoughts there?
Definitely. Yeah. And, and I think there are silos across both medical and dental care we're most familiar, or at least I'm most familiar with some of those dental care and, you know, dental care has been solid from the broader healthcare system for a few reasons.
One just physically you'll typically see dental practices. Not connected to medical facilities. You'll go to a completely different location to see your dentist. Financially we'll tend to have different insurance for dental insurance versus medical insurance. And it almost, you know, dental insurance can operate almost inverse to, to how medical insurance operates.
So very distinct and different model there. And I think the biggest silo is the informational gap between medical and dental. Between the medical and dental space where, you know, you'll have this oral health data and you'll have data with your dentist and they'll understand certain things about your health that will never get translated to your primary care physician and vice versa.
And I think this is particularly of concern when we start to understand just how related our oral health and oral microbes are to. Our overall health and our risk for chronic diseases like heart disease Alzheimer's and, and other conditions and how they interplay to where, you know, dentists have this great opportunity to see patients frequently and can start to identify some symptoms or signs of, of conditions that primary care physicians might not be privy to and vice versa.
And so we really think one of the biggest opportunities for improving oral health in broader. He. Is breaking down some of these silos and starting to encourage more of an open dialogue around how do we bring the mouth back into the body as a mm-hmm as a medical concept. Yeah.
I love that. And, and I'm thinking, you know, what, what strikes me right away is oftentimes you'll hear about, you know, poor dental health can lead to, you know, comorbidities, like, you know, cardiac impacts and, and, you know, other types of, you know, Sepsis kinds of issues, which clearly becomes systemic.
So is, is that the right track? Is that what you're, you're trying to do with that?
Definitely. Yeah. It's, you know, we've, we've been blown away by the research as we've dug on. We have a really in depth blog where we highlight the connections and the research. And I, I think heart disease and cardiac conditions are probably the most well known associations.
There's some really interesting associations in relationships with Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes, the oral and gut microbiome connection, as well as looking at cancer and how individual oral pathogens have been found to affect and even drive certain colorectal cancer types.
You know, when, as we dig into this, it just became more and more apparent that it need, we need to better understand these associations and, you know, better manage oral health and oral disease for, for the serious, the serious thing that it's. Yeah, that's, that's really insightful and you know, it, it leads me to, you know, the path cuz I'm, I'm thinking about your background and you know, you're working with these innovative companies like you have over your career.
And I think you started to touch on some of the different healthcare applications, but looking at that landscape, I'm wondering if there are one or two real strong healthcare innovations and applications that, that really excite you at this point.
Yeah, there's, there's a lot, I think we could spend all day chatting on this, but I think too, that really have jumped out to me in my career are liquid biopsy and cellular engineering.
Liquid biopsies are blood tests that essentially can detect signatures of DNA from around the body. So we can better monitor or understand what's happening in our body through a blood draw. This is the primary application we've seen is in the oncology space where companies like grail, garden, health, you know, many others.
I just have my California bias. Are all developing tests that are gonna be able to detect cancers at their earliest stage and not just detect them, but also give physicians understanding based on the signatures of the, how to better measure, treat, and, and monitor people who are having these conditions.
You know, I, I think it'll be pretty soon where our standard physical will have a screening like this, and it'll be able to better manage cancer. And then the second one cell engineering, it's a genetic technique to engineer cells of all types to have different functions. Some of the really exciting applications here are using modified immune cells and modified T-cell to bite different types of cancer or using microbes and types of bacteria to produce biofuels.
And this is where it's, it's very cool to think about the futuristic applications. Issue engineering or testing drugs against cell lines that we've engineered to see how they're actually affecting our cells at that level and start to develop much more targeted and effective therapeutics. So, yeah. I really nerd out on the futuristic genomics applications, but it's so cool to see where they're gonna start making an impact a lot sooner than it may.
And it seems like the horizon is almost without limitation, right? As we listen to your story and some of those things, right. That there's so much that can be to, to help human experience and cure a lot of diseases. Right. So it truly definitely of listeners out there of our gurus are entrepreneurs, or soon to be entrepreneurs are looking at, you know, how do we get into some of the space and launch our idea?
In launching bristle. I'm I'm curious about, you know, did you and your team have to raise money and if so, what are of the best practices you developed career in regards to
I, yeah, so I have to give a shout out to our Danny who's spearheaded most of the work on this front, but I think one of the biggest practices we've identified for finding success with investors.
Really honing in on investors who truly understand your vision and your mission. We've been incredibly lucky to have investors who have either experienced oral conditions themselves or understand the amenity of the problem we're solving, because it just makes their feedback, their guidance and support all that much more impactful because they're really bought in on the future.
We're trying to create, and that has just been credible for us as, as an. But when we were first getting started, one of the things we really looked to were startup accelerators. And I think for people who are interested in starting a company, but may not know where to turn for that initial resource of capital, there are a number of startup accelerators and schools that are, are starting up.
And we were lucky. We, we ended up applying and getting into the Y Combinator accelerator. Where we receive credible guidance, as well as some initial startup capital to get going and connections to the community. But there's also a ton of free resources through Y Combinator and others online to get your business going to a point where then when you go out and start looking for capital or applying, you're in a great position to.
Yeah, I really like that. Finding those investors that, you know, buy into your vision and mission. Right? Cause I, I, I think that's critically important because you've gotta have that fit because if they don't see it, I would think there'd be a lot of friction. And I would imagine on your end, did you and your CEO, Danny have.
Really kind of help screen. I mean, I'm thinking, you know, oftentimes it's the investor screening the company, but I'm wondering if you were also at the same time screening the investors, is, is that part of the process that you experienced?
I think there's an element of it, for sure. And it was, I think even before investors, when we were first different people about the idea or different startup schools or programs about the idea, it was so apparent who.
Sort of got it and understood the problem we were solving versus who it cause people were very quick to tell you that's a stupid idea. And you know, I just go to the dentist twice a year. So why would I ever have a need for this? Where if yout experienced a deeping or chronic cavities or bad breath and chronic halitosis despite everything you're trying to do, you.
You don't recognize I immensity of the problem. And so there is some self selection, I think, in terms of those early conversations. Yeah. Yeah.
That makes sense. So, Brian, I'm curious as well as we record this, hopefully the world we've moved beyond this global pandemic of, of that we've all experienced, but I'm, I'm wondering because we've had other gurus discuss.
Changed everything for their companies. And I'm just wondering what impact that might have had on Bristle.
Yeah. Bristle was largely born outta we, we had originally had the idea about a year before we finally started it. We spent a lot of that time talking to microbiome researchers, surveying our friends and families and anybody who would talk to us about their oral health experience, but it was a bit difficult just.
And bustle of life with our, our jobs and everything else that comes with life to, to really find the time to get things going. And I think with COVID, you know, we had more time at home. Everyone did and we really committed ourselves to putting that time into bristle and really dedicating whatever free time we had to advancing the company.
And, and I think that was really critical to, to getting things going. More broadly. I think societally, there were a couple shifts that really helped us with the idea of Bristle. And I think with the general market acceptance of Bristle, and one of that was people becoming much more aware of at home tests.
So we all became very familiar with testing infrastructure or lack thereof in the country. A lot more people became comfortable taking different at home tests and really understanding. The impact that microbes have on our health and just the accessibility of understanding new things about your health and how to improve your health and life with taking more ownership of your health through a lot of at home tests and options.
So in a sense, really helped propel the at home testing space forward. So when we are bringing a test to market that nobody's ever heard of before, at least. There's some groundwork laid in at home tests and in understanding the impact, these microbes in our lives play, play in our health.
Yeah. I, I, I really, I like that. And I, you know, you just kinda made me think that, you know, when we're all at home and listening, cause I'm thinking probably, you know, half of America learned what the CDC was, where they even knew what they were right before COVID. So that's, that's really an interesting insight that, you know, individuals became much more aware of that and it helped that, that pathway.
So I, I can see your point where with, with, with your team, how that helped with that, that whole process. So that's, that's really interesting. And now I'm, I'm wondering, you know, as we move forward, you know, what do you think are some of the bigger challenges today for, for a company that's trying to launch in the healthcare space? Do you have any insights?
Yeah. I think as you know, there's a number of challenges to launching in the healthcare space, but I think two, the biggest challenges we've identified, or I I've identified are one the slow adoption curve for new technology in the medical space and, and, and also just winning patient trust.
So for the adoption curve, I think typically in healthcare, we'll see adoption curves of 10 to 15 years. To get things into the standard of care and this poses an inherent challenge to startups or, or med tech, that's trying to pioneer a novel application, novel way of doing things. And this can be compounded incentives or programs that encourage more procedures rather than better patient outcomes, which if you're launching a preventative approach or, or technologies that don't really fit into the current.
Present another challenge there. And then I think a second one is patient trust. I think it's an ever present challenge in the healthcare space, but particularly in consumer health where we operate. And, you know, I, I think it's warranted given some public examples of abuse of patient data and privacy.
People are a lot more conscious of who they're trusting their healthcare and their data with which presents a higher bar for companies like us and others to, to earn their trust. I think this is a healthy mindset and, and I think it was clearly needed in the healthcare space, but it does present an additional challenge for healthcare startups, but it also does foster need for being honest and transparent with your users, which very much aligns with our passions at bristle and how we operate.
So I guess, while being a challenge, I think it does encourage good behavior and an opportunity for people doing it the right way. Yeah. I, I like that. And, and that I actually wanna go back. The slow adoption curve. Part of that conversation.
I, I love the, the building, the patient trust. Don't get me wrong, but I'm really curious about the slow adoption.
Because you are in the, the dental in oral health space, mm-hmm and you know, many of our gurus are, you know, in surgical or, you know, biotech or, or what have you. And so I'm just curious to see, you know, if dentists are as slow on the uptake of some of the technologies, as some of the other, you know, healthcare arenas, because of dealing with the, the, the ideas and some of the challenges.
Getting things through the, the committees and things that they need to do. So do you have any insights on some of the sales cycles and dental health compared to, you know, other types of healthcare?
Yeah, I mean, we're, we're finding out, but I, I, I do think it, it operates along a similar trajectory within the dental space.
I, I would guess that the dental space tends to operate a bit faster, particularly with technologies. Fit in with how they are currently doing business. So if we think about the orthodontics space and the way clear aligners have been seen an explosive adoption in the space, I think that's probably a counterpoint to where things can be adopted faster, but you know, if we're looking at something that's a real shift in how we practice oral health and dentistry in this country, mainly starting to look at.
The actual root cause and the bacteria and the microbes that lead to disease, you know, that presents a bigger adoption obstacle. I think both in terms of education and implementation, we've been really lucky. We've connected with, and we've gotten some proactive outreach from members in the community who are a bit more on the early adopter curve.
And, you know, are really interested in leveraging this tool with their patients, to connect with them on a different level and give. Insights into, you know, I'm not just telling you to brush and floss because that's what everybody tells me to say. We can actually look at your saliva. We can look at your oral microbiome and see that you have an imbalance of certain pathogens that lead to gum disease.
And so it's extra important that you're paying closer attention to your hygiene and, and implementing different techniques. So, so we can start to monitor. What's actually working best for. Yeah, that's really, that's, that's really interesting. And you know, you've, you've touched a little bit on, on bristle and, and now I'm just kinda wondering, cause your, your story is such a fascinating one.
I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit more about where you and your team are headed and, and you know, what, what the future holds.
Yeah, I mean, so I guess to start with where we are today as you mentioned, we, we offer a direct consumer at home saliva test. Program that helps people better measure, understand and improve their oral health.
And from the oral microbiome, measuring the levels of different bacteria fungi, we can assess a user's oral health and their risk factors and give them scores like almost like a report card for your oral health and, you know, help people understand what might be driving certain conditions like bad breath, cavities gum disease, and what they can do to implement at home and to help with that.
Offer in the report, personalized recommendations and an action plan of products, diet, hygiene recommendations based on your results. And also have a coaching call with one of our oral health specialists to talk through the results. But I think zooming out, you know, oral health is a huge problem in the us and the world.
Half of adults have some form of gum disease, 6% or more have untreated tooth decay and over a. Claim they regularly deal with chronic bad breath, which can really impact person's confidence in their daily lives. And we think there's a better way to do this. And we think the better way to do it is by one, starting to look at the actual root cause of disease which is the oral microbiome.
A lot of the tools we look at today like x-rays or observational screenings are really detecting disease that's already progressed and what we think the power. Our tool is, is that we can start to look at these things, these conditions, before they progress and start to intervene with approaches that that will prevent them from ever progressing.
And then the other point is that there's this one size fits all approach to treatment. A lot of people are often just told, you know, floss more, but our vision is improving outcomes by making treatments and action plans that are more personalized in the future. Thinking forward of how we can start to modulate the oral microbiome or start to make more effective probiotics or products that don't just prevent oral disease, but also encourage our beneficial bacteria.
Some of those that nitric oxide and help reduce blood pressure and increase cognitive function, you know, really starting to manage the oral microbiome as a, a health system. And as, as a critical part of our health, you know, Our vision and it's a big ambitious goal, but we, we really envision a world where these conditions, these oral diseases don't have to exist and where we can manage them very effectively from home in a much more controlled and personalized manner.
That's a, an awesome story. And, and you and your team have to be extremely excited about where you're headed. So I, I, I think that's fantastic. And I, I, first of all, just like to acknowledge you for the insights that you brought as our guru today. But if somebody wants to learn a little bit more, can you direct us to a website and, you know, they wanna connect with you.
Do you have a LinkedIn or what, what's the best way for them to connect with you and learn more about bristle?
Well, thank you so much for having me, anyone who wants to learn more about Bristle and visit our website@Bristlehealth.com. And the best way to reach me is by email Brian B R I a N Bristle health.com.
I'm also on LinkedIn and Twitter. So you can find me there, but I'd love connecting with entrepreneurs or soon to be entrepreneurs. Clearly love talking about bristle and genomic. So if anybody wants to connect, please feel free to reach out. Yeah. I can hear all the you know, college biology students, you know, hanging you to learn more about the, you know, the the genome.
Love it. Yeah, for sure. So, Brian, thank you so much for being our guru today. We really appreciate your time and your insights and we wish you and your team all. Likewise, Tom. Thanks so much. Thank you. Thank you for listening to med tech gurus. I am Sylvester Harris, your MC. If you want to learn more about Tom and his consulting services, you can go to www dot CT, medical.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now I can be. At Sylvester Harris, that's S Y L V E S T E R H a R R I S 5 0 48. gmail.com. And I'd be pleased to discuss any voiceover work that you may want for your company or broadcast. Hey, thanks so much for listening and catch us on the next episode of med tech gurus.