Taking diagnostics to the future with Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of 1Health





    The future of healthcare depends on fast, targeted and effective treatment. And for that, rapid diagnostics are indispensable.

    We invited Mehdi Maghsoodnia, CEO of 1Health, onto the podcast to tell us about his company's critical and inspiring work.


    About Mehdi
    Mehdi is an industry fellow at UC Berkeley where he teaches innovation and entrepreneurship. He earned his Bachelor's at UC Berkeley and his MS from Stanford with an emphasis on AI and machine learning.


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    Access the complete transcript of our chat with Mehdi below.


    Alright, so today we're talking to Mehdi Maghsoodnia, co-founder of 1Health, which is a personalized precision medicine powered-by-lab-testing platform that connects labs, clinicians, and consumers. We'll get more into the details later, but a little more about Mehdi.

    He's an industry fellow at UC Berkeley, where he teaches innovation and entrepreneurship. He earned his Bachelor's there and his Master's from Stanford with an emphasis in AI and machine learning. We love the mission of 1Health, which is to bring advanced diagnostics to market faster and to make them more accessible, affordable, and simple.

    We love that, and it's very similar to our mission here at Qualio!  
    Alright, let's jump in. Thanks for joining us today, Mehdi. Appreciate your time. 

    Thank you, Kelly. I appreciate you spending time with me. 

    So you've done just about all of it with your background, from computer systems in the early '90s to making education more accessible to health tech.

    Walk us briefly through your path to founding 1Health. 

    Sure. I was lucky enough to be at Berkeley in the early days of computing. I was one of those nerds that was interested in computing. So I got into it. And had been part of a lot of different industries.

    I started spending more and more time on healthcare about four or five years ago and got excited about what's happening in healthcare and really realized that one of the fundamental drivers of change in healthcare is that we are becoming... we are making more personalized decisions about the medication you should be taking, about the care pathway you should be on and started to learn how important is our genetics and how differentiated we are about how we interact with drugs and remedies and different therapeutics out there.
    So that got me excited about building a diagnostic platform that allows for advanced testing to come into that decision cycle.

    So think: if you are a doctor, you need access to the latest test information to make those personalized care decisions. And unfortunately in the current healthcare market that information is very difficult to get to, so it's very difficult to get to people's testing results. It's very difficult to get tested.

    That's how 1Health was born. We wanted to make sure that everybody can access modern diagnostic testing seamlessly in an affordable fashion, but more importantly for that information to get to the right clinicians to make the right decision at the right time. 

    Gotcha, gotcha. 

    In some of the conversations we've had, we're hearing a lot about the variety of options, the different testing platforms, all those kinds of things. But you're absolutely right. The  connectivity of that information, how does it synthesize, how do we  pull that all together with the lab testing, that sort of thing, getting the doctors involved.

    How does your platform solve that problem?  

    The changes that are happening in healthcare are very similar to what happened in other industries, right? As industries go through technology transformation you need to upgrade the infrastructure that tends to be very fragmented and difficult and not flexible, right? So healthcare is going to that same transformation right now that finance went through, e-commerce went through, and in healthcare today, if you wanna, for example as a cancer patient, you come into a local clinical hospital and the first thing they need to do is essentially test your tumor type, right?

     Have they seen this tumor type? Have they seen that genetic sequence, that cell type and what has worked and what has not worked for a patient? And a lot of details get involved, right? Are you of the same ethnicity? Are the same  as the other data sets they've seen?

    Your body as a Hispanic might react very differently than if you have Asian background or if you have other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. So the healthcare system needs to identify who you are, identify what has worked in that population, identify your cancer cell types, and so on and so forth.

    All that information  is difficult to access, but more importantly, to get you tested itself is difficult, right? The sample has to go to a lab, has to come back, has to be analyzed. Today, all of those steps are very disconnected and very difficult to manage. And what that results in is a lot of missed opportunities.

    So a lot of people don't get tested on time, and unfortunately they get placed on therapeutic pathways that are wrong for them or not effective and they lose time. So this is happening all the time in healthcare because of the complexity of managing these processes. So what we are trying to do is really marshal that process too.

    So if you join the 1Health platform, we fundamentally understand when you say "I'm about to test a patient for their tumor type", or, "I'm about to do a pharmacogenomic test", or "I'm about to do an early cancer detection test", the platform is smart enough to know that involves three or four different people across 12 or 16 different steps and then marshals you through those steps.

    So the platform knows that the doctor needs to approve something and the lab has to run a process and  the bioinformatic layer has to process the data and it's keeping all of those workflows and processes in check to make sure that you get a higher rate of completion and you get there faster.

    So it's really a platform for making that modern testing manageable and easier to handle, if that makes sense. 

    Yeah, that sounds amazing. And I'm sure a lot of doctors are really hungry for that kind of information. Tell us a little bit about how you got your first 20 customers.

    What was the early traction and getting through that hump, if you will, as a startup? Share a little bit about that story for us. 

    Yeah, actually we all came from the technology side. So most of my team has a background in e-commerce or has a background in finance or mobile technologies.

    So we needed to learn the nuance, the detail of the healthcare market. And so the first couple years it was more about us approaching the problem from the patient's perspective and then from the lab's perspective and then from the clinical team's perspective, and then from the insurance perspective.

    So in healthcare, you have to understand each player in that system and what they need to see and what they need to do to make the process successful. And it is a team effort, right?  All of these parts and components have to be in place. So if you don't handle the insurance , the process falls apart if you don't handle the clinician.

    So the way we got to our first customers is: we started talking to all of these players within the ecosystem and we identified who has the biggest pain. And in our case, the biggest pain was on the part of the labs. The labs were getting a lot of paperwork coming at them with patient information on it and insurance information on it.

    So we started building software systems for labs.  And our first customers were labs who started adopting our platform saying, "oh, that makes my life easier". And then we started paying attention to: what does the patient need to see in this process and what does the doctor need to see in this process?

    So in the past couple of years, we've been building out the product so that it helps every one of those constituents in the process of getting a test done. 

    So now you're over 300 partners across healthcare, corporate, education, government industries.

    To your point of focusing in on a particular group and then expanding that area of the software, how are you finding success with business development and partnerships then in that expansion?

    The healthcare market is so large that if you don't focus, you tend to get lost, right?

    There's just too many parts of this system, right? There are urgent cares and nursing homes and hospitals and clinics and doctor's offices. So we tend to really right now, sell into a single segment. . And then, what happens in terms of partnerships is once we sign up a customer, that customer tends to bring their ecosystem onto our platform.

    So the way we run into these partnerships is mostly by us getting introduced to them. So when we sign up a lab partner, that lab partner will introduce us to a nursing home or to a urgent care or to a clinic. So partnerships right now for us are mostly driven by our customers asking us to integrate to their partners.

    So we don't seek out those partnerships. It's mostly coming to us because they need to be part of the ecosystem. Otherwise it's  just too large a market. If you wanted to knock on the door of every nursing home or urgent care in the US it's a 3 trillion dollar market and vast, right?

    The US is a continent in size. So you have to be very focused on selling to your customer. And then working on partnerships that are important to those customers. 

    That does make sense. Yeah, I can definitely see the scope of this getting  outta hand very quickly. So pivoting a little bit to raising capital. Obviously this is one of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. Life science start-ups are no exception to that rule.
    You're a founder, an investor, and a board member. What advice would you give to younger founders who listen to us and how to navigate getting funding for their startups?

    That's a very complicated question and depends on so many factors, right? The first factor is: what stage of the company are you in? Are you raising a seed round or are you raising  A or B? The stage of funding you're in... the requirements are very different. When you go after your seed fund , the investors are taking a lot more risk and they don't certainly need you to have all the answers to all the questions. But they're mostly looking at the team and they're looking at the market. So in the seed stage, it's more about: do they like you and the team you have assembled? And do they like the problem space, the market space?

    As you grow to be a more mature company, the requirements get. more refined. In Series A they want to make sure that you have a product- market fit. What that means is that you've identified the beachhead, you're attacking the customers you're going after and that those customers actually do want your product.

    So you have to show sales momentum. And then in the growth stage, it's very different. They're not looking for scale. They're saying, okay, you did really well in this segment. But can you actually expand beyond this segment? So  as you become more mature, the requirements get more refined and also get more measurable. 

    There are metrics now in terms of, you only sold to nursing homes and there's no indication that he can go beyond nursing homes. And then now the investors in a later stage want actual data. Show us that  urgent care centers want your software or hospitals want your software.

    So you have to show expansion beyond those segments. So my advice is, first decide what stage you're in, and by far the easiest is seed and it gets harder as you go along. So if you look at the funnel of investments, a lot of seed companies get funded, and a lot of them don't make it to stage A and stage B because in any natural competitive market very few succeed, right? Very few companies can go from a concept to a product, to a market. And I'm sure this percentages are well published out there in terms of failure rates. Yeah, I hope that answers your question. 
    Yeah, that's definitely helpful.

    Pivoting to you. If you could go back to the start of your career, what would you tell yourself based on what you know now?

    Be more humble be more patient and trust. So identify  mentors that are very good at what they do and really use them as mentors, listen to them deeply and trust in their advice. So  I came out of the Berkeley Stanford mindset and by training, they make you a bit confident and arrogant maybe. So when I graduated, we all thought that we knew what the market was about and how to create products. And if anything, in the past couple of decades, I've been humbled as to how much we don't know, right? We realize how complicated industries are, how complicated products are, how complicated managing people is.

    And there are a lot of good people in our industry who you can learn from. So choosing those mentors around you is very important at the early stage. Definitely. 

    Okay, awesome. Fun question. Had another folk person bring this up along the way, and it's been a fun question ever since.

    So if I walked into Barnes and Noble and was looking for you amongst the stacks and the sections of books, where would I find you?  

    You would find me in the non-fiction science section. So I'm very interested in facts. I'm very interested in systems.

    And I'm very interested in understanding the world and then  maybe making it a bit better over time. So  it would definitely not be in the fun section. It would be the non-fiction science. You have to be a nerd or a geek to engage with that section of the books. 

    That's fine. I would be right there with you. I love reading about science as well! 

    Not romance, not comedy!

    No, definitely. No, it is fascinating to see how some of those things have evolved over time as well. With science and it always learning and that sort of thing. So I'll join you there. That's a good place to sit and read. Great.
    Where can folks go to connect with you and follow along with your company's progress? 

    Probably on our website:  1health.io. We do have frequent updates to the website blog postings and obviously on LinkedIn. The team updates as to what we're up to.

    Great.  Alright, we'll look for you there. Thank you so much for your time today, Mehdi. I really appreciate it.  

    Thank you, Kelly. Appreciate it too.