Interview with Ryan Smith
Senior Director, Strategic Solutions @ AiCure

Ryan believes there are effective treatments for even the most complex diseases. But creating effective treatments and cures requires innovative and efficient clinical trials. To be successful, it takes a group of dedicated individuals, combining their talents and strengths, all working toward the same goal. He has a consistent record of achievement in developing customer relationships, rapid development of key opinion leader relationships, and implementing artificial intelligence technologies, eCOA, ePRO, and mobile technologies. AiCure is an innovative health care company using mobile devices and artificial intelligence to track patient behavior, improve adherence to medication, and understand patient outcomes. He leads all West Coast business development and management of customer relationships.
Hi, Ryan! Can you tell us a little bit about AiCure and how they're using artificial intelligence and mobile devices?
So, how is AiCure utilizing artificial intelligence and mobile devices in health care. So first we're utilizing artificial intelligence in the patient's mobile device, and in this case, the patient's smartphone, to accomplish two very important things, and both, a real world setting, as well as clinical trial space in which we're developing new treatments for debilitating diseases. So first is, we are one: ensuring the patients take the medication, and take the correct medication at the right time. And then number two: we're utilizing artificial intelligence in the patient's mobile phone to understand their patient behavior, and outcomes related to those treatments. So, in terms of what our product and our solution does, the first step is very simple in terms of sharing that the patient takes their medication. So number one, the patient will just receive a reminder at a specific time that they need to take their medication. And then number two, we use facial recognition software to ensure that it is the right patient. And then number two, we will actually have the patient hold up the pill, the capsule, or the tablet using the front facing camera, and the artificial intelligence will just detect whether or not that is indeed the correct medication. And this is incredibly important for diseases such as cancer, in which a lot of these patients can be on anywhere from eight to fourteen different medications that they're taking a day, and you want to ensure that the patient is taking the correct pill at the correct time. Number three, we simply ask them to ingest the medication, and the artificial intelligence will confirm that, and everything is available to their doctor in real time, so that they can intervene if the patient took the wrong medication, or perhaps needs to take the medication at a different time. In terms of tracking patient behavior, we're utilizing the same artificial intelligence to just look at facial expressions, voice recognition, and things of that nature to determine outcome.
You manage customer relationships and lead business development over the entirety of the West Coast. What does it take to manage such a large area?
So managing business development, and overall customer relationships on such a wide territory such as the West Coast obviously takes a lot of the things that other people would say, such as teamwork and personnel. Clearly, I'm not doing all of this by myself, and I have key people, and operations, doctors that I work with, that help me manage the hectic day to day that happens anytime you're working in health care, and specifically with such a big market, but I would say the number one thing that I have learned in 15 years of doing this, and covering such a wide area is perseverance, and working with a startup, and this would be, I think, my fourth startup that I've worked with in a row, is many of the customers and people that you meet will have never heard of your organization and have no idea whether or not what you're actually producing is real. And so developing that trust in those relationships can take anywhere from six months to a decade. I have relationships that I've been developing over five years, six years, seven years, eight years, and it took that amount of time before we were really able to collaborate and do some really amazing things in clinical trials. So, the one piece of advice I would give to anybody that's going into any industry, and really needs to collaborate with their customers is just persevere, get out there, go to the conferences, go to the meetups, and develop real relationships, and that goes far beyond just asking somebody for their business card, but actually taking an interest in how you can genuinely help them, and really build that relationship.
What do the best clinical trials have in common? How do you implement innovative healthcare technologies and develop new strategies to enhance signal detection?
So, a two part question here. So, I may tackle the first one, which is what are the best clinical trials have in common, and to me, there's two things that I have seen from study teams that have been successful in getting new treatments to the market that patients can then consume. So number one is, quick decision making, and I don't necessarily mean even smart decision making, sometimes the decision just needs to be made especially in the middle of a trial where something is going wrong, and definitely something always does go wrong, and you have somebody in the room that's willing to make a decision to pivot and then see what happens. Sometimes those are the wrong decisions. But nevertheless, I see so many teams and companies get stuck in what I call analysis paralysis, and never actually make a decision, and I believe that's one of the reasons that we have so many treatments sitting on a shelf that have never actually gotten to clinical trial that could potentially help a lot of customers, and it's just that nobody's willing to make a decision. So, the second part of the question is how do we implement innovative health care technologies and develop new strategies to enhance signal detection. Well, one signal detection is really just seeing a difference in effect with the drug or treatment that is being studied, versus placebo, something like a sugar pill. So, the larger separation you see in that, and you should be able to see the patients that are on the active treatment get better, whereas the patients that are on placebo, either stay the same, or get worse, and that's really what signal detection is. So, we've been successful in implementing our technology just by working with teams that are open to trying new things, especially those teams that have failed time and time again to get what they think is a very effective treatment out, because the clinical trial or the study that they're running just runs into a dead end and collapses, and they have a failed study. So, it's really just the openness.
What has been the most rewarding facet of your work with AiCure? Which projects are you most proud of?
By far and away, the most rewarding facet of working with AiCure and really in all of health care for the last 15 years of my career, has just been seeing patients get better and seeing new treatments get to the market. You know, something that has been near and dear to my heart is postpartum depression. Being a father of two children, and obviously seeing many women in my life going through postpartum depression, and realizing that it is a very real and debilitating disease, in which there were no treatments out, we are now starting to see a lot of research into this market, and recently an approved drug which, I had the luxury of working with an amazing study team, an amazing company, an amazing chief medical officer. So that's just one example of many of the treatments that I've seen get to the market that have helped millions of patients. And, just being a part of that has been extremely rewarding, not just for me, but of the people involved.
What advances in AI are you looking forward to? What can we expect from AiCure in the next few years?
So, what can you expect from AiCure in the future. Well, I don't have enough time to answer all the things that I'm excited about, but just to give one little teaser that we're working on, is the eradication of HIV and AIDS, and utilizing our technology, as well as preventative medicines that have been created, and ensuring that patients have access to that medication, or taking that medication, and receiving real time feedback. But as of now, AiCure is monitoring patient behavior and outcomes, and monitoring whether or not patients take their medication. But, what's really exciting, and what you'll see from AiCure within the next three years as we develop more data sets, and understand the data coming in, is that we'll be able to predict things, like outcomes, and we'll be able to predict what types of treatments would fit which patient population best. So, you could be a patient with major depressive disorder, and there's something in major depressive disorder in patients with depression, that is called treatment-resistant depression, meaning that no medication that they've tried, and there is, you know, tens of them, hundreds of them out there, have ever worked, but potentially with our technology, we'll be able to tell based on that patient's profile, including facial expressions, voice recognition, and digital buyer biomarkers, what types of medications might be suitable for relieving their depression, and that's just one example, and we want to take this into all of the disease areas that we work within, the psychiatry, neurology, infectious diseases, liver diseases, metabolic diseases, and a whole host of other diseases that I don't have time to name right now. But, the idea is to be able to predict which medications work best, be able to predict patient outcomes, and be able to predict patient behaviors related to those medications. So, that's something I'm very excited about.