WANT TO BE A NEW CHAPTER ALUMNI?
Apply online to share your accomplishments and endeavors.APPLY TO BE FEATURED
Vice president, product marketing, CQuentia NGSVIEW PROFILE
Anantha Santhanam, Ph.D. (ANES ’06), is pursuing a career in delivering solutions for precision medicine. After postdoctoral training and two additional years at Mayo Clinic, he left academia for entrepreneurship. He got his MBA, joined a start-up company that uses big data to drive variation and redundancy out of health care, and cofounded a nonprofit organization to advance Alzheimer’s disease diagnostics and care. He has taken the position of vice president of product marketing for CQuentia to deliver pharmacogenomic solutions and advance human health by leveraging advancements in molecular science and technology. He says he doesn’t want to just do a job; he wants to do the right thing — to improve patient care.
I did my Ph.D. in vascular pharmacology in the study of blood vessels, but there weren’t good research opportunities in India. Mayo Clinic was doing phenomenal work in vascular biology and seemed to be the best place. I had enough credentials to match any qualified candidate. After training in the lab of Zvonimir Katusic, M.D., Ph.D. (PHYS ’85, PHYS ’88), I became an independent faculty member and assistant professor in the department.
Mayo Clinic taught me to look beyond what I thought I could do. From 2008 to 2010 I worked on the relationship between blood vessels in the brain and Alzheimer’s disease. The economic impact of Alzheimer’s moved me. As I was writing grants as any early-career investigator would do, I found myself going around the country talking to people about ways to better address Alzheimer’s. At the core, I realized I want to make patient care better. I decided my passion was more on the health care side versus the basic science side. I got my MBA in health care so I could better work in the new field of data science, which is I think we can move the needle on Alzheimer’s disease.
I have joined some of the leading visionaries in health care at CQuentia to make pharmacogenomics actionable at the point of care. We are working to operationalize pharmacogenomics in the perioperative setting, including managing chronic pain and reducing opioid consumption.
Two years ago, I joined the start-up company Apri Health, which was started by Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist Mark Ereth, M.D. (ANES ’89), and is located in the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator in downtown Rochester. The Business Accelerator provides collaborative space for new companies and entrepreneurs. Apri Health provides analytics platforms to reduce clinical variation and health care waste. I get to be part scientist, part clinical and part operations strategy. I led product development initiatives for our National Science Foundation-funded patient blood management tool. Apri Health is developing predictive and prescriptive analytic algorithms through a clinical decision support tool to reduce inappropriate blood transfusions.
During my MBA, I was associated with the Medical Industry Leadership Institute and specialized in medical industry valuation. I used these learnings at Lite Run to help commercialize a gait trainer. The Lite Run System uses differential air pressure inside a specially designed suit to unweight some of the patient’s body weight onto the proprietary walker. The patient’s body weight can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. Lite Run has received NIH funding and has clinical trials underway at Gillette Children’s and the VA in Minneapolis. Drugs aren’t the only ways to accelerate recovery after spinal cord injury or stroke. Patients recover faster when they can get out of bed and walk. That’s the aim of the gait trainer — to facilitate brain recovery through movement.
In India everyone was doing software and engineering. My grandfather died of a stroke, and stroke runs in my family. Stroke can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. I went to pharmacy school and then began doing vascular research to try to investigate this area.
If I hadn’t worked with Alzheimer’s disease at Mayo, I wouldn’t have left academia for a career in industry. Alzheimer’s changed my whole perspective. The gap between laboratory research and patient care was widening, and I wanted to reduce the gap between laboratory bench and bedside to help patients. From 2011 to 2014 four popular drugs failed in trials for Alzheimer’s disease. If drugs go all the way to trial and fail, billions of dollars are lost. Part of the reason the drugs failed is because of our incomplete understanding of these diseases or incomplete understanding of how the body reacts to the prescribed medications. I want to empower the health care industry by bringing actionable molecular genomic information to impact patient care. I felt that my career in academia was moving at a slow pace and that I could advance faster in start-ups and high-growth companies.
I always ask myself whether I’m doing the right thing or just doing a job. It’s easy to get a job. I really want to do the right thing. I came to the U.S. to learn and make patient care better.
My skills are from Mayo Clinic. I learned the postdoc thinking process from some of the best brains in the country. Dr. Katusic is brilliant. He teaches you how to connect the dots and move projects forward. You walk into any Mayo Clinic facility and realize how to make a business successful —keeping the patient above everything. That is what I saw at Mayo, and the Mayo Clinic mindset rubbed off on me. In my work or business, the customer comes first. Most of my customers are hospitals. I want to do what is right for the patient in every project I undertake. The Mayo Clinic culture drives me to ask if I can make things better.
I send time with my family. My wife, Ramya Badrinarayanan, works at Mayo Clinic in IT, and we have a 9-year-old son, Varun. During leisure, I love to read books on successful people from all walks of life and play tennis or badminton.
See past New Chapter stories here.