HTLS 2023: India will have the best cancer care system in the world in 5 years, says Vivek Wadhwa
On the Day 5 of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Vivek Wadhwa and Keith Flaherty talk about their grand plan to make India a global hub for cancer healthcare.
Vivek Wadhwa, a Silicon Valley based entrepreneur, author, thinker and Scientific Advisor, Karkinos Healthcare, has teamed up with Keith Flaherty, a renowned melanoma specialist to make India a global hub for cancer care and is set to launch his grand plan to cure cancer. Wadhwa has been in talks with PM Modi regarding the same and has received tremendous support. Wadhwa researches, speaks, and writes about advancing technologies. On the fifth day of Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Wadhwa and Flaherty in a conversation with Sanchita Sharma, Senior Communication Officer at WHO India, talked about how they are planning to take on cancer through cutting-edge technologies that also includes detecting certain kinds of cancer through breath. (ALSO READ: HTLS | Military has come long way in gender integration, say women trailblazers)
"When I lost my wife to cancer, I decided with the help of Keith and a bunch of other scientists to put together a grand plan to cure cancer. It occurred to me that the best place in the world to do something transformative is India," said Wadhwa during HTLS Day 5.
"Venkat Ramachandran and Moni Abraham Kuriakose one of the greatest oncologists in the world, were looking to transform India's cancer care system by setting up a distributed cancer care network. We teamed up and Keith started to help Karkinos transform not only India's cancer care system but to make an impact on the whole world," added Wadhwa.
Keith Flaherty says that "we are at a point right now where we have diagnostic technologies or methods for interrogating biospecimens at the DNA or protein level" and which allows us to see "all the complexities that cancer represents, truly the most complex among all diseases."
FULL COVERAGE: HTLS 2023
Talking about how Vivek and he were in touch over phone calls and emails when his wife was receiving standard cancer care and were going back and forth about what's next, Flaherty said that Vivek kept asking "why these scientific ideas are there and not being applied now for his wife who's dying of cancer." He noted that everybody who faced a cancer diagnosis was in a very time pressured situation.
Wadhwa also talked about meeting US Cancer Moonshot's Dr Danielle Carnival who was impressed with the work of Karkinos Healthcare and the advanced cancer care system they have built.
'India will have the best cancer care system in the world'
"Karkinos Healthcare has already built the most advanced cancer care system in the entire world. The IT infrastructure that they have when we told the White House about it, the Cancer Moonshot about it, they were blown away; the head of the US Cancer Moonshot Dr. Danielle Carnival said - "Oh, my God we were talking about this happening in the next 5-10 years, this is what is already built in India." They are implementing it at a scale that is unprecedented in the world. So what's happening in India is amazing, move forward 5 years,
India will have the best cancer care system in the world, thanks to the work folks at Karkinos are doing and what Keith and Aparna Parikh and whole bunch of people are giving to Karkinos," says author of bestselling books like From Incremental to Exponential; Your Happiness Was Hacked; The Driver in the Driverless Car; Innovating Women; and The Immigrant Exodus..
Aiming to catch cancer early
"My colleagues at Karkinos realised we are catching cancer too late. Relatives, friends that you have lost to cancer... I bet there is not one person in the audience who has not been impacted by cancer personally. In India, it's almost always at stage 4 when it's too late. You are desperately trying to get drugs which are not available, it's a hopeless cause. So what Venkat and Moni started doing was they started doing early screening because if you can catch cancer at an early stage, you can treat it. You can now go back to natural remedies. In India, Ayurveda for example, holistic health is very strong. Indians fill themselves up with chemicals and processed foods and are killing themselves with smoke rather than eating any healthy foods. This is what's possible when you are diagnosed at early stages," said Wadhwa.
Vivek Wadhwa on why he's moving to India
"I can now be ambitious and talk about curing cancer and let India lead the world. I have realised is that we have a chance to disrupt the entire medical diagnostic industry because the way blood test is done right now is that you take a sample of blood, you put it in micro containers and you run amino acids on it, so you are testing...what you can now convert organic matter into light spectra and then use the advances in AI to analyse that spectra. You need a lot of data for that. You need data and a scale which is not available by any means in the world. India has all the data, it has the need, it has the scientists, this is why I decided to move to India," said Wadhwa.
A ₹100 test and a breath analyser test for cancer
Wadhwa says that he now has an ambition to be able to detect every disease. "Just like when genetic sequencing happens, it turns biology into letters. I’m turning biology into light and the magic happens when you train your AI. In India we have all the data we need. My goal is to make a test cost ₹100. Not just blood test, I am going to start a breath test. There are a lot of diseases you can detect from breath. Certain cancers we can detect from breath," he added.
Flaherty is Director of Clinical Research at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and is known for his research on targeted therapies for cancer; his work on the melanoma drug vemurafenib is widely acclaimed. Flaherty was also previously a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
A writer, a thinker, and an author, Vivek Wadhwa, based in Silicon Valley, researches, speaks, and writes about advancing technologies that are transforming our world. He is an academic, entrepreneur, and author of five best-selling books - From Incremental to Exponential; Your Happiness Was Hacked; The Driver in the Driverless Car; Innovating Women; and The Immigrant Exodus.