Using AI to Combat COVID19: Startup Interview with Marc Fiume, DNAstack's CEO by@dnastack

Using AI to Combat COVID19: Startup Interview with Marc Fiume, DNAstack's CEO

DNAstack is a fast-growing team of passionate engineers, bioinformaticians, and machine learning experts on a mission to save lives with software. The startup uses the power of the cloud to address the storage issues of genomics and harnesses the advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to start to make sense of all that data. It’s an honor to be nominated as one of the best startups in Toronto. We measure our success based on impact. We are taking steps towards changing the future of biomedical research to save more lives.
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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

I received my Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Toronto, where I invented software algorithms and applications for the detection of genetic mutations, particularly structural and copy number variations. I am an advocate for privacy, security, and sharing of genomic datasets. Today I am guiding the DNAstack team’s efforts to make genomic and clinical information globally accessible.

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

DNAstack is a fast-growing team of passionate engineers, bioinformaticians, and machine learning experts on a mission to save lives with software. Through our collective efforts, we build artificial intelligence-powered software designed to unravel the human genome.

What is the origin story?

I was inspired to build the company when I realized that the intersection of biology and computer science could make lasting change happen for people like my friend Dan.


Dan was born with Cystic Fibrosis. Cystic Fibrosis is just one of countless diseases that are genetically linked. Although genetic diseases affect millions of people, we understand very little about how genes work. The problem is, we’re currently unable to both store this data and make sense of it. In order to make use of genomic data, we need to first put it all together and then start comparing sequences to uncover patterns. DNAstack uses the power of the cloud to address the storage issues of genomics and harnesses the advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to start to make sense of all that data.

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

As a team, we’re breaking new ground with game-changing technologies that enable collaborative biomedical research at planet scale. Together, we’re building the future of healthcare powered by genomics and AI. None of this would be possible without the hard work, passion, and dedication of everyone on the team and I am so excited to see how we will continue to innovate and grow.

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

Dan has inspired me to continue my philanthropic efforts with the Cystic Fibrosis community. In terms of hobbies, I’m a regular golfer and I really admire architecture and animation. Spending time with my wife and kids is my greatest joy.

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

Every day we are taking steps towards changing the future of biomedical research to save more lives and we measure our success based on impact.

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

We’ve partnered with the Canadian provincial and federal governments to bring together genomics and clinical data to provide real-time, AI-powered insights that enable collaborative biomedical research on a global level. We’re also incredibly grateful to be a member of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster. They have provided a vehicle for us to work together with Canadian and international leaders who share our collaborative approach to innovation in precision health.

What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?

AI in healthcare, CRISPR and mRNA therapies. We’ve seen the power of genomics to create effective vaccines for billions of people in record time and this will have implications for genomics-powered therapies.

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

It’s an honor to be nominated as one of the best startups in Toronto. It’s important to find a community of people that understand and share your mission and vision - HackerNoon is one of the ways we stay connected and keep a pulse on all of the incredible innovators within our community. We dedicated ourselves to making it through this pandemic, and to know that the science and technology community recognizes our efforts confirms to me that DNAstack will continue to break barriers in precision health.

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

Be bold. Take risks. Focus on making an impact. Surround yourself with people that share in your vision.

What is something surprising you've learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?

Covid has been a catalyst for developing novel technologies that will have an impact beyond this pandemic and lay the groundwork for the future of precision health. Alongside our consortium of partners, we are building a new culture and changing how collaborative research is done. Now more than ever collaborative innovation and AI are transforming healthcare in Canada.

Vote for DNAstack as the startup of the year from Toronto, Ontario.


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