Sometimes your next business adventure comes from the most unlikely of situations. Like many small business owners, Len Barker found himself diving into a new pool of opportunity after being introduced to a very real need in the world of genetic diseases and disorders. Barker’s business partner of over twenty years, Dave Jacob, learned that his childhood heart defect was actually related to a genetic condition.
Not sure where this information would take their partnership, Barker indulged the ideas of his partner while he began seeking better answers to his new found medical questions. However, as Jacob began searching he shared a staggering fact with Barker – approximately 350 million people worldwide suffer from rare diseases, 80 percent of which are genetic, according to the Global Genes Project.
Barker, who is an engineer and co-founder for their joint software development and IBM Business Partner firm, Davalen, followed Jacob into the evolving world of IBM Watson™ to combine their knowledge of technology with the expertise of genetic counselors around the United States. Together, they commissioned a project to develop a new tool – ThinkGenetic.
“IBM had just asked us for ideas for commercial uses of Watson when Dave mentioned his genetic condition and suggested we could help people,” Mr. Barker explained. “We consulted close friends in the genetics field about the possibility of using Watson to get quality information to patients and they urged us to help.”
With the product beta released in June 2016, ThinkGenetic, is set to be a cutting-edge way to empower patients who want to know about possible genetic causes for their medical issues or obtain real-life answers to their questions about the impact of their genetic diagnosis. ThinkGenetic which is powered by IBM’s Watson™ “supercomputer,” will help people understand what questions to ask doctors in order to improve their medical care. While not claiming to be a medical diagnosis tool, ThinkGenetic does hope to speed time to diagnosis and reduce chances of diagnostic error.
“Our entire staff of developers and genetic counselors are working tirelessly to fulfill our mission of becoming the definitive online source of information about genetic diseases,”said Barker.
ThinkGentic has been awarded several grants which assisted with development of the project, Barker is now looking for champions and supporters in his community to help enhance ThinkGenetic and get the word out! Barker believes his team will be able to demonstrate the power of this resource tool to secure advertisers and larger supporters to cover ongoing development needs to ensure the information stays up-to-date, while keeping the project free to patients.
About Ruth O’Keefe: As a ThinkGenetic advocate Ruth is all about listening to the incredible stories of the genetic disease and condition community and empowering those individuals and families to get the resources they deserve and need. She helps brainstorm ideas, suggest appropriate technology, coordinate with marketing and development professionals as well as create and maintain our strong social media presence.