Former HHS tech chief jumps to private sector to grow precision health startup

Woman iPhone doctor
Startup LifeOmic says it leverages the cloud, machine learning and mobile devices as part of its precision health solutions and focuses on patient engagement to drive better health outcomes. (Getty/RossHelen)

After spending the past three years leading technology strategy at a massive federal agency, Ed Simcox left to grow a startup focused on precision medicine.

In his previous role as chief technology officer and acting chief information officer at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Simcox met with many startups. He said he became bullish on how these companies are using emerging technologies and innovation to "solve the healthcare system's most pressing problems."

"As I've met with health startups across the nation, I've realized that precision medicine is at an exciting inflection point," said Simcox, who is two weeks into his new job as chief strategy officer at Indianapolis-based software company LifeOmic. The company is using artificial intelligence to bring together disparate data sources.

Simcox says he was interested in the company's approach to integrating patient engagement in its precision health efforts.

"There are data aggregation platforms in the market, but they typically have very narrow applicability, platforms for research, for clinical use, and consumer use," he said. "LifeOmic provides mobile apps that bring patients into the conversation, so it's not just researchers and clinicians. It's also empowering patients to see outcomes from the data, and use that to affect positive change in their lives. That, to me, is how you do precision health."

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Simcox was among several recent departures from HHS' CTO office. In January, Mona Siddiqui, M.D., left her position as chief data officer in the Office of the CTO to join insurance giant Humana. Sandeep Patel, KidneyX director and HHS' open innovation manager, announced in a blog post that he was leaving the agency. Margeaux Akazawa, director of internal innovation programs at the CTO office, also recently left, according to Politico.

Simcox said the cluster of departures was a coincidence as CTO staff frequently jump to the private sector.

"The CTO's office is the front door to the health IT startup community. It runs like a startup, it's very entrepreneurial and it moves quickly. We're proud when people take what they've learned from HHS and go back into the industry and use that in a positive way," he said.

At HHS, Simcox led the creation of a first-of-its-kind, cloud-based data activation and research platform called Unify. Announced at the Health Datapalooza conference, the platform (PDF) will enable data scientists, researchers and policymakers to share research data and cut down on redundant research efforts, HHS officials said.

"Unify could be a game changer for HHS, and very well could be for the entire federal government," Simcox said.

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In his new role, Simcox will develop corporate and product strategies with a focus on the health and security product lines. He will also coordinate and lead business-to-business relationships for the company. With the career move, Simcox brings his experience modernizing health IT at HHS to a startup that launched just three years ago.

The company uses the cloud, machine learning and mobile devices to power precision health solutions for providers, researchers, healthcare IT, pharma and patients. LifeOmic developed its Precision Health Cloud platform, a cloud-based repository of all patient data such as a basic profile, whole genome sequences, gene expression levels, lab results and medical images.

The company says its LIFE mobile apps and Precision Health Cloud platform are in use at major medical and cancer centers.. The company's apps are also closing in on 2 million downloads, he said.