In celebration of Black History Month, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS is featuring our team, partners and collaborators all February long. Have a leader you want to spotlight? Join in the celebration by tagging @JLABS on Twitter and introducing us to them!
Diversity in clinical research: Does it reflect America? A 2017 FDA report finds that only seven percent of trial participants are of African-American descent, and across healthcare sectors the lack of diversity in clinical trials is common. Kwaku Owusu, Co-Founder and CEO of DrugViu, is privy to this massive underrepresentation and its negative outcomes for patients, and knew he had to do something about it.
Kwaku co-founded DrugViu, a comprehensive and diverse Real-World Evidence Platform aiming to generate the world’s most complete clinical-grade data for immunological research. As a Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ NYC resident, DrugViu began as a broader disease agnostic platform, but its current focus on immunology came to be after finding that their most engaged users were patients with autoimmune diseases or in the immunology space.
Kwaku is here to talk more about reducing health disparities, establishing diversity in a startup, and a bit about his West African heritage. Read on to learn more.
Q: Let’s start with you. How did you get into health tech?
KO: I will first start with my why. When I was younger, I had a life-threatening experience. The fast-acting physicians and nurses are the reason I am alive today. That experience was transformative for me. It set me on a path to have a passion for health.
Fast-forward to gaining professional experience in both tech and healthcare, I began to realize how the intersection of the two could not only make healthcare better but enhance equity for all people.
Q: How does DrugViu aim to help address diversity and equity?
KO: 40 percent of the US population identifies as a racial or ethnic minority. However, clinical research data and clinical trial participation for diverse populations fall below 10 percent. Shrinking this gap and ensuring greater representation of diverse populations in clinical research is why DrugViu was started. Our platform aims to power the next generation of autoimmune disease therapies, and we believe our contribution could not only diversify clinical research but add equity to healthcare.
Q: What is your advice to startups on incorporating diversity on their teams and in their businesses? And why do you feel is it important?
KO: Significant research has been conducted that suggests diverse teams tend to provide greater ROI for their companies. If you look at diversity through this lens, it is much easier to make it an important metric pertinent to the success and growth of your company. This vantage point makes it more feasible and organic to ensure diversity is essential to your startup.
Q: What’s it like being a JLABS @ NYC resident? Are there any pivotal moments for DrugViu where the residency gave you an edge?
KO: It is great to be a JLABS @ NYC resident, and DrugViu feels empowered by the positive conversations that have been had. Johnson & Johnson Innovation offers such a wealth of resources to guide you throughout your journey. I would say that guidance is what has been invaluable for me.
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?
KO: Black History Month for me is a time to reflect and pay gratitude to the incredible contributions made by African Americans to this country and the world. I immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana, West Africa; the reason I am able to be in this country is the tireless fighting of civil rights activists and freedom fighters who stood for justice and inclusion. Black History Month also allows me to celebrate the everyday joys and accomplishments of Black people today. It serves as a reminder of the work that we need to do to bring forth a more equal society.
From social justice to medicine, African Americans have been integral in moving this country forward. I am proud of that history and hope to build on the incredible foundation and legacy.
We believe that great ideas can come from anywhere. To apply for the type of infrastructure, mentorship and programming available to DrugViu through Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS, please visit: http://apply.jlabs.jnjinnovation.com/. JLABS is looking to partner with innovators in consumer, health tech, medical devices, vision care, pharmaceuticals and cross sector.
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