After learning a troubling statistic about the current state of non-communicable diseases in the world, Nawal Roy, Founder and CEO, applied his 15 years of finance and strategy consulting experience to breakthrough into the healthcare industry and create Holmusk, a company aiming to change the course of behavioral health for patients using Real-World Evidence. Learn more about the company in our next In-Depth Conversations with Residents installment.
Q: Tell us the story behind your company. What is the personal and scientific inspiration behind the founding (or your work with) this company?
NR: In 2015, I read an article in The Economist that said more people were dying from non- communicable diseases than infectious diseases for the first time in human history. I couldn’t get this out of my head. To me, it felt like a sign that we had failed as a society to resolve the burden of non-communicable diseases such as chronic diseases and mental disorders.
This spurred me to start Holmusk. I completely changed the course of my life, quitting all other professional engagements to devote myself to learning as much as I could about the industry. I was trained as an economist and had spent over 15 years in capital markets and strategy consulting. I had seen firsthand the transformation of the finance sector due to data and technology and wanted to figure out how to help healthcare transform in the same way. Getting into the healthcare field is a huge challenge but the potential impact is very exciting – it has consumed me completely since that day.
Q: Why did you develop your science or technology? What is the healthcare challenge you are trying to solve?
NR: Behavioral health is a fundamental and persistently overlooked aspect of overall health, and mental illnesse poses a huge and growing global burden. I truly think this growing need is the defining problem of our generation. Despite a recent rise in awareness, especially from COVID-19, improvements in treating mental illness and substance use disorders have lagged other disease areas. There is a significant need for new solutions.
To solve this problem, Holmusk is building the world’s largest Real-World Evidence platform for behavioral health. Our flagship product, NeuroBlu, makes our unique behavioral health evidence generation engine accessible in a seamless data and analytics platform. Providing robust evidence will be a potential gamechanger across the health ecosystem, enabling therapeutic innovation by showing the differential impact of new drugs on patient outcomes, supporting clinical care with evidence-based practices, and equipping governments and payers to make more informed regulatory and reimbursement decisions.
In our first five years, we have devoted ourselves to learning and testing how to pioneer behavioral health Real-World Evidence (RWE) in the right ways. Creating actionable evidence for behavioral health is a difficult feat because of the nuances in the field and with the data itself. Behavioral health is an even harder space to work within healthcare and life sciences because there are so many barriers including decades of stigma, institutional siloes, and a poor understanding of biological causes. The data just does not exist yet in behavioral health the same way it does for other fields.
Q: What impact will your technology or innovation have on the community? What do you hope your impact will be for patients if you are successful?
NR: RWE provides insights on the lived experience of patients, offering important information to drive pharmaceutical innovation and care. Lack of evidence has caused stagnation in drug innovation over the last two decades, resulting in a large proportion of patients unable to reach necessary treatments. Even with medical and scientific advances, there are still huge gaps in our knowledge of behavioral health disorder treatment, burdening many individual lives, communities, and economies.
A healthy community is one that understands and can work within its system to manage its populations health, and behavioral health is a significant driver. To help communities and health systems, we need more RWE to better understand patients at the highest risk, resource allocation, and contributing socioeconomic factors.
Additionally, we are also working with patient-reported outcomes to drive more patient-centric, holistic RWE to better understand how day-to-day lived experiences can impact health outcomes. This generation of RWE coupled with digital solutions can help advance behavioral health innovation, research, and care, ultimately driving value across the ecosystem from drug development and commercialization to clinical decisions at the point of care.
Q: How important is diversity, equity, and inclusion in the life sciences?
NR: Diversity, equity, and inclusion are incredibly important in any field, especially where you are innovating and trying to make impactful changes in the world. At Holmusk, we have been a global-first company from day one, and one of our most special qualities is the diversity of our team. Our 100+ person team is over 50% female with over 18 nationalities across 15 countries. We are seeking to solve incredibly difficult problems in mental health. The more different voices we have, the more powerful our impact.
As we rapidly grow, we are doubling down on our commitment to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at our company and in our work. This includes ensuring Holmusk is an inclusive and equal place for all at all levels of leadership. It also means constantly seeing how we can use our products and data science capabilities to reduce health disparities and promote new inclusive solutions so that pragmatic studies, data analysis, and patient outcomes can more accurately guide in improving health outcomes for all patients.
Q: Why did you want to become a part of Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (“JLABS”)? What are you hoping to achieve as a JLABS @ Washington, DC resident company?
NR: Being a global-first company, JLABS has given us not only the resources and connections within Johnson & Johnson, but also a home for us in geographic locations that we would not have been able to easily access otherwise – starting with our first residency in New York City and followed by Shanghai, China. Having local offices and presences for our staff and for interacting with key stakeholders is so important, especially in healthcare. We’re thrilled to be an inaugural member of a new JLABS site once again.
With JLABS @ Washington, DC, it gives us the ability to be closer to the center of US policymaking. Our priorities and innovations will need increased interaction with regulatory bodies like the US FDA. JLABS @ Washington, DC gives us an opportunity to interact with our counterparts at Johnson & Johnson who are deeply intwined in this space – especially around the rapidly changing focus on RWE. Being closer to the discussion on policy decisions and being able to interact with governing bodies to ensure our work aligns with their objectives will be a big focus for our team moving forward.
Our connection with JLABS has also created visibility for Holmusk across Johnson & Johnson’s operating entities and in many ways provided an intrinsic vote of confidence to external stakeholders, thus allowing us to make inroads and be a part of the local ecosystem. We will always be grateful for being part of the JLABS family.
For more on Holmusk, visit https://www.holmusk.com.
Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC is open for business. Learn more and join us in pursuit of accelerating innovation in service of our patients: https://jji.jnjinnovation.com/join-jlabs-dc.
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