Nano Night and Our SXSW 2019 Takeaways

During South by Southwest, Austin’s capacity is stretched to its limits and brings entrepreneurs, thinkers and artists from all around the world to our unlikely tech and music hub. To kick off the festivities this year, we hosted Nano Night, a welcome party at our office for the health and technology crowd coming into SXSW for the conference’s “interactive” week. A big thank you to everyone who came by to mingle and enjoy Austin’s famous Stiles Switch barbecue with us!


This year, real-world data and genomics were big themes on the health technology scene at SXSW. Talks and panels suggested that we’re at an inflection point in healthcare where the priority is finding innovative approaches to solving big problems, faster. Whether through unexpected partnerships (JP Morgan, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway’s Haven Healthcare, for example), wider data sharing or harnessing genomics to pinpoint increasingly precise diagnoses and treatments, the industry feels poised for big breakthroughs.

A highlight for us included the “Real-world Data: How Useful IS It?” panel with Shrujal Baxi (Flatiron Health’s medical director), Patrick Combes (Amazon’s worldwide technical leader), Christoph Koenen (head of cardiovascular development at Bristol-Myers Squibb) and Greg Reh (vice chairman of U.S. and global life sciences at Deloitte). The conversation focused on the need to increase the speed of discovery in health and medicine and the ability of real-world data and technology to provide a full picture of a patient’s health and experience instead of the episodic snapshots that healthcare providers primarily have access to in today’s world.

A favorite quote from BMS’s Koenen:

“Don’t accept that the development and innovation process takes 15 years.
Hold regulators and scientists accountable for it.”

We also loved “Big Data + Genomics = Earlier Disease Detection,” where Jennifer Gardy, deputy director of surveillance, data and epidemiology at the Gates Foundation, showed the Oxford Nanopore’s MinION device, which is a tiny genome sequencer that “looks like a stapler but is so much cooler.” The little sequencer simply plugs into a computer’s USB port and can read DNA in real time from blood samples. As Gardy said, this innovative little device means that we now “have the ability to go out and do genome sequencing of bacterial pathogens, viral pathogens, you name it – anywhere, any time in real time.”

Overall, SXSW 2019 was an exciting and enlightening year for health and technology. We’re grateful to have returned to our normal traffic patterns, but are already looking forward to next year!