Blaine Penny Talks Innovation and Development with University of Alberta, Health Hub

University of Alberta Health Hub interviews Blaine Penny and featured him in their latest publication. Read the full article below:

1. What does health innovation/ innovation in health mean to you?

Health innovation to me means steps toward empowering patients to have the information and tools needed to own their health journey. My mental model of health innovation revolves around the 3 P’s – proactive, predictive, and personalized. 

– From a proactive perspective, we need to educate and incentivize people on understanding how important the day to day choices they make impact their health. 

– Digital tools and technology are rapidly growing and have the ability to predict changes in health and disease progression that can inform real-time care. If we had the equivalent of a Check engine light notification for our health, I feel it would improve and save many lives. 

– No two humans are the same. When there are multiple potential treatments for a disease or pathways to improve quality of life and how would you know which one is best for you? Innovative tools and technologies leveraging data and AI/ML are emerging that can identify the right treatment for the right person at the right time.

2. In your opinion, what is the state of the health innovation ecosystem in Alberta, Canada and globally?

In Alberta and Canada, I feel we are rich in ideas and talent, but poor in capital backing to commercialize. There are definitely success stories and pockets of innovation. For example, the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) recently released the results of its 2020 Canadian Licensing Activity Survey, placing the University of Calgary as the top startup creation institution, a key metric in the research and innovation ecosystem. Both locally and globally, I feel COVID-19 has forced us to innovate in many ways. Telemedicine is one that stands out for me. I have a son with complex mitochondrial disease who is in 10+ specialist medical clinics. We can now streamline the many appointments through virtual meetings that save our family significant time. 

Globally, I am truly inspired by the innovation that is happening in health. Developing COVID vaccines is a great example of how quickly we can solve a complex health problem when we allocate adequate resources. Other areas that stand out are molecular technologies and omics with new gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR. Wearables is another area that is seeing rapid innovation that will play an increasingly important role in remote monitoring and predictive analytics.

3. What motivated you to join the Health Innovation Hub?

To be part of the Alberta health innovation community to learn from others in our ecosystem and to give back where we can. We are big on collaboration and continuously seeking partners to work together as we grow.

4. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?

I am a life-long extreme endurance athlete and an optimist on a mission to help make the world a healthier place.

5. What is the one thing that you are most excited about right now?

Wearables – they are able to passively collect rich continuous data and there is so much insight that can be gleaned to identify changes in health or disease state to inform real-time care.