Finding Quantum Leaders in Healthcare
Quantum technology may do a lot for healthcare: put data to use in personalized and precision medicine, optimize nurse scheduling and enable doctors to see neurons sparking across the brain, for example. Nardo Manaloto is working to solve healthcare challenges using innovation, enterprise architecture, and emerging tech to impact clinical care and also to improve business operations.
Managing Partner of Qubits Ventures, a VC firm specializing in early-stage quantum and photonics tech startups, Nardo is a healthcare and deep tech industry veteran with over 25 years of experience. He also serves as managing director of Quantum & Photonics Accelerator, and CEO of Catalaize, advising and connecting innovators, investors, healthcare organizations and other industries to help them succeed.
Host Veronica Combs: Hello, I’m Veronica Combs and this is The Quantum Spin by HKA Marketing Communications. I have a great guest with me: Nardo Manaloto has a quantum venture to help startups get into the healthcare space. This year, at the Q2B quantum conference, Nardo is giving away $100,000. His Qubits Ventures is hosting an quantum startup pitch competition. Finalists will pitch their company’s quantum solutions to investors during a live session. That will be a really cool part of the show this year. Please join me in welcoming Nardo to The Quantum Spin.
Guest Nardo Manaloto: Thanks, Veronica. Glad to be here and happy to hopefully get to share my insights in both the quantum and healthcare space and even the startup space, too.
Veronica Combs: Three challenging dimensions of business, healthcare, quantum and startups. You are the managing partner of Qubit Ventures, and you also work with Techstars, you’ve worked with Kaiser Permanente, you’re the CEO of Catalaize, which helps companies connect the dots between all these technologies. You have a really fascinating background. What led you to found Qubits Ventures?
Nardo Manaloto: When I was first thinking about creating this fund through my work in Catalaize, in working with investors, technology companies and corporations, I’ve done quite a bit of work in that space in trying to promote the success of each of these stakeholders to make something happen when it comes to solutions and technology that can hopefully change the healthcare world. A big part of that strategy was to put a fund together. But since I’m a computer scientist, I did a lot of work in AI, and about four or five years ago, I started learning about quantum machine learning. That’s when I discovered and said, “Oh wow, quantum machine learning. I think that’s the next generation of things that can help healthcare,” because we have so many data to process. We have so many deficits when it comes to legacy systems. We have so many deficits in terms of the amount of resources that we have. I said, “Okay, this is the area that I’m going to go into.”
When I first thought about the fund, my initial thesis was quantum in healthcare. I wanted to build a fund specific for quantum in healthcare. As I looked into the deal flow of the number of tech companies in that space, I only found seven or eight. I didn’t think I could create a specific fund,, but if I created a sector-agnostic fund that looked into quantum technologies across the board, then all of that could be cross-pollinated into healthcare, and hopefully that helps healthcare.
Veronica Combs: Tell us about a couple of your portfolio companies. How are they using quantum to help healthcare?
Nardo Manaloto: One company is a company called QC82, a room-temperature photonic chip for scalable universal quantum computing. This kind of technology, building a quantum chip and quantum computer, is very, very hard. This startup has five founders, and four of them are professors out of the University of Virginia. Their first product will be more of a dual fault detector, second is an integrated photonic chip, and the third would, of course, be a photonics quantum computer. The hope here is to create a room temperature quantum computer that you could actually use in healthcare scenarios to start addressing healthcare, data processing, personalization of care, and any of the high-level compute-incentive AI workloads in healthcare.
The other one is a new investment of mine. It’s a Caltech spinoff that is founded by a professor, this company called Pinc Technologies. It’s really an innovative proprietary nonlinear photonic device that basically creates a universal laser that’s miniaturized that you could use in medical devices, you could use in consumer devices and many other scenarios. That one’s quite exciting for me.
Veronica Combs: I know that one stumbling block sometimes for entrepreneurs with that deep expertise is sort of talking about their work in a way that non-experts can understand. And you think a lot about elevator pitches when you’re talking about startups. I wonder, do you provide a lot of coaching on how to communicate about their work and how not to immediately get into the super-complex technical topics, and stay sort of at the promise of the technology or the use cases?
Nardo Manaloto: One of the things that I always like to say with startups is, you fall in love with the problem and, basically, the reason you exist is to solve that problem in a really good way. A lot of startups, because they come from a scientific and technical background and they love building things and they love the shiny widget and things like that, they go into solutioning right away without really knowing what the problem really looks like. I coach a lot of them from that standpoint.
The other part that I also like talking to them about: there’s a reason why you have two ears. It’s basically to listen more than to talk. The listening aspect, of somebody who listens to their customers, who listens to experiences of people and trying to really understand all of the different angles of what that problem can look like for many different stakeholders, is the kind of person that I’d like to have, because from a technology and science standpoint, they know what to do.
Veronica Combs: I think sometimes PowerPoints fall into that same sort of communication trap of please don’t fill a slide with text and read it to me focus on the problem you’re solving or the people you could help or the gap in a particular service. Do you have any thoughts of any memories of bad PowerPoints or any advice on how to avoid that fate death by PowerPoint?
Nardo Manaloto: I think the interesting thing, if you take a look at the backgrounds of scientists and researchers, they’re so good at writing research papers, and they have to explain the science and things like that. Sometimes that gets translated into PowerPoint and it becomes a PowerPoint version of their technical paper. When you create a startup, you have to really be cognizant about who the audience is, and the second piece to it is, you have to really become good at the emotional connection that you can make when you’re telling a story with this PowerPoint, because at the end of the day, the person that knows the problem and that can create an emotional connection towards that problem, how they’re solving it, how they’re changing the world and making it better, is the one that’s going to succeed.
The other thing that I’d like to see is here are the impacts, from an experience perspective, of solving the problems: here’s the impact from a market standpoint, here’s the impact from a business standpoint. The impact component is important, and people need to actually show that.
Veronica Combs: That impact part is so important. When I wrote about healthcare full-time, I would always ask an entrepreneur working on a particular topic, “Have you ever talked to a patient with that particular condition? Do you know what nurses are trying to get from this particular visit?” You really have to understand that impact, to be able to implement something or build, like you said, a solution that someone needs, not just the one that you think is cool.
Last year, you and I were on a panel together at Q2B, and one of our fellow panelists was Dr. Charles Bruce, the chief innovation officer at Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus. I don’t think I’d ever seen a doctor so excited about quantum technology. He really saw the promise and he knew all the data problems, and like you said, he was in there dealing with the systems and the limitations and wanting to do something with this data. I thought, “Wow, what a great champion.” You really have to find those internal people who see both sides of it: they know the healthcare side, but then they see the promise of the technology and they’re willing to work and get things done. I’m curious, how do you spot someone like that? Or do you cultivate those internal champions? How do you find more Dr. Bruces in healthcare?
Nardo Manaloto: You need people that will basically brave the whole change management aspect of innovation and advocacy for technologies. The other part, when it comes to change, is not just about, “Let’s take a look at the new thing that I could push inside of an enterprise. Let me push AI, let me push quantum in there.” I think the biggest part of change that we normally don’t see is where we’re actually removing the old legacy systems to make room for the new systems, and to identify people that are actually interested in removing those legacy systems as well. That’s one portion where there are people that naturally gravitate towards change in advocacy and innovation.
Veronica Combs: Quantum computing and its future ability to deal with massive amounts of data, that makes personalized health seem more accessible to me, or more possible – not just limited to a few people, but could help everyone, regardless of your economic situation. I wonder what other early use cases you see in healthcare for quantum computing.
Nardo Manaloto: Definitely a lot, right? Personalized and precision medicine, they kind of go hand-in-hand. The thing with personalization, sometimes, is we get stuck with, “Oh gosh, it’s going to personalize anything and everything.” For me, that’s not really the goal. To me, the goal of personalization is, “At what point do I need to have the right thing done at the right, specific moment, personalized based on certain conditions that I have.” It’s not to lay out an entire path of things to do; that pretty much gives an entire care plan for your life. Although it’s a great goal, it’s not really realistic.
Some of the treatment I have in the healthcare space, especially in quantum, is in the area of quantum sensors. Quantum sensing is a closer technology that could get deployed out there. We already have examples in companies and startup companies doing EEGs using quantum magnetometers, where they are looking at brainwaves and brain signals and electronic signals and neuron sparks going across the brain, and looking at where bottlenecks are for the purpose of neural disease diagnostics. The level of precision, the level of accuracy is much better than the current sensor. I am very interested in that.
We always think of healthcare as being all about the clinical aspect. That is absolutely not true, right? Healthcare is a business, too. We also have to take a look at the operational side of things, the financial aspect of healthcare. A few of the things I’d like to see happen in healthcare are how supply chain and logistics could be improved. Things in the lab and pharma and delivery spaces, there’s a lot going on there. We could never get nurse scheduling in a good way, so quantum machine learning from an optimization standpoint can also apply to nurse scheduling. There are things that can help healthcare from an operations perspective that also can impact clinical care.
Veronica Combs: I think I recently read that sometimes, with certain sensitive health questions, people would rather talk to a bot than a human. Maybe there’s less discomfort or nervousness or shame. Calling up someone to ask about that weird rash on your arm might be better powered by quantum machine learning, as you mentioned. And I saw recently that the average annual cost for Medicare patients went down a little bit, right? Or the growth hasn’t been as fast, and a couple of analysts said, “We don’t know why.” Maybe quantum computing can help us figure out some of the cost dynamics in healthcare, which are boring but obviously very important and sometimes hard to understand.
Nardo Manaloto: I have hopes there, too, just because cost and pricing optimization is a very, very hard thing to do. Hopefully a quantum-and-AI combination would help us create better solutions there.
Veronica Combs: You’re the managing partner at Qubits Ventures, you also work with an accelerator; you’re an advisor to Techstars, CEO of consulting company Catalaize; and amid all that work, you still have found time to write a really interesting series of posts on LinkedIn about quantum innovation. I was really fascinated by the scope of topics. You talked about quantum dots and about some specific healthcare applications. I’m curious, how do you pick those innovations that you’re sharing with the world? You’re getting the word out about quantum computing, which we need.
Nardo Manaloto: The intent of my LinkedIn post was to kind of just prove to the world that the innovations and discoveries and inventions happening in quantum are coming at a rapid pace. If I could find a great group of people that have done really amazing work, and they published it, I wanted to shout out about it and see if I could create a post a day just to show that there’s a discovery happening every single day. What I want to do is just to say, “Maybe until the end of the year, I’m not going to break my streak.” If I can manage to do that, hopefully it proves to the world that the quantum ecosystem is rapidly and definitely changing.
Veronica Combs: Definitely. I would recommend following Nardo on LinkedIn for all of his quantum innovations. It’s very, very digestible and it’ll pull you right into the world of quantum, if you’re not here already. Thank you again, Nardo for all your time.
Nardo Manaloto: You’re welcome, Veronica. Totally had a good time here.
Veronica Combs: That’s it for our conversation today. Thanks for joining us at The Quantum Spin.
Host Veronica Combs is a quantum tech editor, writer and PR professional. She manages public relations for quantum computing and tech clients as an account manager with HKA Marketing Communications, the #1 agency in quantum tech PR. Veronica joined HKA from TechRepublic, where she was a senior writer. She has covered technology, healthcare and business strategy for more than 10 years.
November 30, 2023