People know about MRI, CT, SPECT and PET: all acronyms of machines that kick out imaging that makes it possible to examine what’s wrong inside the brain. And when patients do receive the bad news, they deserve no less than CereScan’s advanced brain imaging software for predictive diagnoses – arguably the best in the US. John Kelley, CEO of CereScan, leads his company in taking patient information regarding certain brain disorders and combining that with other factors in their life. With this data, CereScan can quickly come up with a good, predictive diagnosis for whatever their problem could be. Patients then have the ability to start correlating diagnostic data to life events, pharmaceutical and genetic predisposition for certain conditions. CereScan sheds a new light into how we might be able to treat brain diseases: conditions once considered taboo and incurable.
We’re incredibly fortunate to have John Kelley, CEO of CereScan. You’re going to be fascinated by the story. John, welcome to the show.
Bob, thank you for having us on. It’s an honor to be on here and be able to talk to your audience. It’s a terrific opportunity for us.
For the folks that don’t know what CereScan is, could you give them a thumbnail sketch of your company and who you serve?
In the United States, we’re arguably the best company in the country that takes patient information regarding certain brain disorders and combining that with other factors in their life to be able to come up with something that’s predictive or a good diagnosis for whatever their problem is. We are the best at doing that.
For the folks that are interested in the technology space, what are the tools that you bring to the table to arrive at the data that you collect?
We’re an imaging company. People know about MRI, CT, SPECT and PET. All of those acronyms are about machines. Those machines kick out information in the form of imaging, things people might call X-rays. When you have the imaging side of things to be able to look and see what’s wrong inside of the brain, you then have the ability to start correlating that to life events, to pharmaceutical things, to genetic predisposition for certain conditions. We start combining all that information and it’s been available for a number of years in each of those categories.
There’s a notion of what you guys do and there’s the machinery like we’ve all seen on TV, it looks like a big doughnut that they put you through on a table. The part that was not apparent to me was the quantity of data that’s produced. You had an analogy from the data produced versus some of the other data that’s collected around on the planet. Can you draw the parallel between the data that you collect on the PET or the SPECT?
Yes. The information we will get out of cameras start approaching millions of data points per brain. We’re able to combine that with data around pharmaceutical usage, around blood types, proteins that might be in the blood, genetic information. Testing data, we’re combining millions of pieces of information and on the fly or instantaneously being able to correlate all that to see if there’s commonality across all of those data elements. It’s truly a super computing capability that we possess today.
You were talking about the Hubble telescope as an analogy. The Hubble collects not images. We all see the fantastic pictures that it had come up with, but that’s a result of data collection, is it not?
That’s correct. Hubble is a phenomenal piece of technology that’s taking invisible infrared light, it’s taken ultraviolet light, it’s taken other light spectrum and having other sound wave information coming and being aggregated at Hubble. That information then is converted for the human so that the astronomer can look at that and see a picture where there was no visible information as we know it. It’s being recreated by the computer so that the human can see what those technologies can pick up from looking at other constellations or other planets or stars and solar systems that might exist in the universe.
It takes the data and makes us a picture. As humans, we’re visually cued and we go, “Here’s the disparity from one point to the other.” For you guys, it’s not just that data that you have. You also have your patient data as well, correct?
That’s correct. All data is important and having all available patient data. Patients generally allow us access to that in a very security compliant way and that it can’t be used in any public way where it could hurt the patient. We’re able to take and aggregate that information so that you’re looking for common problems across groups of patients. If a patient were exposed, let’s say it’s Flint, Michigan, to lead, it would be important to take a look at all patients who might have been exposed to lead in Flint to look for commonalities. You’re looking for heterogeneous and homogeneous data sets in order to make some intelligent guesses or intelligent information-based ideas about what problems might exist as a result of something like the lead poisoning event.
For you guys, we were talking about some of the challenges with data. You guys have enormous data. I don’t know how to characterize the quantity of data or data sets that you have from patients, but it’s in, I guess, the thousands?
It’s actually in the millions. It’s a lot of information. Information and data doesn’t mean much unless you can get intelligence out of it. Just having a lot of data is nice, but you want to have systems that can pull out some intelligence to get the information to the doctor or to the clinician or to the parent, where they’re able to take that data, convert into intelligence, and do something actionable. In the case of the brain, it could be a treatment, it could be a retrospective look at what might have happened to get the patient where they’re at today, and it might be something where you can take that information and help others.
We’ve now just been through science for a while and in statistics and data. Let’s say that somebody goes, “How would I know that CereScan is a place I should go and talk to my doctor and go see? What types of things do you guys observed when you bring a patient in here and what types of things can you conclude when you see them?
The brain is a sophisticated organism. It’s arguably the most powerful known computer in the universe, and with that comes complications. For people who are looking for solutions to problems, things that are disorders, how do you fix a problem if you don’t know what it is? Our main mission is to go out and help doctors figure out what are the likely issues that do exist. There could be more than one. You could have more than one thing wrong. If you know what those are, then you have a chance to go back and try things that are proven scientifically to be able to fix a problem.
It could be as simple as diet change or it could be a pharmaceutical regimen. You might be able to get enough information to try something that’s on the cutting-edge of repairing a problem. People who are suicidal are clearly looking for something that can sustain life. At the end of the day, we’re a quality of life company. Can we help medical professionals and family members set up a scenario where a patient suffering from brain disorders can have a quality of life that is back to what they used to have before something may have occurred or in fact, give quality of life before disease takes over.
An example of that would be Alzheimer’s. Can we help prolong a quality of life by doing the right types of therapies or preventative medicine that sustains a better environment for them as compared to their steady decline into oblivion? I have it in my family so I’m keenly interested in the Alzheimer’s aspects of what can we do and identify and what can be done as early as possible to keep the disease from making life miserable for everybody.
The things that are in the headlines are the returning soldiers that have some form of brain injury from a concussion or they hit an IED. We talked a little bit about typical things that older technology would see and the things that this newer technology might point out. Can you dig into that a little bit for maybe we have some soldiers listening?
Yeah. I was a prior service person. I was drafted as well and a lot of my peer. This was during the Vietnam War era. I’ve watched a lot of my peers go mainly the alcohol route with a lot of alcoholism. What happened to them? It didn’t happen to me, but what happened to them? There are three big buckets that are generally categorized in the military. You have the thing called traumatic brain injury or chronic traumatic brain injuries. It’s generally related to concussion events where the brain sustains damage and it doesn’t seem to repair fully. You have a thing called PTSD, which is generally attributed to psychiatric set of conditions that can result from stress of deployment, so on and so forth. Then we’re running into a new area that has alarmingly been more prevalent than what anyone thought, and that was around toxic poisonings.
For the military people who were involved with burn pits or may have been in the warrant officer helicopter area where a kerosene fumes come back into the aircraft itself, or for folks who are doing plastic explosives or handheld devices to kick out a propellants, we’re seeing a high correlation of things that are related to PTSD or TBI where, in fact, the brains of our military personnel are being basically poisoned over time or an environment where those chemicals get inside the brain and tend to a lodge in there permanently and create very psychiatric-like symptoms. It’s been an alarming thing for me to see. I would draw the analogy of Agent Orange from my era that took years to manifest itself in many cases in, unfortunately, cancer-like things. These chemicals in a hazardous environments such as our military people have gone through can, in fact, be very impactful. People need to be aware of the fact that it might not be PTSD and it might not be traumatic brain injury.
For the folks out there going like, “I have a friend or it’s me or a relative and we’ve been at war for twenty years,” the incidence of certain behavioral things stick out. If you’re the listener, a friend, or perhaps somebody that got those things, how do they find you? What’s the best way for them to reach out to you?
They go into our website which is www.CereScan.com. It’s a very informative website with short videos that do address things like traumatic brain injury, toxic poisonings, and get into suicides, ADHD and bipolar. It’s very informative. Primarily, medical doctors, very accredited doctors, will talk in common English. That would be the best thing to do. For the military personnel, the efforts that we’ve made over the last five years have been to how can we get what we do to the normal human being? We have been successful as of late of securing certain insurance reimbursement for civilian and military. Tricare and the western half of the United States through UHC would be an example of that for traumatic brain injury, and we’ve had success with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Texas United Healthcare in Colorado.
We’re having to work our way systemically, logically, methodically, factually through the insurance companies so that reimbursement becomes a reality for the patient. In the military, it could be their family too. Your son or daughter could have sustained an accident on a bike and it might be nice to know if those concussion symptoms sustain themselves and are they permanent, what might you be able to do with that with good information?.
The brain is arguably the most powerful known computer in the universe, and with that comes complications.
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Let’s say that there’s somebody out there that’s going, “This would merit further exploration,” but as diagnosis and all that happens, you guys also have seen the value of certain regimens to take an offset some of the symptoms?
Again, what do you do? How do you fix a problem if you don’t know what it is? That’s number one. Number two, as we’ve seen now, nearly 4,200 patients have come through our sites around the country. Finding out commonalities of problems has had the wonderful impact of saying what could be done to prevent? We’ve had to go forward in order to go backwards. Backwards means how do I best put into place things that can prevent problems? Things like Alzheimer’s, early identification, clearly today, the medical industry would argue the right kind of diet, the right kinds of food, don’t smoke, fish oil, so and so forth. If you had a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, we’re showing impairment early on for that, you might want to be able to go back and say, “I’m going to take preventative steps that could increase my quality of life.”
I’m using that disease as an example, but that would also pertain to things like after impact or birth trauma, things like toxic poisonings, identification of people who are suicidal and the commonalities among people who are suicidal, things you really shouldn’t do, treatments, pharmaceuticals, what have you, that could produce a bad cauldron that could put a person on the edge. Having that information and giving that to doctors for them to do something creative, medically-sound, proactive and done before a disaster takes place like a suicide to us is a very rewarding breakthrough in the medical world today.
I think about the challenges for adoption. Our medical regulatory authorities have their procedures going through. I usually ask this question, if it’s such a great technology, why doesn’t everybody know about it? What do you think the reason that people don’t know about this it would be?
We’re a small company, we’re not Johnson & Johnson. We have all the challenges of a small company of getting that message out. We don’t have the money to get it on television. Fortunately, shows like this help us spread the word. We don’t have the money to go do a broad brush of advertising or promotional thing; that’s impediment number one. Number two, it was cash pay. When I had the opportunity to take over as CEO, it was cash. You’re talking about a few thousand dollars to do all the things that I’ve described. Not everybody has pocket change of a few thousand dollars. The next step was let’s see if we can make this less cash intensive to the people in need. Our path to insurance has been one way to do that. There had been foundations and charitable organizations who have helped. We’re trying to address that one.
The third is how do I get to the site? Initially, we started in Denver. We’ve now expanded to Southern California, most of the central part of Texas, Dallas, Houston, and Corpus Christi. We’re in New Orleans, we’re in Naples, Florida. We are in Chicago and Alabama. We try to expand our capabilities through other very highly-rated medical institutions where they can take and put CereScan and embed it in their business there. We’re expanding the accessibility of what we have, trying to take costs for the normal human being out of the equation. I feel very strongly about that. I’m from a small town in Missouri. My family and peers wouldn’t typically have the money to go do what we do. I would like to see this yet so that it’s not the purview of the rich, but it’s available to everybody who has a need. When it comes to mental disorders, there are a lot of people who are in need that can’t afford it today.
We see that on the news regularly where there’ll be a higher incidence of one brain disorder versus another, whether it’s autism or Parkinson’s, perhaps in some locales and others. How do you see CereScan over the next four or five years interfacing with providing data perhaps that will start to attack those problems?
You pointed out something that’s exciting for us that really portends the potential for CereScan and its partners to bring solutions to people. To validate that, the Ohio State University and their bio-informatics group has teamed up with this. A group that supports the Department of Defense, particularly through the three-letter agencies is teamed up with a six-month effort to do data analytics. We are now working our way through other partners through both universities and other practices who want to team up to make a difference because we can’t do everything ourselves. The objective is to get this propagated into facilities around the country so that everyone has that opportunity to avail themselves of what we do. We’re getting the best in other ancillary or adjacent companies that can propel at Florida.
An example of that would be getting DNA information. It would also be proteomics, meaning what proteins are in your blood. A simple example would be if I have a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s, I’m showing from a testing perspective that I’ve got cognitive decline in an area, let’s say you’re having a hard time with mathematics and remembering numbers. We’re showing from the imaging side that you’ve got decline in functionality in that area and that you’ve got a protein that’s associated with Alzheimer’s. You now have five data points that would give a doctor a fairly strong opinion that you’re on a downwards slope in this very nasty dementia. Having that early, then what can you do about it? If we can get enough people who can identify it early, maybe we’ll find out that there are treatments or body of treatment that can help slow down the progression of that disease and enhance the quality of life that I talked about.
We were talking a little bit about the toxic poisoning from exposure. We talked about flint, we talked about propellants and so on. For the legal community that’s out there, how does CereScan interface with the legal community? I understand they use your services.
If you think about the rich data that we’ve produced, and because it’s done so consistently in a very objective way in a super computing environment sometimes identified as artificial intelligence, the objectivity of that is appreciated in the legal community by both sides of the litigation piece and the judges themselves and the juries. When a person has a legal case, we provide objective data for both sides to be able to analyze as to whether or not there are issues. In the case of toxins, it’s something that had not been explored a ton. You have a problem with carbon monoxide poisoning. It could be occupational. It could be painters, it could be car mechanics, it could be military personnel. You have things like mercury poisoning, environmental, or from an industrial side of it.
Each of those toxins has patterns that were showing that attach to certain regions in the brain. We’re getting large enough numbers now to say mercury goes here, carbon monoxide goes here, lead goes here. When it goes there and resides in the brain, the functionality of that area begins to decrease immediately. If the functionality of that area of the brain is known and it is known that there was a toxin there, you begin to get a match of saying, “I have symptoms that I can directly relate to that exposure to that toxin to that area of brain which is supposed to be responsible for a particular function.” The good news is there might be things you might be able to do with it.
There’s chelation there, there are approaches that a doctor or medical team can say, “How do I get those heavy metals out of there? How do I get these free radicals out of there? How do I get this stuff out of there? There are techniques that are now being produced that might in fact be able to wash those out of your system, so to speak, so there’s hope. Not only is it factual and can be used in the courtroom in an objective way, there in fact maybe solutions where they might be able to get back somewhat of a normal life. That’s a grand slam. It’s an end to end process for us and the patient benefits, the law firm benefits, the court system benefits. The case is faster and there may be a solution at the end that isn’t just about the settlement, but about being able to get back to normal.
It’s one thing to say we can prove that you had this and the spouse is looking at the person that has whatever that is and go, “That’s nice.” They might’ve gotten a monetary settlement but still the person has the problem. The thing that resonated with me is that, yes you may have a problem, but if we can identify enough, maybe we can start providing solutions, so you get your former spouse back. I’m watching you as you were talking about this part and you get fired up about making a difference within the company. Touch on that a little bit. Why do you get so fired up about this stuff?
I’ve been asked that question several times and I haven’t been very fortunate to have great teams. I’ve helped pick some of those teams and I’ve been part of a team. I’ve had terrific private and public company experiences as a leader, CEO, and board member on some very exciting companies. Hardly any of them have had success either being acquired or something like that, so that’s rare. What occurred with this company is something that’s way different than anything that ever happened to me in my life with all those successes. As I stepped into this role from a CEO that passed away, we were able to see very clearly that we can make a difference in people’s lives. When does that happen? When does that happen with any individual?
In all of the great jobs that I’ve had, the company’s been great, the customers have been good, the partners have been good, but I can never say for certain on an everyday basis that we change lives. The doctors may have helped save a life. We’ve seen over 220 people who have suicidal thoughts, suicide ideation, meaning they plan it, and then suicidal attempts. We’re already starting to show patterns in the brain combined with prior life experiences prior to pharmaceutical, illegal or legal drug usage, and how they may be treated in their lives, showing patterns that start being somewhat predictive of a doctor looking at saying, “This is a bad path. We need to change this formula that we’re doing here because others have gone down this path and it’s not been good.” That data side of it that we have, which flows into my background, ends up teeing up making a difference in lives. For the military where you have 22 suicides a day, and there are a heck of a lot more in the civilian population, how would you like to be part of a group that could start truly giving doctors and caregivers the ability to stop and preclude suicide? That’s huge.
You’re making a difference.
It’s a difference. It’s the same thing on these toxins. We get exposed to them all the time. How do we understand that early on? What about the diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? What about quality of life? Another would be this crazy growth of ADD, ADHD diagnosis and the drugs associated with that. Clearly they work, but how about if you don’t have ADHD but you have had your brain bruised at birth or you suffered repetitive concussions as a youth in something that shows that your frontal lobe is damaged? It’s not going to respond to pharmaceutical but could respond to other types of treatments such as hyperbaric chamber, infrared light, trans-cranial stimulation and the like where you can help the brain repair rather than drugging it for a problem that probably doesn’t exist. We’re seeing that in well over a thousand kids, kids defined as six to eighteen. It’s making a difference.
I have some family issues with brain trauma and others and learning disabilities. We’re both pretty passionate about it, yet it seems like in the medical community they’re slow to adopt, slow to move. If you’re a physician that’s listening to this, how would you recommend a physician to start to try to assimilate some of the stuff that you’re talking about?
I like to have the physician come in through the web portal. If I’m a physician, I want to talk to a doctor. I want to hear another opinion. We have six top-tier nuclear med docs, neuro-radiologists, radiologists who are happy to share their experiences and what they’re seeing. They do doc to doc consultation. After CereScan gets all this data and information and predictive analytics, then the doctors who do the reads consult with the pediatrician, the DO, the psychiatrist and neurologist. The dialogue that goes on between those doctors is where the special size is, meaning the doctor who does the read says, ” I’m seeing these trends. Here’s the experience I’ve seen before. Here’s what happened with other doctors and the patients, what worked, what didn’t work. Let me give you my observations.”
The training doctor can take that information and do personalized medicine. Every brain is different. Every brain and person needs to be handled differently. Giving the bulk of the doctors who do a great job of working with the patients all the information where they could ask the questions and they can probe around to see, “Is the person telling me the truth? Are they using drugs that could be damaging like meth or some opioid issue that could mask the real problem?” It gives the doctor the ability to do a better job, a higher quality job, and maybe get the patient to go down a pathway where they can stop or repair what they’ve been doing.
We were talking at length about concussion. Concussion for me means I bumped my head into something and I don’t feel well, but there’s multiple types of concussions and locales and effects within the brain and others. Can you go through the discussion of the various types of concussions and why that’s important?
I’m in historic big data telecommunications software. One of the areas I have some grounding in is electrical engineering. I was a very mediocre electrical engineering student at the University of Missouri.
Missouri had electrical engineering?
They did, but they wouldn’t hold me up as an example. My point around this as an engineer, how do we approach concussions and other types of things from an engineering perspective? You’ll hear people go, “I had a concussion.” What kind of concussion was it? Did you hit the windshield in a car accident so you had a blunt force concussion? Were you in a car where you never hit anything but you had severe whiplash because you’re going 60 miles an hour and your head whipped back and forth? Were you in the military where you had a blast and a shock wave move through your brain?
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You have all sorts of engineering dynamics that occur with each of those that are different. The brain responds just like any other engineering material. It reacts, it vibrates, it bounces back and forth, it tears, it shears. When someone says it’s a concussion, did your blood vessels tear so you’ve got bleeding in your brain? Did it smashed together and you got compaction? Did a shock wave come through and rattle the very core of your brain, some of the older parts of it that are causing problems? Were you in a Humvee that got hit from the bottom and inside of your cab, it compressed like a tomato would be compressed, so you’ve got pressure that hits that brain? Understanding the engineering dynamics of that brain begin to set up data and information that should lead to more precision medicine.
Which thing is the best technique to use for this concussion? Is it rest? Is it diet? Is that hyperbaric chamber? What types of things do we know that best respond to the damages inside the brain? You just can’t say concussion. I go crazy when I see, “They’ve had concussions.” What kind of concussions? It’s like saying, “I’ve got cancer.” Really? Where is it? What kind is it? Is it in your lung? Is it in your stomach? What kind of cancer is it? The same thing applies to concussion. What do we know about it should set the table for better treatment. Then we can share those treatments if they’re successful with others because there are over 2 million concussions in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control that happen every year. There’s a lot of people out there with chronic concussions that we might be able to share treatment.
There are 340 million or370 million people in the United States. To me, it doesn’t sound like a lot until you go, well that’s almost one percent of the population every year.
We tend to think about the NFL and athletes. Certainly, that’s a market that needs to be addressed for their occupation, but most are on the job, their vehicle, whether that’s motorcycle or cars or whatever. Then you have the whole accidental types.
The guys that fall off a ladder. Lots of those guys.
We can help them. It’s having a national repository of proper identification, what’s called cohorts in the medical world, but patients that look like me and then what happened, who did something that’s consistently good, are very innovative that made a difference? CereScan doesn’t treat anything. We just set the table for the people to say, “Let me do the best choice or best choices, and so let’s see what happens.” That feedback loop back to the doctor in Tacoma from a success in Norfolk, Virginia, we can make happen instantaneously.
I think about the professional athletes that may be listening. There’s been enough press, whether it’s the NFL or whether it’s hockey or baseball or any of the professional college athletes. How would they reach out to you if they have some concerns?
They should come in directly to us. I played baseball at the University of Missouri and suffered a significant concussion, slamming into a pole and trying to catch a line drive unsuccessfully. If I were a professional athlete, get a baseline. We do baselines in everything. At my age, we do colonoscopy baselines. Doing those at an early age, it would be important to have baseline. That’s generally being accepted more and more in the medical profession. Find out what your brain is like before you have these instances and then compare because 80% of the time the brain repairs itself, but a lot of times it doesn’t.
Where I have that concussion gets back to that engineering discussion and what do I know about what needs to be fixed? For the athlete that’s out there, don’t lose hope. The reason why I say that is look what happens with stroke victims. In stroke, the brain’s parts are not dead. They’re not performing well because they’re getting lack of blood flow, there’s been compromise of the gray matter, but it’s not dead. In the case of concussion, the areas are generally dead. When you go to concussion protocol, what do you see? Flashcards, exercise, touch, feel, and motion skills. They’re retraining the brain and rerouting neuron path.
We see that with Representative Gifford. He’s a poster person for that. Think about what can happen with concussion? If it can work with stroke, people who have dead matter could in fact work with areas that are under-performing because of repeated concussion dynamics, the answer is unequivocally yes. How do you set the table for are pair piece? We’re seeing early evidence for some innovative companies who are showing that they can, in specific cases, repair areas of the brain that are reachable with our technologies. There is hope to get back. You don’t have to have this decline into donating your brains to the Boston University, which I think is honorable, why don’t you try to do something while you’re alive as well.
That doesn’t have a great deal of effect after you’re done.
We should do that. It’s not to diminish it, but how about let’s attack the problem while you’re alive too.
There are some things we can’t say due to regulatory concerns. There are some big things coming up for you guys and some approvals perhaps coming soon. With your database and looking into the future, what effect do you think that the repository of data that you have is going to have on the medical community in the future?
This is what I get excited about. For the doctors who are out there, we have an FDA process that’s underway. As they would know, we have to be somewhat silent about what we’re doing, but suffice it to say that from a credibility perspective and for us to even talk about predictive analytics, there is a very proper process to use at the FDA and we’re underway with that. I agree with it. Once that’s successful, there’s going to be waves of the FDA approval that we’ll be submitting. You go down the diseases and the types of conditions I mentioned, the FDA is going to appropriately scrutinize those. We want to present the data that we have, so there’s waves of that. The second thing is we now have two US patents and a third applied for the types of things I talked too.
We’ve made it through the US patent process and have been able to take look very deeply as to whether or not there’s anybody else out there like us. Fortunately for us, the answer is there’s not. Unfortunately for the population, this should’ve been done some time ago. We’re in a great position. The point I want to make is we are not the only company that can provide solutions. There are some innovative companies across the country that we’re starting to work with. Savonix spin out some technology around neuro and cognitive testing out of Stanford that uses statistical analysis that is a breakthrough in the neuron-cognitive field. We are working with them and are having patients use to Savonix process so we can cross-correlate. We’re in the throes with SomaLogic in Boulder of finding protein markers that could be correlated to depression or Alzheimer’s. That remains to be seen, but if we can start cross-checking what we do with proteins and see if there’s a match, we’ve got a cutting-edge company that we’re starting down that path.
There are others we’re teaming up. The brain itself is so sophisticated for us to even think about having technology that can match the power and the horsepower of the brain. It’s folly to think about that, but as a team of leading innovative companies, we might be able to do a reasonable job at doing team diagnosis, team feedback, team solutions, and team repair mechanisms. That is the way to go from my perspective in order to bring all of the capabilities that we discussed to bear for an individual. It’s going to take not just in the United States but companies around the country who can share information instantaneously in a big data analytics world that can provide potentially customized care for every patient.
You were out speaking at Singularity. Can you talk a little bit about what the topic was and what the reaction was?
Singularity is this unbelievably innovative, large public think tank innovation, no holds barred, futurist people with unbelievably great and creative ideas who are assembled by Stanford University at Singularity University. It’s a three to four day event held in San Francisco. It’s grown by leaps and bounds. Our role, or at least the perceived role, is that CereScan, while we do these great things in individual brain diagnosis, the fact of the matter is we are perceived to be a leader or the leader in perfecting and pulling in information from other entities and combining that to give predictive analytics to doctors. That’s the FDA process that we’re working on. Coming out to Stanford in which we are invited to come, I was on a phenomenal panel with the former head of National Institute of Mental Health who’s now running a Google startup, a PhD MD out of MIT working on a drug for Alzheimer’s, and then a PhD MD, MBA, who is Harvard, MIT and Wharton. I was on the panel wondering what am I doing up here?
We actually were in the cleanup position to say, “All of these innovative doctors and their companies are producing some high potential solutions for some of these diseases.” Our role was to say yes and we can take information from each of them and combine it together, so that one plus one plus one won’t equal three, it will equal ten. When the power of that information is put together, the doctors can take this information at their fingertips and hopefully provide better personalized medicine or, more broadly, solutions for certain conditions that are spread among the population. How can we take all of this information and combine it together? We are in the position because of the patents and the FDA process they’re working on to be the catalyst for that today. CeraScan here in Denver is amazing.
CereMetrix, a subsidiary or a branch of your company?
The value proposition was somebody comes in in deep trouble and what do we do? Our clinicians and doctors would attack through imaging the history of the patient to see what they’d come up with in terms of something that looked like a likely or reasonable diagnosis and turning that over to their treating physician. We were known as an innovation lab. Every time a patient came in, we kept adding that to our database. A person comes in, hopefully something great happened in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Then the next one came in, the next one came in. And before you know it, we have over 4,000. The aggregate information is proving to be equal to or more powerful than the individual medical care or medical diagnosis we give to the patient. The patient coming in wants to know about themselves. What can they do or their mom or dad? If we get thousands of those patients, now there may be patterns that can help to diagnose it more rapidly and be able to feather out or tease out unusual things.
What would unusual be? How about Lyme disease? I don’t know if scanning or imaging can see that. It doesn’t appear to. When all the data’s added together and you had these symptoms that Lyme disease may be able to be picked off early that says, ”We have all this information. We’ve ruled out this, this, and this. What else could it be? They do a lot of hiking in Vermont. It could be Lyme disease.” We’re seeing this with herpes. There’s herpes that are not like the genital colts or herpes, but there’s new derivations of herpes that reside in the brain. They’re not bacterial in nature but they can respond to other pharmaceuticals that neutralize that herpes side of it. They may not be evident, but now the data is showing that the doctor should go think about that or explore that they’ve got a viral infection and they might be able to be stabilized as an example.
We brought up toxic exposure. Kids that are exposed to carbon monoxide from parents who take the kids out camping or somebody has a propane tank that they have in their house and don’t have it outside and it’s slowly leaking and every day there’s a little more poisoning. It’s not evident that they went through an event, but when you start backing into it, what could have caused that problem? You go back and say, “These are the potential causes of that. Do you have a propane tank in your basement?” Simple questions like that sometimes begin to yield the key to what was the causation of that problem. That’s where this big data starts coming into play. It feathers it out and it does it instantaneously. It proposes to the doctor, “Go look at that,” and if they don’t find it, no problem, but they should be aware that there could be something else.
Who’s the consumer or client of CereMetrix?
Ultimately it’s the patient. We’re trying to strive to improve their life, get them back to a stable situation or simply give them a diagnosis. Sometimes the diagnosis isn’t great, but at least they know. That is the ultimate goal. For the patient to have success, they’ve got to have a primary care provider. It is hand in glove for us. The medical professional teams up with the patient. It’s that relationship that we’re shooting for. The doctor becomes a partner of us because they have access to the information that they can use to do their job better. At the end of the day, they’re trying to take care of their patient. We are one of the key conduits for that doctor or medical professional to do the right job with the patient.
An average physician may see a certain quantity of clients and they may see normal flu-like symptoms regularly, but they may not see that many concussions through the course of their career. You guys see thousands upon thousands.
It’s approaching 2,500 right now and these are the chronic. These are concussions that linger.
Let’s say I’ve been referred in by my physician and I come in. What are the typical questions that somebody coming into your facility has? What are they worried about? What do they usually ask you when they come in?
Like all of us, we go to a doctor, your blood pressure will tend to go up before our physical. When you have something like a brain scan, it sounds onerous. What’s going to happen is they’re going to be nuclear, substance problems, or is there something that happened to my brain? Is it noisy? Am I going to get claustrophobia? Our organization, our staff is so attuned to the fears that automatically are perceived about quote unquote “getting brain scans.” It’s put them at peace that, “This is not going to be too bad. It’s not going to be a horrible experience.”
For the patient to have success, they've got to have a primary care provider.
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We can coach and talk your way through it. It’s not like going to the hospital and waiting in a room and suddenly you get put into a tube. It’s to start that basis for the patient to be relaxed because when it comes to the brain, we want the brain to be performing as it is in real life, not in some hyper-sensitive world. Peace of mind. People have gone through it. Life is going to be okay. Then, they’re going to get tested, and so we’re going to do neurocognitive testing. I mentioned Savonix. There’s going to be extensive history for the patient, family history, pharmaceutical history. We’re going to start probing around on things that are private like, “What drugs are you using?”
Probing is questions, is it not?
They’re going to start asking. They want as much information because the more information you have, the secret may be in one of the little pieces of information. It could be child abuse. It could be fetal alcohol syndrome that was suffered at birth. It could have been birth trauma. It could be an event where they fell down the stairs. It could be they had staph infection as a wrestler in high school. There could be one piece of data that doesn’t just seem to stick out that ends up being the key to a cascade of events that caused the problems. Staph infection is one. I was told that brain doesn’t get infected. The blood brain barrier stops things like staph. What we found, au contraire, we’re seeing lots of people where some derivative of some common staph infection is getting into the brain and we don’t show it, but when you go back and say, “I was high school wrestler,” which is true story.
I had this thing as a sophomore, a topical. It went away. Meaning it got off my shin, and then I started getting worse and worse. As it turned out, the neurological and psychiatric diagnosis went down the wrong path. They didn’t have the data to know that staph infection can break through. In several cases now, a penicillin derivative called Augmentin has been prescribed by the doctor and their symptoms have gone away. What residual damage that they have over the years remains to be seen, but they’ve had infections, not psychiatric symptoms. It’s that type of stuff that ends up being a-ha moments and gives you goose bumps here when you walk out going, “We’re CSI-like. We just solved a problem.” I don’t solve anything the team does, but it’s just so rewarding to know you uncovered the problem. To see the relief on patients and their parents, it’s making a difference when you get a chance to do something like that.
I think about the toll takers that stand in the booths next to automobiles. They get gas all day long. I think about them every time I’d go by, and go, “They get a snoot full of unburned fuel every time a car takes out of there.” I’m former military as well. I can remember sitting in the diesel plume on top of the track to stay warm in the winter. That can’t be real good for you. It might explain my behavior probably. To bring this to a close, parting advice to everybody who has a parent or a sibling or a child of somebody, as they’re out there going like, “Is this for me?” What advice parting advice would you offer them?
It’s critical that you have a great relationship with your treating doctor or whomever, and that the doctor spends time in depth asking the kinds of questions, asking the dynamics around the concussion, asking about live experiences and infection, talking about lifestyle. Does your child stay on iPhone eating cocoa puffs till two in the morning and expect them to perform at school and the school says they’re ADHD? Get the doctor or the medical professional to do more personalized medicine. I know that’s hard today, but try to figure it out as much as you can. If common sense and multiple approaches to fix the problem don’t work, don’t go down psychotropic drugs. There are choices. If, in fact, you have a problem with your knee and it’s an ACL, you will get an MRI or CT. If you have a bone break, you will get an X-ray before they go in and start doing things. If you have susceptibility or believed to have cancer, they will do a PET-CT. Don’t let the doctors start treating it before they know what’s wrong or have most available information.
I simply wouldn’t allow any of my relatives to go down a path where you start throwing drugs at a problem. I don’t want to suggest that there aren’t pharmaceuticals that do a good job, they do. We are such a pill, pill, pill and it isn’t the doctor’s prescribing it. The parents want a quick fix. The parents even pushed for it and it doesn’t fix problems and other problems come up. I can’t tell you how many multiple med people come in here. I’m talking twelve meds and sometimes they shock doctors. One man, they got him on lithium and then they do another med to counteract the lithium, and then they can’t sleep and then they aren’t asleep, and then they’re on a stimulant, and pretty soon trying to figure out what’s wrong. You’ve got this fog of pharmaceuticals there. That happens way more than what it should. Then you’ve got the opioid issue that’s cropping up as a result of dependency on drugs. Don’t go down that path. There are choices. There’s qEEG, there’s QPET, there’s QSPECT.
Q means quantitative. It gets this quantitative analysis along with what’s in my blood, what’s in my urine, what does the test show, is there a family history, was there event? When you put all that on the table, then you have a chance to try to attack the problem in the most logical sequential way that makes most sense and is most proven. Generally, that’s not masking the problem with pharmaceutical, and again, it could be lifestyle changes.
Spend at least as much time on this as you do planning your vacation. John, I appreciate it. I’m a fan. This has been fun and. I look forward to getting together again.
I do too. It’s a great topic and thank you for having us on the show.
John A. Kelley, Jr., has been the Chairman and CEO of CereScan, a functional brain diagnostics company headquartered in Denver, Colorado since mid-2009. Previously, Mr. Kelley served as the Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of McDATA Corporation, a provider of storage networking and data infrastructure solutions until Brocade Communications Systems, Inc. acquired McDATA in early 2007. Prior to joining McDATA, he served as Executive Vice President of Networks at Qwest Communications International from July 2000 to December 2000, after Qwest acquired US West in 2000. He was the President of Wholesale Markets for US West from May 1998 to July 2000. From 1995 to April of 1998, Mr. Kelley served as Senior Vice-President and General Manager of Large Business and Government Accounts as well as President of the Federal Systems Group. Before his employment at US West, he was the Area President for Mead Corporations Southwest Region from 1991 to 1994 and Vice President and General Manager of the Industrial Products Division for Mead in 1995. He has held senior leadership positions at NBI Corp., Alcatel/Friden, and Xerox Corporation. Mr. Kelley has been a member of the board of directors of Polycom, Inc. (NASDAQ) since March of 2000 and currently serves as the Chair of the Nominating and Governance Committee. He is also on the Board of Directors of Emulex Corporation (NYSE), and began that assignment in 2014. His private company board work has included Aztek Networks, Stored IQ, Circadence Corporation, and 3 Leaf Networks. Additionally, he has participated at the board level on several local and national non-profits. Mr. Kelley holds a BS in Business Management from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. He has served in the US Army (1970-1972) and also played varsity baseball at the University of Missouri, Columbia.