• Sun. Sep 20th, 2020

Dimancherouge

Technology

Founding a Company at the Intersection of Medicine and Technology – MBA

Paxton Maeder-York is
a proud member of the MBA class of 2019, Section G.  He deferred between his RC and EC years to
complete an additional master’s degree in Computational Science. Having studied
Biomedical Engineering as an undergraduate and worked as a Product Manager at
Auris Health building surgical robotics to treat lung cancer, the intersection
of medicine and technology was a deep interest of his prior to HBS. He is now
the Founder and CEO of Alife Health, which uses machine learning to help assess
the healthiest embryo to transfer during IVF.

Alife Health was
founded to help people have healthier children. Having started the company
during my EC year, I decided to enter the company into the New Venture
Competition
and to my surprise, took home the grand prize. Since then I
have gone on to raise a pre-seed round, make four exceptional hires, and sign
our first two clinical partners. Beginning with using machine learning to help
select the healthiest embryo to transfer during IVF, the company hopes to
eventually build a suite of tools to help fertility specialists deliver the
best possible care to patients.

So how did this company come about? Coming to Harvard to
pursue an MBA offered me the exciting opportunity to re-engage with the
scientifically rich university ecosystem and learn new skills.  I matriculated a year before the new MS/MBA:
Engineering Sciences
was offered, so I decided to apply independently to a
one-year master’s program in
Computational Science and Engineering (CSE).  I deferred my EC year to attend the program at
Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

The summer before my CSE master’s program started, I
participated in the Rock
Summer Fellowship
, where I explored the idea of using AI to detect early
stage lung cancer nodules from CT scans. As I looked at the business
opportunity for commercializing such a platform, the capital efficiency of pure
software products became clear and I began looking for new opportunities within
this area.  Over the following two
semesters in the CSE program, I learned what was possible with this new branch
of computer science, particularly the power of convolutional neural
networks.  It was through this curriculum
that I fell in love with data science and learned about the challenges of the
embryo selection process. It was immediately apparent how large the opportunity
to help people with infertility was, as well as the potential commercial
viability of this technology.

Last fall, I made the decision to start a company that
focused on the embryo selection problem, which I then pursued full time after
graduation. HBS provided me incredible support as I worked on getting Alife
Health off the ground.  Professor Ariel
Stern sponsored me to do an independent research project on the business model
during the fall of my EC year, and Professor Deborah Spar became a fantastic
early advisor and connection within the industry. This support culminated in all
the thoughtful feedback I received from the judges of the New Venture
Competition and the flood of alumni interest that came from winning the grand
prize. Although it was odd to compete and present remotely during the early
weeks of COVID-19, this experience prepared me well to operate the company as a
completely remote organization.

Alife Health was created and critically shaped under the
direction of mentors across the Harvard community.  Their support has helped propel the business
from an idea to reality with enough velocity to create an early-stage company
that is based in Silicon Valley.  We have
a long way to go as a team and as a business, but the access afforded to me as
an alum of the Harvard Business School is unparalleled. I continue to be
grateful for all the opportunities provided to me by Harvard, and I look
forward to paying it forward to future generations of students and graduates.

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