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Vancouver businessman partners with online community to support people with cancer

Punit Dhillon . Submitted

A new online community, called Smart Patients, has partnered with a company called OncoSec, started by a businessman who divides his time between Vancouver and San Diego, to bring people together that are battling cancer.

Punit Dhillon, who has a home in Vancouver, heads up OncoSec, based in San Diego, where they have developed a treatment for the rare and deadly type of skin cancer – Merkel cell carcinoma.

In collaboration with the co-founders of Smart Patients, Roni Zeiger and Gilles Frydman, they feel that an online community of microexperts could not only help support a community of cancer sufferers, but also be an integral part of moving new technologies forward.

“This idea was intriguing to me, because OncoSec has always fostered the idea that the development of the company’s ImmunoPulse technology for the treatment of rare and deadly skin cancers would and could see great success if the company had a comprehensive understanding of the patients needs and a thorough understanding of their disease,” said Dhillon.

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“From these few conversations, we quickly formed an alliance where OncoSec would engage Smart Patients as one of the first companies to help and develop the online communities and test the idea of using these ‘microexperts.'”

Dhillon said there are always challenges in the biotech industry with developing therapies that are appropriate for the patients. “That is because in healthcare, the government and companies are operating in silos,” he said. “Much of product development in the industry happens are also in silos and there is little or no interaction with patients.There is no doubt a wealth of knowledge and data in these silos but there is a need for information from multiple disciplines.”

That is where Smart Patients comes in.

“We cannot underestimate people,” said Dhillon. “We need to enable an environment that allows for this sort of social interaction and exchange.”

Technology is changing the face of medicine, including the way doctors interact with their patients, and Dhillon agreed it is very important to do so.

“It’s incredibly important,” he said. “not only on an IQ component, but an EQ component. Empathy and understanding the patients’ needs is becoming a more and more relevant component of having better healthcare. Empathy has always been there but is increasingly been pushed to the background because of other forces – namely bureaucracy.”

“Online communities such as Smart Patients can help provide insight and answer the questions that may not be able to be captured in a clinical setting. Such technology gives patients another avenue to express their voice and needs.”

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