This Research Director is combining A.I. technology with healthcare processes to invent new ways to treat a myriad of diseases and conditions.
Speaking with Dr. Dean Ho is a little like talking to a futurist. There’s a sense of endless possibilities that his team has seen but, for us, lies somewhere in our future. A Research Director who’s revolutionising personalised healthcare, Dr. Ho has been harnessing Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) to design clinical trials for different purposes, including novel drug development and more recently, formulating optimal drug combinations for COVID-19.
He explains, “We managed to use A.I. to optimise combination therapies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and we’ve had encouraging feedback from clinicians. We’ve strengthened our collaborations with health surveillance experts and field epidemiologists so we can implement this knowledge clinically.”
His work in nanomedicine — literally nanoscopic diamonds that carry drugs to specific diseased cells in the body has defined the entire field, offering bold, sci-fi-like visions of how it can be used to cure cancer, for example.
Growing up in Los Angeles, an only child of two parents who migrated to the United States to pursue their education, Dr. Ho learned from a young age that success was about ensuring that his achievements added value back into the world and empowered those he worked with.
“My mother was a community leader who helped boost educational initiatives in our community,” he says. His father was a professor and excellent mentor to his students, and an innovator in various fields from biomedical to aerospace engineering. It taught Dr. Ho the importance of fostering a close-knit team at work, and being a responsible and nurturing parent and husband.
A proud father of two, he describes his son Ethan as an inquisitive child who adores sharks and all marine creatures, while his younger daughter is a free-spirited, creative individual. He met his wife, Dr. Sarah Ahn, in college when both of them were pursuing biomedical doctorates, although she would switch careers to study fashion design and establish her own label, NAMI.
When they moved to Singapore to start the next phase of his career, he started organising the family’s financial future and healthcare protection with Opus by Prudential. “I was able to set up funds for my children’s future education so they are all provided for, along with our healthcare planning,” he explained. His foresight would prove to be a lifesaver.
“Several months after we moved here, my wife ended up in the emergency room and we found out that she had a brain tumour. It... was a shock,” he recalled quietly. “After my wife’s diagnosis, I was completely and utterly lost. I’m usually the one who knows what’s next, because that's what I do. Now we were on the other side.”
He credits his Opus Financial Consultant with managing all the medical paperwork and costs, and the community of friends and colleagues who rallied around them. It enabled him to focus on getting his family back on their feet.
This also made him realise that while the technology he is developing can help patients recover, remaining personally engaged with their families is also essential in the recovery process. “Empathy, concern, answering questions over and over again, to keep them grounded is crucial.” That’s something clinicians and insurance providers such as Opus offer to their customers: their dedicated attention and support.
Dr. Ho’s work is designed to solve the greatest challenge in healthcare — improving access, cost and the quality of healthcare simultaneously. The clinical trials he’s developed have demonstrated his success, one of which was a collaborative project with his father focused on optimising drug therapy for liver transplant patients, in order to prevent organ rejection.
“We were able to use A.I. to recommend appropriate dosages, but not only that, we could see an immediate and real benefit: patients could be discharged from intensive care up to a month earlier,” he says animatedly. “It was amazing to work with my dad to realise these outcomes for patients.”
His next challenge is to scale up from clinical trials to provide treatments for the general population. He relates his work closely to how he views fatherhood and family. “We’re often approached by families and communities who need help for a loved one. As a father, I want my children to know I’ll always be there to help them when they need it. That’s the same hope I have for the technologies we’ve developed.” Dr. Ho is building the groundwork for a utopian future where today’s illnesses could be easily and inexpensively cured, by really rethinking how we develop medical care. That’s a great legacy worth honouring.