The Corridor Conversation: Gavi Begtrup
Gavi Begtrup, Ph.D. is the chief executive officer of Eccrine Systems, Inc., a privately-held biotechnology company focused on pharmacoeccrinology – precision medicine through measurement of individual drug responses in eccrine sweat.
Dr. Begtrup previously founded and was CEO of an agricultural materials startup and has supported technology commercialization and startup formation for research organizations and venture investment. He is an expert in micro- and nano-electromechanical systems, is the author of popular and scientific articles, and is an inventor on multiple issued and pending patents for novel nanoscale devices and sweat sensing systems.
Prior to a career in technical entrepreneurship, Dr. Begtrup was the policy advisor for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, developing legislation in oversight of NASA, the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. He also served as science and technology policy fellow at the National Academies of Science. Dr. Begtrup received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Berkeley and his B.S. from Western Kentucky University.
1. Tell us a little about Eccrine Systems, Inc.
Eccrine Systems is dedicated to improving health, safety and productivity through advanced sweat sensing technologies. The Cincinnati-based company is deploying its breakthrough platform to enable pharmacoeccrinology, an exciting new field of precision medicine that will enable prescribers to optimize pharmacotherapy more rapidly and cost-effectively through non-invasive measurement of individual drug responses in eccrine sweat.
Non-optimized pharmacotherapy costs Americans over $500 billion a year. A significant portion of this problem stems from the inability to identify individual response to drugs, leading to suboptimal therapeutic outcomes and too much time and energy expended on getting dosing right. Americans fill over four billion prescriptions a year, but prescribers make dosing decisions based on population studies with limited data to consider the myriad factors that affect an individual’s dose response. To address this issue, Eccrine is developing systems to derive individual drug response data based on measurement of drug and biomarker levels excreted in locally stimulated sweat. Real-world drug response data will help prescribers personalize dosing to improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.
2. How has Cincinnati’s innovation ecosystem helped Eccrine be successful?
Eccrine is the quintessential Cincinnati startup story. The original concept for sweat sensing was developed by Eccrine co-founder and University of Cincinnati professor Jason Heikenfeld to address a request from the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to monitor the health of Air Force pilots. Jason and long-time Cincinnati entrepreneur Robert Beech co-founded the company while Bob and I were working for Cincytech on their life sciences portfolio. Cincytech was instrumental in getting the company off the ground—they led our early funding rounds and continue to support us. We located our operations at the HCDC Business Center starting in 2015, and they have been wonderfully supportive as we’ve grown. Along the way we’ve benefited from continuing collaboration with UC—we didn’t miss a beat to work with the new UC 1819 Innovation Hub—and with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and we have received strong support from local investors. We’ve grown aggressively with access to the wonderful talent available in the tri-state region and by recruiting talent from across the country to the Queen City. We’re excited about the future of the Uptown Innovation Corridor as we continue to expand.
3. What can we expect from Eccrine in 2019?
Eccrine is the first in the world to demonstrate that pharmacokinetics, how your body processes medication, can be measured non-invasively through sweat. That demonstration created a tremendous opportunity to improve how medicine is practiced, and 2019 is about turning that promise into reality. We will continue to push the envelope for sweat-sensing technology: we’ll develop new targets for our electrochemical aptamer-based sensors, which utilize short sequences of DNA to continuously measure biomarkers in sweat; our microfluidics systems will sample mere microliters (1/60th of a drop) of sweat; and our sweat stimulation systems will cause on-demand perspiration from a nickel-sized spot of skin. And we’ll integrate all that together into the first system that can provide personal pharmacokinetic profiling. Stay tuned!
4. Is music still a part of your life?
Alas face-melting guitar solos have given way to chauffeuring my daughters to musical theater rehearsals. I do believe strongly in the value of creative outlets, and music has long been a way for me to express something new. Today Eccrine is my great creative endeavor. Instead of fronting a rock band, I’m the conductor leading a highly creative and talented team through a command performance on the world stage.