Managed Healthcare Executive's October issue headlines 10 healthcare leaders in its fourth annual "10 Emerging Industry Leaders" feature. MHE spotlights each leader individually with a Q&A interview between MHE and the emerging leader.
Othman Laraki, M.S., MBA, CEO and co-founder, Color, Burlingame, California
I grew up in Morocco and studied computer science and engineering at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Before founding Color, I spent several years at Google and helped lead a variety of key product initiatives. I also co-founded Mixer Labs and developed its GeoAPI platform, which was subsequently acquired by Twitter in 2009. From there, I served as the social media network’s vice president of product and helped expand its user base from 50 million to 200 million unique accounts.
At Color, I lead a talented team of individuals dedicated to building a digital health infrastructure to support large-scale health challenges such as a pandemic, with the ultimate aim to make healthcare more accessible, affordable and convenient for everyone.
Why did you choose your profession?
A complicated and inefficient genetic testing experience made me realize that there are significant gaps in our healthcare system, with limited opportunities to share valuable information with stakeholders along the care delivery spectrum. I entered this industry so I could help support our fragmented infrastructure and create a system where we all can access the insights that can inform our care.
What has been your biggest learning experience in the industry? What did it teach you?
Our experience solving for large-scale health challenges such as actionable genetic insights and COVID-19 testing reiterated the fact that the country’s public health infrastructure is severely fragmented and ill-equipped to coordinate care delivery at scale.
How has COVID-19 affected your responsibilities and how your organization operates? How might your job and your organization change because of the pandemic?
The COVID-19 crisis poses the greatest health crisis of our generation. Given that, we are committed to doing whatever we can to help. Earlier this year, we extended our headquarters to support a high-throughput COVID-19 testing facility to help with national testing efforts. We’ve also partnered with local governments, including the city of San Francisco, Alameda County and Marin County; universities such as the University of Southern California and Morehouse School of Medicine; and employers. Our testing technology has received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA, and we also received an EUA for an unmonitored dry-swab COVID-19 test.
COVID-19 hasn’t changed our organization; instead, it has shown that our model, which we’ve used for genetic testing, can be repurposed to serve other large health initiatives. This has huge implications for the future of both our business and healthcare in this country.
How has the current discussion of racism and healthcare inequity affected you, your outlook and your organization? What has been the short-term response, and what do you envision happening over the long term to your organization and American healthcare?
Between our work in genetics and COVID-19, Color has always strived to increase access to the valuable information that can inform a patient’s care. We currently support the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us initiative; 80% of the participants come from underresearched settings. We have also made great strides to expand our COVID-19 testing facilities to the people who need them most and are actively engaging with individuals from underserved populations.
What other kinds of changes do you expect to see in healthcare in the next five to 10 years?
I believe we’re entering a renaissance in our public health system where technology will fill the current gaps in our existing infrastructure. By creating a model that allows people to both access information about their health and easily engage with clinicians and payers, healthcare can and will be delivered more proactively, efficiently and effectively.
What have you enjoyed about social distancing and extra stay-at-home time during the past few months?
The drastic reduction of traffic and lack of need to drive to work has allowed me to do early morning bike rides much more often.