Wood received her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, School of Hygiene and Public Health. Her Ph.D. work combined quantifying three-dimensional lung structure with changes in lung function using high-resolution CT imaging. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University, and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.
We sat down with Wood to discuss her background in studying lung disease, avid interest in physiology and how Vida is enabling more efficient respiratory clinical trials.
OSP: Could you give us an overview of the work you do at VIDA Diagnostics and tell us about the company’s cloud platform?
At VIDA, we use AI, analytics and clinical understanding to act on our mission of accelerating the adoption of life-saving therapies to patients. We’re largely focused on lung and respiratory diseases because of the growing prevalence and mortality rates. In addition, the therapies for these diseases are typically more expensive and time-consuming to develop than other disease classes.
Imaging offers high quality and structured data when it’s acquired properly. Through our digital biomarker solution, which offers over 50 clinically validated imaging-based biomarkers—delivering approximately 15,000 metrics per study—we can precisely measure physiological structure and function of the lung. These metrics are utilized by clinical trial sponsors to strengthen the evidence for their drugs, and to better understand the physiological impact of their therapies.
Generating these powerful digital biomarkers isn’t possible without repeatable collection of high quality imaging data. Empowering sites to acquire high quality data with ease is a key focus for VIDA and was the motivation behind our trial imaging management platform. The cloud-based platform leverages AI and automation to make life easy for sites participating in imaging-based trials. As a result, it ensures that high quality data is collected, and that trials are cost-effective for pharmaceutical sponsors.
Our platform manages certifications, orchestrates tasks, connects team members, manages data flow, provides eLearning and much more. We can see the positive impact in the data – we are now receiving scans eight days faster with higher quality than previously when we compare sites’ behavior before and after using the platform.
OSP: How is VIDA making clinical trials more accessible through decentralization?
Decentralization of clinical trials has been a focus for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced many trials out of large academic centers and into smaller, more accessible sites. That said, the challenge of decentralizing clinical trials that involve imaging lies in the lack of technology – patients don’t have a CT or MRI scanner in their living room. However, widespread adoption of decentralization is possible for imaging trials if we can enable a wide network of imaging centers to be certified for high quality, consistent data capture.
This is exactly what we are doing. VIDA now has partnerships with major imaging centers across the U.S. and Europe so that clinical trial imaging can be distributed and accessible to a broader, more representative population. It’s a big improvement from the days in which clinical trial imaging was centralized in major academic institutions with specialized training for clinical trial-level imaging. Our trial imaging management platform is the key to enabling this broad network of imaging sites. The platform makes it easier for sites to achieve certification and participate in trials. It's a win for patients too, because it expands access to trials in which enrollment might’ve previously been difficult or prohibitive due to their location.
OSP: When did your interest in science develop?
I’ve always been interested in how things work, and I've always been an avid exerciser which sparked my interest in physiology. The human body is the most complex of machines. You can build a plane and make it fly, but it’s extremely difficult to understand how a human makes decisions.
I started off in engineering as an undergraduate, but I quickly combined my engineering studies with health and moved on to a biomedical engineering program. In graduate school, I became interested in how we can use technology to understand the human body and tackle disease.
OSP: What piqued your interest?
One of my first jobs out of college was with the government – I worked for a branch of the government that had access to the highest available computational power. But overall, the job didn’t align with my values and interest, and I knew that I wanted to help people directly when it came to their health. So, I took my understanding of computation technology and looked for ways to integrate it with my understanding of the human body. That was the baseline for my love of what I do now.
OSP: Can you tell us about your journey to where you are now?
In graduate school, I was introduced to the complexities of the lung and lung disease and ever since I've had an affinity for understanding it and the way it functions in the body. I worked in academic medicine and had access to the best CT scanners on the market which we used to quantitate the intricacies of the lung and its breathing capacity. I was always interested in how the lung worked, so I left academic medicine for entrepreneurship and worked at several start-ups that were using cutting-edge technology, like AI and image analytics, to better understand and solve big, health-related problems. During this time, I got my “MBA on the streets,” and I took all that I learned from school to my first job with the government to my time with various start-ups
Women in Science: How Vida Diagnostics’ Dr. Susan Wood is overhauling lung and respiratory care
and brought all that experience to VIDA where we are focused on getting high quality therapies to patients faster than before.
OSP: Have you encountered any bumps in the road along the way?
Of course! An entrepreneurial journey tends to have more failures than successes. I'm a firm believer that challenges make you stronger and learning from your mistakes allows you to build your roadmap for the next opportunity. And healthcare journeys, generally, have longer roads to success.
I’ve also gleaned from my experience that there’s a bias in the system when it comes to women entrepreneurs. There’s data to back this up, but women get funded considerably less than their male counterparts. More diversity in funding is the first step in a long journey to make entrepreneurship more equitable. I devote a lot of my personal time to mentoring women entrepreneurs because I want to make sure that I can help them with any roadblocks that might be there because of biases.