Meet Bas Hulsken, Quibim’s new CTO
‘Focus and accelerate to impact healthcare’
Bas is many things but there’s a common thread in his resume: being first. First to show a chemical reaction with resolution to see individual atoms in the reactants. First to obtain FDA approval for a digital pathology solution for primary diagnosis. First person I meet in a long time who talks about failure before success.
“Failing is an essential part of innovation,” he said. “Fail as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Then you know what works and you’ll succeed faster.”
This enthusiastic Dutchman has brought innovative technology driven by his curiosity and desire to have an impact.
“I like to change the world’s status quo. New things have the largest impact.”
Our new CTO has a dual masters’ degree in Physics & Biophysics and a Ph.D. in Physics from Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. As part of his Ph.D., he explored the liquid-solid interface with scanning tunneling microscopy, showing for the first time each step of a chemical reaction with resolution to see individual atoms in the reactants.
“I really like physics. It helps me understand and build medical equipment,” he said. “Biology helps you grasp how treatment and diagnosis work. Healthcare has the largest immediate impact,” he believes.
When Philips increased its focus on healthcare, he happily joined in to keep on working on solutions that can change the world.
For over a decade, Bas worked for Philips Digital and Computational Pathology. As co-founder and CTO of the entity, he brought the world’s first FDA-approved digital pathology solution for primary diagnosis from ideation to a global market leader in digital pathology.
“I worked to unchain the pathologists from their microscopes and enable them to diagnose from digital images anywhere in the world,” he said.
With Bas as their CTO, Philips Digital Pathology grew to a team of 400+ employees delivering a scale-out platform for a virtual pathology lab based on high-performance digital slide scanners, image processing, artificial intelligence, and a full diagnostic software solution. He built a cloud-based data science platform to enable multi-site development of regulated apps for the digital pathology lab and led the research and advanced development group for AI, image sensors, signal processing, control systems, and optics.
After Philips Digital Pathology received FDA clearance and delivered stable and fast growth, Bas switched gears and became head of architecture for Philips Precision Diagnosis, a 6bn revenue cluster that comprises diagnostic imaging, ultrasound, enterprise diagnostic informatics, genomics, radiation therapy planning, and digital pathology.
A narrower range with a broader scope
As a physicist, Bas has always had an interest in numbers. He was playing with neural networks as early as 1997. “I did many numerical simulations for my research, that stayed with me. I really like data and particularly AI. It’s a fascinating domain and it’s made huge steps. It already has an impact in healthcare.”
AI is also a hard necessity in the field, as huge amounts of medical data are being generated every day. “You’d think it’s great for physicians to have all this data. But they’re already overloaded. Only having more data to work with, without the tools to make sense of that data will only slow them down.
As Quibim CTO, Bas will continue to fight the view that extra data brings more value and that to measure something extra necessarily improves care.
“The data needs to be filtered and processed to speed up workflows and impact care. You need to add something that doesn’t slow you down. Data is not insights. We don’t need just more data. We need solutions that help medical professionals distill actionable information and better insights from that data to improve diagnosis and treatment. AI must play a role here.”
AI can have even more impact with radiology than with pathology in the short term, he believes, as digital diagnostic imaging is ubiquitous and non-invasive. “AI can help extract quantitative information and insights from those imaging exams. And those diagnostic images are taken in-vivo, without unpleasant biopsies and without the concern that taking tissue or liquids out of the body changes the biomarkers that you want to measure.”
At Quibim, he hopes to improve human health on all these fronts, but also to date an old flame, as the role takes him back to his early pathology days. “I had to focus on understanding the technology and sales challenges. Now I can do that with radiology, which is already digital. We don’t need to build scanners, it’s all here. We can just focus on the digital imaging data. That’s a narrower range with a broader scope.”
He’s also pleased to guide Quibim’s diverse team. “Those teams are the strongest. That’s my most important learning.”