Shashi Shankar, MPH'13
CO-FOUNDER / CEO STEALTH STARTUP
“I’ll always be grateful for my TDI experience—it honestly changed the course of my life.”
Shashi Shankar credits the experience he gained earning his Master’s in Public Health degree (in 2013) in Dartmouth’s 11-month MPH program for jump-starting his highly successful career in the biotechnology industry and powering his decision to start a healthcare company.
“Coming out of Dartmouth, I was able to land a very competitive summer internship at Genentech/Roche, the world’s top biopharmaceutical company, and that later led to a full-time position there—in both cases, I was recruited by TDI alums,” recalls Shankar, who had graduated from Bates College as a Howard Hughes Scholar with a BS (English, chemistry, and physics) and would later earn his MBA from Johns Hopkins University as a Carey Scholar.
But before joining the biotechnology industry full-time, Shankar wanted to broaden his healthcare experience. He was recruited to join the Advisory Board Company—formerly a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm focused on healthcare organizations—as a senior analyst, before joining a non-profit association where he helped to bring standardization to the health insurance market following passage of the Affordable Care Act.
After returning to Genentech, Shankar was promoted into a series of key leadership roles at the company, overseeing marketing and personalized healthcare programs before transferring to the company’s European headquarters to help lead their global digital health initiatives.
“The mix of coursework and experiences I had at Dartmouth—from learning about basic accounting and health economics, to social determinants of health and health disparities, to population health and accountable care organizations—taught by many of the leaders in the field, provided phenomenal training for my career,” he says.
Shankar recently left his job as global digital health lead at Genentech/Roche to cofound a new healthcare company with colleague Abe Abraham, MD, MBA, who is also a Genentech alum.
“Our singular goal is to save lives by building the world’s highest quality health data, and our work is heavily influenced by what I studied at Dartmouth,” he explains. “We’re building a novel way to help researchers better understand the patient journey with richer health data. We truly believe what we’re creating can dramatically reduce the time it takes to get life-saving drugs to market.
“And we’ve been completely blown away by the interest we’re seeing from top pharma companies,” adds Shankar, who says the startup is venture-backed and counts executives from some of the world’s leading healthcare and tech companies as investors.
As senior medical affairs manager at Genentech, Shankar led the launch of a highly successful therapeutic for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) called OCREVUS, which became the number one prescribed MS medicine in the world.
“Genentech was primarily known as a cancer drug company at the time, so few people recognized that we could develop a game-changing therapeutic for MS,” he says. “One of the keys to our success was harnessing the power of shared decision making. It underscored the importance of patients being active participants in the decisions that are made around their care management and treatments, and how crucial it is in helping them manage a chronic illness like MS.
“I actually brought in some folks from Dartmouth that I’d worked with, and we did a two-year study with one of the country’s leading MS centers,” Shankar says. “It was published in academic journals and international conferences, and showed that shared decision making improved the quality of life for patients with MS. One of my favorite moments was when we flew to Berlin, Germany together to give a major presentation at a top conference for MS—that was a real full circle moment for me.”
When asked what stands out to him most about The Dartmouth Institute’s MPH program, Shankar says several things come to mind. “I think the duration of the program is excellent—it’s very intense, and the fact that you can do it in a year was really a difference maker for someone like me, who wanted to immediately go out into the real world and put what I’d been learning into practice.
“I liked that the program’s specific focus is on the American healthcare system, where I wanted to focus my efforts, and that I was learning from a place where pioneers like Dr. Jack Wennberg and others have been reshaping the healthcare system for decades,” he says.
“And there was never a class where we were not encouraged, and sometimes were pushed, to offer different viewpoints and have lively debates. I really loved that about TDI’s culture, and it’s how I met some of my greatest friends I have today. I think if you leave a program and all it does is reinforce what you already thought before you came in, it does a disservice to you.”
He adds: “I’ll always be grateful for my TDI experience—it honestly changed the course of my life.”