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YouScript CEO Kristine Ashcraft. (YouScript Photo)

Modern drugs are lifesavers. But they can — and frequently do — cause more harm than good.

Here’s a staggering fact: around 128,000 people die each year from a bad reaction to their medications, making adverse drug reactions deadlier than diabetes, AIDS, pneumonia or car accidents.

Seattle-based startup YouScript is a precision medicine startup that aims to reduce damaging side effects caused by drugs by making software to help caregivers prescribe them more intelligently. In order to make a difference, the company first needs to update the systems that clinicians depend on.

“Do you remember when we planned road trips using paper maps?” said YouScript CEO Kristine Ashcraft. “Today, we prescribe drugs using the equivalent of paper maps.”

Less-than-optimal drug prescription methods also result in gigantic costs to the healthcare system writ large. Some researchers have pegged the figure at more than $500 billion. What makes the problem even more challenging is that 15 percent of patients now take five or more medications daily, a figure that is only expected to grow.

YouScript’s software looks at interactions between drugs as well as the patient’s pharmacogenomics, which are genetic tests that help determine which drugs to prescribe at what dosages.

With that bird’s-eye view of an individual’s pharmacological risk factors, YouScript can provide useful information to clinicians in real-time. The startup launched in 2016 and is now integrated with the two major electronic health record systems, Epic and Cerner, as well as the software systems used by pharmacies.

In the future, YouScript will sync patients’ genetic information across healthcare systems to see how new medications might respond to genetics and other factors.

We caught up with Ashcraft for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

What does your company do? YouScript’s personalized medication management technology synthesizes all evidence impacting drug response, including genomics, to support doctors and pharmacists in making faster, more proactive decisions at the point of care. Clinically validated and successfully implemented in major health systems, our mission is to end avoidable adverse drug events.

Inspiration hit us when: When a patient’s Alzheimer’s turned out to be a missed genetic interaction, it became clear that better tools were needed for personalizing drugs and doses. Since then, published peer-reviewed studies have confirmed that YouScript and targeted pharmacogenomic testing reduces ED visits, hospitalizations, readmissions, death, and costs. We have the tools and technology today to dramatically improve medication management and reduce avoidable patient harm.

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: So far, we have been angel and friends and family-backed. Healthcare has a long sales cycle and if you are not an industry insider, it can be hard to get venture funding from the gate. We did win the Cleveland Clinical Medical Innovation Startup Showcase in October, and are currently working to finalize a Series A venture round.

Our ‘secret sauce’ is: You can think of YouScript as the Waze of medication management. Instead of warning of traffic jams, we warn of metabolic traffic jams whether the cause is drugs, genes, herbals, over-the-counters, or foods like grapefruit juice. And just as Waze offers alternates when issues are found, we provide real-time alternative drugs or doses that reduce the risk. Other tools used for decades are binary in nature, like codified paper maps. We have four patents [issued] on multi-factor drug interaction detection. We also have a patent on stack-ranking patients that will benefit from pharmacogenomic testing so that providers know who to test, and payers know who to cover testing for.

The smartest move we’ve made so far: The smartest move we’ve made so far is being sure to build a mission-driven team. It is hard to be part of the early team in a startup and unless you are committed to the mission, it is hard to stay focused and driven.

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: The biggest mistake so far was underestimating the time from ‘yes’ to a contract in enterprise healthcare. Even from yes, it is a several month process.

Which leading entrepreneur or executive would you most want working in your corner? We are blessed to have a stellar board of directors already, but if I had to choose someone outside of my circle, it would be Judy Faulkner at Epic.

Our favorite team-building activity is: Casual potlucks, hikes, monthly D&D games — whatever lets people get to know each other better.

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: Mission-driven and alignment with the role.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: Self-care matters. It’s easy to put in long hours to make it happen, but if you do not take time out to exercise and decompress, it’s counterproductive.

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