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Cohesion at the Center: A Conversation with Tiffany Wilson

There are many reasons Tiffany Wilson is energized by the possibilities of the year ahead -- with cohesion across an inclusive ecosystem that champions economic advancement being chief among them.

Read on to learn why 2023 marked a poignant transition for Tif, what philosophy she’s embracing in 2024, and which healthcare trends she has her eye on.

Tiffany Wilson speaking at The 2023 Nucleus Awards

What are your personal and professional highlights from 2023?

Reflecting on 2023, it's been a year of meaningful growth and transition, both professionally and personally.

Professionally, one of the most gratifying experiences has been witnessing our team fully embrace the "One Science Center" ethos. It's been inspiring to see everyone come together, striving for operational efficiency. We've laid a robust foundation that I believe will carry us into 2024 with precision and agility, allowing us to remain creative and collaborative. Another highlight was seeing our programs, especially the Capital Readiness Program and Founders Fellowship, evolve to address the current needs in our startup ecosystem. It's been rewarding to observe how the Science Center's initiatives are aligning to create a significant impact in the coming year. Also, serving as the vice-chair on Mayor Parker's transition team for technology has been an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to our community's technological advancement.

On a personal note, 2023 marked a poignant transition to becoming an "empty nester." It's a bittersweet feeling, watching my children grow into incredible individuals, ready to embark on their own journeys. As I prepare for this new chapter in motherhood, I find myself filled with pride and anticipation for the future. It's a time of reflection and looking forward, both for my family and for myself.

What lessons from this past year will you carry into 2024?

In 2024, I'm wholeheartedly embracing the philosophy of "progress, not perfection," a concept we seeded with the team a few years back. This year, I've recognized the immense value in pursuing ambitious, transformative ideas. The focus is not just on the magnitude of the impact but also on the journey towards it. Indeed, not every initiative will hit the mark perfectly, but that's not the point.

Each step, whether it stumbles or strides, is a part of a learning curve. This approach requires resilience and adaptability and is essential for nurturing and contributing to the startup ecosystem. As we move forward, it's these lessons in growth, perseverance, and innovation that I will carry with me, hoping to make a lasting and meaningful impact.

What healthcare tech trends do you have your eye on?  

Over the last 12 months, artificial intelligence (AI) has dominated discussions at conferences, coverage in the media, and dialog with my peers, and there’s no sign of it slowing. While AI in healthcare isn’t new, the more sophisticated the technology becomes, the louder the adversaries and advocates are.

We know AI is here to stay when governing bodies begin discussing governance, just as we’re seeing with recent Senate hearings and executive orders. One of the things we’ll keep a close eye on is how the government will try to find the right balance between over and under reach in protecting individual rights.

We’re also looking at the impact of AI on the workforce. The shortage of nurses and other healthcare professionals has been widely reported, but hospitals also lack enough people who command the advanced technical skills to develop, implement, and test AI enhanced healthcare. While we don’t see healthcare jobs like nurses and doctors being eliminated, it will take a very different skillset to fill roles requiring safety-first, human-first approaches to leveraging AI in healthcare delivery.

Beyond AI, we’re keeping an eye on the continued convergence of life sciences and technology. We have many more physiologic interventions today than ever before. Studies have affirmed that countries with science-technology innovation had sustained competitiveness and growth. This is evident in the rise of AI-enhanced drug discovery, significantly reducing the time from conceptualization to clinical trials. Digital therapeutics are transforming traditional treatment paradigms, offering innovative solutions like gamified cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. Personalized medicine is gaining momentum, with genetic sequencing paving the way for tailored treatments. Decision support tools in healthcare, powered by machine learning, are enhancing diagnostic accuracy and treatment efficacy. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of telehealth, reshaping patient-doctor interactions and opening new avenues for remote monitoring and diagnostics. These advancements signify a monumental shift in healthcare, driven by the symbiosis of technology and life sciences.

Science and technology are creating a feedback loop to effect better outcomes, but the more advanced the convergence of life science and technology gets, the less accessible it becomes for many patients requiring tech literacy, access to the internet, and connected devices. Science and tech come with incredible opportunity, but the faster the technology moves, the more people can be left behind. And, as we gain more insights into how social determinants of health and genetics impact health and wellness in different populations, life science-technology innovation must leverage that data to inform product design. Startups and established companies alike must embrace the reality of the digital divide, social determinants of health and genetic advances and innovate to bridge those gaps at the same pace they are innovating across science and technology.

With the recent creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), what role do you see Philadelphia playing in accelerating better health outcomes for all Americans?

Philadelphia boasts an incredible concentration of world class medical, research, and academic institutions, a density of promising early-stage and established life sciences companies, and a diverse patient population. These assets make Greater Philadelphia an ideal partner for the ARPANET-H hub and spoke network that together, will drive inclusive health innovation forward for all Americans. Our goal at the Science Center is to ensure Greater Philadelphia institutions and individuals are connected to and benefit from the work of the ARPA-H Customer Experience and Investor Catalyst hubs. It’s an opportunity for the Science Center to lean into its role as a convener of entities, assets, and interest to harness the region’s collective potential and effect meaningful change across the country.

What are your goals for 2024?

As we step into 2024, I am deeply energized by the dynamic innovation landscape in Pennsylvania, especially with the historic election of Philadelphia's first female mayor and a new governor dedicated to fostering innovation. Having had the honor of serving on both transition teams, focusing on innovation and technology, I've gained valuable insights that align closely with my vision for the Science Center.

My primary goal for the year is continuing to broaden and deepen the Science Center's engagement with business and civic leaders. This objective is crucial because it directly aligns with our core values of collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity. By expanding our partnerships, we can more effectively leverage our top-tier programs, stimulating events, and extensive networks. These collaborations will not only enhance our support for life sciences and healthcare technology startups but also bolster our STEM education initiatives and promote a more inclusive workforce.

This goal is not just about growth; it's about creating a more cohesive, innovative, and inclusive ecosystem that champions economic advancement. The Science Center stands at a pivotal point where it can significantly influence the regional innovation and entrepreneurial landscape. By intertwining our efforts with those of our city's and state's leadership, we can amplify our impact, driving economic growth and benefitting not only Greater Philadelphia but the broader society as well through the successful commercialization of new therapies and technologies. This synergy between our goals and the broader objectives of our civic and business leaders is essential for catalyzing successful new ventures and propelling us into a transformative 2024.