Meet Larry Cohen, Emergence Board of Directors Member
Larry Cohen is on the Board of Directors here at Emergence. He earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of Illinois before completing his postdoctoral work in Molecular Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Department of Biochemistry at Harvard Medical School.
His distinguished career is brimming with accolades and degrees, throughout which his true north star has always been creating relevant and meaningful work.
Seeking to do more than simply study the human condition, Larry quickly left the world of academics and jumped head first into working with biotechnology companies. He became the Vice President of Research at Somatix Therapy Corporation, one of the first gene therapy companies. From there, Larry continued forging his path by serving as President and CEO of various companies, helping to develop therapies for immune and fibrotic diseases, as well as overseeing efforts to create small molecule drugs used to treat cardiovascular diseases. In addition, Larry has also helped develop therapies for respiratory disease and oncology.
For most, that would be more than enough. However, Larry pushes further and digs deeper, always looking for projects where he can make an even greater impact. His goals eventually led him to become the CEO of Health2047, which helps launch and guide companies looking to transform U.S. healthcare at the system level in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA).
Q: It seems that in working at Health 2047, you have found a way to impact the business of medicine directly.
A: That is what we’re aiming to do. Medicine in this country is a mess. There are simply too many stakeholders. There are government regulations, payers, and thousands of different hospital systems. And each has a different motive – motives that can create counterintuitive outcomes, often putting money above mission.
The mission of the American Medical Association is to cut through all that noise. It serves as a not-for-profit neutral party that really has the health of the nation at stake. Health 2047 is the commercial arm of the American Medical Association. However, I feel it is important to state that our goal is always mission over money, and I have found that to be the most satisfying part of our job. Our directive is to help companies whose sole purpose is to examine some of healthcare’s biggest woes and find unique and inspiring solutions.
Q: How many companies are on the Health2047 roster right now?
A: At the moment, there are eight operating companies.
Q: And what does Health2047 do to help them?
A: We support these companies financially, and with any resources and connections we can provide. We don’t simply help launch a company and then wish them well. We stay with them. We expand our efforts from launching to supporting each company where they need it, all while continuing to move into those areas that we think are still underserved in healthcare.
Q: What was it about Emergence that initially stood out?
A: Initially, it was Jae Chun’s simple vision. I think he had a real understanding of the issues facing physicians that wanted to be independent. And in addition, he had a unique take on the problem that, quite frankly, I had never heard before. The idea isn’t original, but his take on it is. In other instances, physicians may find themselves signing up for help and, in turn, end up working for someone else. But not when you sign up with Emergence. In fact, when you sign up, Emergence is working for you. Really. You’re the doctor, and Emergence is the service behind you, tailored to help you in the ways that suit your specific needs.
A: So simple. And it’s that clear vision that distillates the issue that I found attractive. Jae is also deeply committed to what he's trying to do. It’s evident every time you talk to him. His passion is palpable.
Q: Everyone is looking at the medical world or the healthcare industry and seeing significant headwinds when trying to implement change. From your vantage point, what is the Emergence message with respect to private practice?
A: There is so much that goes into being a doctor in private practice. I think it keeps coming back to the sheer simplicity of Emergence. It is a straightforward concept. And it’s not that complicated to assemble and deliver. It doesn't require buy-in from an insurance company or new governmental regulations. It's really about execution. And I think when private practice physicians think about the Emergence offer, it’s really rather compelling: Allow the physician to spend time with patients and let Emergence handle the rest. And I say Emergence in particular because Jae understands what that means to stay out of a doctor's way and help support them. Emergence really sees itself as support.
Q: It seems unfathomable that they don't teach a class in medical school about the business of practicing medicine.
A: If you think about a doctor’s training, they go through years of intense study, and then they're thrown into a hospital system where they follow some senior people around and try their best to figure out what's going on. But nobody ever teaches them how a hospital works. No one explains how insurance companies work. They spend their years in medical school focused on a tiny fraction of what will eventually be required of them.
Q: You talked about the many impediments in place when there are many different stakeholders. What can we do to reverse that?
A: There is so much noise surrounding healthcare. But the key to canceling all of that out is simple. I believe that for the foreseeable future, human interaction is the absolute key to delivery. Ultimately, it's going to be you sitting down with your physician. It's that human relationship that is so important to protect. However, so many pressures on that connection are disrupting the fundamental core of what makes medicine, medicine, and makes medicine effective. And I think that the thing that excites me most about Emergence is that it supports medicine at its core.
Q: When we began this talk, you spoke about wanting to make a difference. And what is more impactful than creating successful human interactions regarding a person's health.
A: That’s right. That’s always been a goal of mine and what Health2047 is striving to support. And that's, you know, where Emergence is solely in the bullseye.