AllStripes: How this HealthTech Company Leverages Science to Advance Rare Disease Research (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2)

A two-part interview with AllStripes co-founder Nancy Yu on PatientWorthy went in depth about Yu’s background, why she started the company, and plans for the future. It begins by highlighting her interest in how science and technology interact with one another.

Yu explained how growing up near the technology industry in the Bay Area had an impact on her career path. “I was at an intersection between doing science and research in the lab and trying to figure out how to get that technology into the real world.” She said that was too restrictive, though, because she wanted to make changes to the broader system rather than just one part of the world.

Yu then worked with biopharma companies until she decided she wanted to do some hands-on science herself. This led her to join the team at 23andMe, where she once again honed her understanding of how medicine and technology intersect and pushed to set up drug discovery for the business.

In 2016 Yu met rare disease patient advocate Onno Faber, who himself was diagnosed with a rare disease called neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2). Together the two began thinking of ways they could use science and technology to help rare disease patients receive better care and more detailed clinical trials. Soon Yu and Faber combined their work to make patients active participants in the drug development and research process, and Allstripes was founded.

One in 10 people are affected by a rare disease, yet rare disease patients are still incredibly underrepresented in medical research. Yu said AllStripes was founded “to unlock more treatment options for people with rare diseases.” She explained that the program is free for all users, and that patients have complete ownership over their own data, allowing them to leave at any time. Yu also discussed AllStripes’ internal research team, which helps to research conditions which don’t have active research programs.

The second part of the interview is more about AllStripes as a company. There are currently 50 different rare disease programs listed on AllStripes and, Yu explained, the team is working to add new programs each month and hopes to double the list by next year.

Yu noted that the most common feedback she receives about AllStripes is the ease of access. She says most users are surprised that they don’t have to upload their own data, and that the speed and convenience of the program is also very appreciated.

Yu says that the past years have been a time for the company to grow and expand its reach, and that doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic has been both difficult and rewarding for the team.

Looking towards the future, Yu mentioned the company’s $50 million fundraising round in August 2021. This money will be used to fund 100 new rare disease research programs, and eventually, Yu said, she would like to open the program to any condition.

Read Part 1 of the interview here, and Part 2 of the interview here.