Isaac Kinde, co-founder, vice president technology assessment

The unexpected path leading between Isaac Kinde’s hometown in California and the $2 billion health care company he helped launch before he turned 40 started with the lure of a Baltimore university program aimed at increasing diversity in science, engineering and related fields.

Recruited by the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Kinde immersed himself in medical research as an undergraduate, spending as many as 40 hours per week in the lab of his mentor – Michael Summers, Ph.D. – and even more on breaks.

“I just remember really loving what I was doing,” Kinde told the UMBC Magazine. That feeling led him to an M.D./Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University, about 10 miles down the road.

Kinde turned his focus to cancer research, with a particular interest in developing effective screening tests to detect the disease in its early stages. Bert Vogelstein, M.D, the renowned Johns Hopkins scientist whose pioneering research first unveiled the molecular basis of a common human cancer, remembers being “immediately impressed” by Kinde. Vogelstein found a place for him in his prolific laboratory, setting the stage for what would later become Thrive Earlier Detection Corp.

Envision a different outcome

Traditional screening tools, such as mammography or colonoscopy, lead to the diagnosis of about 20% of cancers, enabling earlier, life-saving treatment. But some experts believe that figure could skyrocket to 75% with the introduction of fluid-based tests known as liquid biopsies. That’s the focus of Thrive, where Kinde now serves as a co-founder and vice president of technology assessment.

The technology at the heart of Thrive, CancerSEEK, is a liquid biopsy test that uses specific biomarkers to detect more than 10 types of cancer at early stages. A noninvasive test conducted through an ordinary blood sample, it could be offered alongside other routine blood work and was projected to cost under $500 – a scientific advance that could upend when and how clinicians screen for cancer.

When Exact Sciences Corp. announced in 2020 that it was acquiring Thrive for an eye-popping $2.15 billion, the Wisconsin-based company was effusive about its purchase. Kevin Conroy, the company’s chairman and CEO asserted: “The acquisition of Thrive is a giant leap toward ensuring blood-based multi-cancer screening becomes a reality and eventually, the standard of care.”

Beyond the headlines

Kinde’s is a remarkable story – a California native whose genius and drive may alter the course of cancer detection and treatment. But it is also a Baltimore story, highlighting a citywide innovation landscape that attracts and grows talent; builds networks that connect investors, institutions and ideas; clears pathways to enable success; and scales effective projects that affect Baltimore and beyond.