Former Intel and Google exec Diane Bryant tells a heartbreaking story of why she took a CEO job at a startup that hopes to save lives
- Diane Bryant tells Business Insider that she had her friend and former colleague in mind when she took the role of CEO at a startup called Neural Analytics.
- Bryant is best known as a 32-year veteran of Intel, where she helped launch a healthcare unit inside the chip company at the direct behest of legendary CEO Andy Grove after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's. More recently, she did a short stint as the COO of Google Cloud.
- Neural Analytics makes an AI product that can quickly diagnose a stroke, fulfilling Bryant's desire to return to healthcare.
- She took this CEO job in part because she remembered how a stroke - and the doctor that misdiagnosed it - impacted her former Intel colleague Sean Maloney just as he was expected to become Intel's next CEO.
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Diane Bryant announced last week that she had taken the role of CEO with a medical robotics startup called Neural Analytics. The startup is developing technology to assess brain health, and one of its first approved uses is to quickly detect strokes during the sensitive initial 24-hour time-period where medical intervention helps the most.
Taking the job capped a nearly two-year-long search for Bryant, who wanted to fulfill her dream of being a CEO, she told us. She's best known for her 32-year career at Intel, which was followed by a short stint as chief operating officer of Google Cloud. At Intel, she was considered for the CEO role, but ultimately wasn't offered the job.
She spent the last year and half meeting with almost 80 startups and doing due diligence on nearly 60 of them before going with Neural Analytics, she said.
She was looking for "a startup I believed in, and if I felt the founders were open to being advised," she said. All that due diligence helped her narrow her focus to healthcare tech.
Bryant's most prominent achievement at Intel was its data center business, where it makes chips and software for servers, storage and network gear. She grew that unit from zero to $15 billion, she says. During her time there, though, Bryant had also launched a healthcare unit inside Intel, thanks to a phone call out of the blue by Andy Grove, after the legendary former Intel founder and CEO was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
He called her up one day and asked her to help him find ways to study the illness as part of a funding effort in conjunction with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
"We deployed [Internet of Things] devices for a thousand patients," Bryant recalls. The connected devices tracked their gait, tremble, sleep and other metrics to help researchers in determining if their treatments were working. The health group then did a similar thing for cancer researchers.
Of all the things she's done in her career, she said, the work on health tech was by far the most rewarding.
A very personal reason
So she was on the prowl for a health tech company to join and Neural Analytics ultimately won her over, which she attributes to a few reasons.
For one, its founders agreed to stay on and help her. And for another, much more personal reason, Bryant remembers how a stroke nearly cut down her Intel colleague Sean Maloney at the height of his life.
Maloney was widely considered to be on track to become Intel CEO, succeeding Paul Otellini. But in 2010 Maloney had a stroke. He drove to an emergency room where the doctor didn't believe he was having a stroke, told him it was a migraine and sent him home. Later that weekend, he collapsed, Fortune reported in 2011. He fought his way back, and within a year was recovered enough to resume an executive role at Intel, even leading a famous bike ride in 2015 to raise awareness for stroke victims. But he suffered some permanent damage as well.
While Bryant said she recently saw Maloney and he's doing well, he inspired her to want to work on this problem, she told Business Insider.
"Through robotics, through artificial intelligence, you will come in and you put the headset on you, the robotics systems zooms and on the portion of your skull that is thin enough that blood flow can be read. The data is extracted and it is instantly obvious whether you are having a stroke or not," Bryant describes.
Stroke diagnosis is one of the first applications of the product, which achieved FDA approval in 2018 and just launched its first clinical trial partner in October.
But Bryant says that the robotic system maker has even bigger plans.
"Our vision is to eradicate brain illness through early diagnoses," Bryant says. She added that she can't help but wonder "if that doctor had the mechanisms to quickly diagnose an accurate diagnosis, Sean may have been fine."
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