Meet the Expert: Dr. Mike Lynn, CEO + Co-Founder of Hound Labs
In this edition of our ‘Meet the Experts’ series, we sit down with Mike Lynn, CEO + Co-Founder of Hound Labs, to talk breath testing.
Mike co-founded Hound Labs on a simple idea – that the novel combination of science and technology would be the foundation of a cannabis breathalyzer to balance employee safety and privacy in the workplace. Having amassed over 25 years of studying and practicing emergency medicine in the United States and developing countries, Mike brings unique perspectives and practical approaches to solving some of today’s most challenging scientific and medical problems.
Hi Mike, thank you for taking the time to chat. Before we dive into talking about Hound Labs, can you please tell our readers how you developed such a passion for medicine and law enforcement?
Growing up, I was lucky to be surrounded by many role models who focused on helping others. My uncle, a physician focused on global health, would tell me stories about helping families around the world – from Afghanistan to Indonesia and dozens of other countries. My grandfather talked about being a physician in WWII and the impact that experience had on his life. I ultimately spent several years in Asia, South America, and Africa working in public health and clinical medicine. I chose emergency medicine as my specialty because I could reach the widest number of people both in the U.S. and in developing countries.
After finishing medical school, my interests evolved to include law enforcement. While working as an ER physician in Oakland, I spent time with the officers who escorted patients to the hospital for various emergencies. As the officers waited for updates on the patients, they would try to recruit me as we chatted about how they were engaged with the surrounding community. While I didn’t immediately jump at the opportunity to join the team, I finally agreed because I believed my medical training could be of service.
It sounds like that desire to serve and help others also helped fuel your decision to pursue inventing a cannabis breathalyzer. Can you please share how that desire shaped the foundation of Hound Labs?
I realized combining my medical knowledge and practical business training could position me for a significant impact in the area of public health and safety. I began to look into what innovations could address global health issues, support physicians, and help patients receive better care.
As media outlets began writing stories about Colorado and Washington possibly legalizing medical cannabis, I had many conversations with my medical and law enforcement colleagues who worried about the potential problems if drivers began using cannabis before or while driving. I knew the issues that recent consumption of alcohol caused on the roads. And I also understood that while alcohol breathalyzers don’t eliminate or prevent all drunk driving crashes, they have been a proven deterrent since they were introduced in the 1980s. It was then that I started to research whether a cannabis breathalyzer existed. When I realized there was no solution, I quickly decided to recruit some scientists to develop a cannabis breathalyzer.
So, why breath?
My interest in breath stems from years of being an ER physician. When I assess a patient, especially if they are critically ill, I observe their breathing. As I interview them and ask questions about their symptoms, I simultaneously observe the pace and depth of their breathing since breath provides a window into the body and reveals what can otherwise be hidden from view. For example, suppose I see a patient who comes into the ER with a leg wound and the patient has rapid breathing. In that case, I will immediately add sepsis to my list of possible causes for the current symptoms. Another reason I was drawn to breath testing is because breath collection is non-invasive and avoids the mess associated with other body fluids like oral fluid or blood.
What are the biggest challenges facing the drug testing industry right now?
The drug testing industry faces several challenges, including rapid legalization and increasing use of cannabis. But one of the biggest concerns is the misplaced focus on “impairment,” which leaves employers vulnerable to additional risks. With increased use, the discussion around impairment seems to be in constant debate. Impairment is complex and the cause of impairment is difficult to pinpoint. There are no drug tests that prove impairment, and no established impairment levels for any drugs used in workplace testing. However, workplace drug testing is not and has never been about impairment. The foundation of drug testing is grounded in deterrence and that goal has not changed since workplace testing was first introduced more than 40 years ago.
As an emergency room physician, I will be the first to tell you that the objective in healthcare is to prevent folks from ending up in my care. That same mindset can be applied to workplace drug testing – deterrence is proactive while focusing on impairment is reactive. If someone is trying to measure impairment, it’s too late, as the negative consequences of use have typically already occurred.
What have you learned about leadership over the course of your career?
I am constantly evolving as a leader. My work as an ER physician and a reserve deputy sheriff continually propels me to evaluate my leadership skills and style. In both roles, my ability to effectively lead a team can be a matter of life and death. It sounds dramatic, but that is the truth. Whether in a hospital or on the roadside, the people I am leading must trust me, and I must trust them. If I am ineffective, the outcomes could be devastating. Of course, business leadership isn’t always life or death, but my experiences outside of Hound Labs have taught me perspective and allowed me to focus on what’s important.
For more information about the science and technology of the HOUND® CANNABIS BREATHALYZER, connect with our sales team.
About Mike Lynn
Mike Lynn co-founded Hound Labs on a simple idea – that the novel combination of science and technology would be the foundation of a cannabis breathalyzer that balances workplace safety with employee privacy. With more than 25 years of studying and practicing emergency medicine in the United States and developing countries, Mike brings unique perspectives and practical approaches to solving some of today’s most challenging scientific and medical problems. A former White House Fellow and Fulbright Scholar with an extensive background in public policy and public health, Mike is currently a reserve deputy sheriff and a fully qualified and active SWAT team member.
August 24, 2023
By CASEI MALONE