I’ve been fortunate enough to live a life distinguished by constant progression, from understanding to impacting, particularly in my career. Trained as a physicist, I was fueled by a deep drive to understand some of the most complex “whys” of our world. Quickly I learned that understanding is more satisfying when it leads to creating positive impact. This motivation eventually led me to build a career at Illumina, as their Chief Engineering Officer. Their breakthrough genomic products that our team developed redefined medicine and how we think about disease. This transformed the company into a biotech giant making waves in healthtech.
PROGRESS AND PRODUCTIVITY SHOULD NO LONGER BE HINDERED BY THE MYRIAD OF TRUST AND INEQUITY ISSUES THAT AFFECT FOCUS AND ABILITY TO WORK TOGETHER IN CREATIVE, INNOVATIVE WAYS”
During my 15-year tenure, Illumina grew from a research start up of 30 employees to a global genomics leader of 3,000 employees with $1.5 billion in revenue. The work we did to reduce the cost of genome sequencing from a million dollars in 2006 to $1,000 in 2015 makes me particularly proud. The products developed enabled new applications for DNA sequencing in agriculture, pathogen identification and precision medicine. Michael Schatz of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory said that the ability to sequence a genome in a day for less than $1,000 “is a major human accomplishment on par with the development of the telescope or the microprocessor.”
The $1,000-genome breakthrough paved the way for many health companies and technologies to follow suit, but there was still so much more to be done to transform medicine. While genomics was saving lives in cancer and early onset childhood diseases, structural barriers blocked the discovery floodgates from bursting open. That’s why in 2017, I joined forces with like-minded leaders to found LunaPBC™, the public benefit corporation spearheading an innovative health data platform, LunaDNA™, with the goal of eliminating those barriers.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) qualified LunaDNA’s unique offering in December 2018, recognizing data as currency to purchase shares in the company. LunaDNA became the world’s first community-owned health platform. This people-first model solves previous industry research and structural challenges, such as data silos, data usage non-transparency, and value imbalance. Less than one year later, LunaPBC was named a 2019 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for deploying an innovative solution to transform healthcare and create worldwide impact.
Since the barriers to discovery are no longer linked to generating genomic data economically, or even managing such a large data set, this innovative solution isn’t as much technical as it is structural. Current barriers to collecting and using this data to develop breakthrough treatments to diseases, like cancer and Alzhiemer’s, are based on historical approaches that lacked people engagement and secure, trust-based systems and processes in sharing personal health data.
Over the past few decades, I focused on understanding the challenges of solving this problem by seeking counsel from mentors, colleagues, and literature. I was inspired by David Pink’s book, “Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose Lead to Flow.” If we empower people, set them up for success through mentoring and support, and connect them to a project that has meaning and purpose, people will rise to the challenge and do what it takes to succeed. Progress and productivity should no longer be hindered by the myriad of trust and inequity issues that affect focus and ability to work together in creative, innovative ways.
LunaDNA provides members autonomy over personal data, education on the research journey, pride in community-driven discovery, and ability to pursue the grandest purpose of all – enabling longer, healthier lives.