I’ve been fortunate enough to live a life distinguished by constant progression from understanding to impacting, and do so in the thriving tech hub of San Diego. Trained as a physicist, I’ve been 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 the San Diego–born company, Illumina, as their Chief Engineering Officer. Illumina’s breakthrough genomic products that our teams developed redefined medicine and how we think about disease.
During my 15-year tenure, Illumina grew from a research startup 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 one million dollars in 2006 to one thousand in 2015 makes me particularly proud. The $1,000-genome breakthrough paved the way for many health and technology companies to follow suit. Many San Diego startups built talented, mission-driven teams fed by the local pool of talent.
While genomics was saving lives in cancer and early onset childhood diseases, structural barriers still blocked the health discovery floodgates from bursting open. That’s why I joined forces with like-minded leaders in San Diego to build a team of talented genomics health pioneers to solve this complex problem. Formed in October 2017, LunaPBC™, an investor-owned public benefit corporation, is building an innovative health data platform, LunaDNA™, with the goal of eliminating those barriers.
In December 2018, when the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) qualified LunaDNA’s offering to recognize health data as currency, LunaDNA became the world’s first community-owned health data sharing platform. This people-first model solves previous industry research and structural challenges, such as data silos, non-transparency in data usage, and value imbalance. Less than one year later, LunaPBC was named a 2019 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for deploying an innovative solution to create worldwide impact in healthcare.
Throughout my career, I focused first on finding the intersection between my passions, my capability, where I could create real value, and where there was a strong market opportunity. Once an opportunity was identified the focus turned to understanding challenges, solving problems, and implementing solutions either within an existing company or through the founding of a new company. Since no single person can make a company successful, it is important to hire a good team, develop the team, and expand the team over time to accomplish the company’s short- and long-term goals.
From my experience building teams at both Illumina and LunaPBC, I have learned that success and innovation comes from empowering team members to be creative in solving problems, ensuring the problems they are solving are aligned with corporate priorities and strategies, and encouraging team members to collectively solve problems with innovative solutions.
The future of innovation is becoming more about harnessing exponential technologies to improve our lives and developing creative new business models to address structural or value delivery challenges in the market place. San Diego is well positioned because some of the world’s greatest challenges require teams that are comprised of a diversity of skill sets and those who are comfortable working cross-functionally. Successful San Diego companies today are developing resources that thrive on cross-functional teams empowered to operate as startups within the larger company, providing an incubator for future entrepreneurs.
LunaPBC is fortunate enough to have been born in a city where ambitious ideas are converted into successful, thriving companies. We’re solving some of the world’s most complex problems with LunaDNA, providing members autonomy over their personal data, education on the research journey, pride in community-driven discovery, and the ability to pursue, both individually and as a community, the grandest purpose of all— enabling longer, healthier lives.
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.