In the past few years, the barriers between technology and life sciences have begun to be eliminated.
For more and more biotechnology and health technology companies, artificial intelligence and machine learning have changed from buzzwords to cornerstone technologies.
These companies are using technological tools to discover new treatments, invent new ways to analyze molecules and microbes, and mine the vast amounts of healthcare data generated from visits to doctors’ offices and hospitals.
As more and more companies appear at this intersection, more executives are leaping from technology to new frontiers in life sciences and biotechnology. The learning curve is steep. But these people also brought different ways of thinking and ideas about the company’s success.
These include Sujal Patel and others, who sold his software startup Isilon Systems for $2.25 billion in 2010. He is now the CEO of Nautilus Biotechnology, a Seattle startup that uses software to analyze proteins.
Or Terry Myerson, a former Microsoft executive who now leads Truveta, another Seattle startup that aims to aggregate medical record data.
Funding and The business model of biotechnology Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group in Seattle, said that they are studying some simplified aspects of the technology, and people who understand these two areas will bring a unique perspective.
“Part of the reason is that it makes you think about science and products in different ways,” he said. “But we also found that it changed the way you think about business models. And I think it will be as destructive as scientific transformation.”
McIlwain said that Madrona is traditionally known for supporting technology startups, but now also invests in companies at the “intersection of innovation.” These companies between biology, health, computer and data science include Nautilus, TwinStrand Biosciences, Ozette, and A-Alpha Bio and Terray Therapeutics.
Investors are paying close attention to life sciences and biotechnology. According to data from PitchBook, in the first half of 2021, US biotech and pharmaceutical companies received more than $20 billion in total funding in 596 transactions, which may exceed the record of $27.2 billion raised in 1,043 transactions last year.there’s still one A record high The number of biotech companies entering the open market this year.
Life science companies in technology centers such as Silicon Valley and Seattle have the advantage of a huge regional science and technology talent pool. In Washington State, “tech giants meet biotech giants. I think it’s all good,” said Leslie Alexandre, chief executive of the Washington Life Sciences Industry Group.
We interviewed four CEOs who have made the leap from technology to life sciences, and asked how they completed the transformation and what they learned. The answer has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Patel previously helped launch and lead Isilon Systems, which was sold to EMC in 2010 for $2.25 billion. In 2016, he co-founded Nautilus Biotechnology with Parag Mallick, Associate Professor of Stanford University. Nautilus applies computer science, biochemistry, and nanotechnology to its protein analysis technology. A $345 million SPAC transaction This June.
“After leaving Isilon, I invested in the next four years. I spent a lot of time in the city center with people from Madrona Venture Group looking for deals and trying my hands in the investment world. I sat on a bunch of boards. Seat. But I knew I wanted to regain my operational role and start again. In 2016, Parag called me and this call led to the establishment of this company.
My first year was like 60% to 75% of coding and writing second-generation algorithms based on Parag’s work. The other thing I am doing is I have to basically catch up and figure out how to become the CEO of a biotech company.
So first, I must figure out my basic biology and chemistry. I went to YouTube and found a college-level course. I just caught up to all of these at 2x speed.
Every day, I call Parag. He is a very patient person, he is a professor. I will list 50 stupid questions in a day. I will begin to experience: this is what I learned, I have a question about this, this and this. He patiently answered my question for a year.
This allowed me to start to understand and read research papers, and I quickly read about 500 papers in the core area. Then we started to build a laboratory in the Bay Area.
Learning a completely different field is a very interesting journey. “
Daphne Kohler, CEO Input
Koller has been working on machine learning issues for most of her career. She has been a professor of computer science at Stanford University for 18 years; she is an academician of the National Academy of Engineering and a MacArthur “genius” researcher. She is the co-founder of the education giant Coursera and recently co-founded another technology education company engagli. In 2018, Koller founded instro, a drug discovery company integrating machine learning and biology.The startup has established partnerships with multiple pharmaceutical companies, and Raised $400 million March. She is committed to building a culture where biologists and technologists can collaborate productively.
“I first studied biology at Stanford University. I thought, let’s do something with more technical interest and more ambitious influence. The last time I took a formal biology class was in middle school.
It was a difficult journey at the beginning. I once told people that I was reading a biology paper and I could understand every three words, most of which were prepositions. If I have to advise people, if you can try to learn about space in formal education, please take some biology courses.
But in any case, biology is so large and complex that there will always be a lot of areas you don’t understand. The most important thing is to be brave and humble at the same time. The courage lies in the willingness to pick up the paper and the willingness to read. Realizing that you will not be able to understand most of the content, please look up the content and humblely ask your biology colleagues questions.
I have seen failures on both sides. Some technicians carry this incredible arrogance: “I don’t need to learn biology, because my machine learning or my software will conquer everything.” This is not the case-biology is hard, you need to learn it . I saw the same amount of arrogance in life sciences, and biologists said,’Oh, these technicians, they can make our laptops work, but they can never provide any value. They are not scientists. This arrogance exists on both sides, and one of our basic principles at instro is that we interact with each other openly, constructively and respectfully.
Our goal is to make the results better, not to look like the smartest person in the room, and to have deep respect for what the other person brings in the conversation. I think one of the things we did very well at instro is to create this culture. This is my key role. “
Jain is known as the founder and former CEO of InfoSpace. He also co-founded the public record companies Intelius and Moon Express, aiming to Bring paying customers to the moon. Viome was founded in 2016 and is his seventh venture.Viom Provide services Analyze the microbiome, intestinal and other body areas of the microbial collection, with probiotics and supplements tailored for each customer. Viome also has a medical diagnostics department, and it is expected that next year’s revenue will reach 100 million U.S. dollars. Jain recommends that others who transition to the life sciences field have a consumer mindset.
“First, first, know that health care is actually a big data problem. Health care is no longer trial and error. Once you start to believe that the human body is basically a bunch of biochemical activities, it becomes a math and chemistry problem. Mathematics It is artificial intelligence, and chemistry is all biochemical activities.
I can tell you about my job: I read all scientific papers for the first three hours every day-every nature Paper per cell Paper. I don’t care which industry it is in, I have read it. The reason is that it allows me to understand the basic vocabulary of what is happening.
From a business perspective, to collect such a large amount of data, you have to think about it in a very different way, and you have to think like a consumer. What service can you provide them?
Most medical staff make cardboard kits. We did not make cardboard kits. Check out our supplement box. This is our supplement box, magnetic lock, every ingredient listed and designed for you. Every package is what you need, nothing you don’t need. This is a consumer mentality-this is not a medical product, this is a consumer product. You have to make them feel that they are buying what they want. “
Terry Myerson, CEO Truvita
Myerson is a former Microsoft executive who leads the company’s Windows and devices division. In 2020, he was appointed to lead Truveta, a company that aggregates medical record data and connects treatment to outcome and potential health.Myerson described Truvita, in which Recently raised $95 million, As a technology and life science company. When asked about suggestions for transitioning to life sciences, he pointed out that his new field has high ethical standards.
“My entire career has been spent in the technical field, but if you check the profiles of the people we are hiring on LinkedIn, we may have two-thirds of the technical depth and one-third of the doctors, scientists, and clinical information An epidemiologist, an epidemiologist. The last time I interviewed an epidemiologist. I am very excited. I am also on the steepest learning curve in history, and I have experienced some very steep learning curves in my career. This is the most meaningful thing I have ever done.
Leading Windows, security and privacy are very important. But there are some very special aspects of patient data, which raise ethics, privacy and security, and data quality to a whole new level. Nothing is more personal than health data. Windows is a great training ground, and I think it gives me a real understanding of how to do this on a whole new level. You must have great respect for ethics, privacy and safety. “