Back in college, my classmates were enthusiastically enrolling in classes with Professor Walter Gilbert, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry and a father of modern genetic sequencing. Not me. In those days I was either buried in the library stacks researching my undergraduate thesis or throwing myself into the maelstrom of student politics. But now as Chief Commercial Officer at Complete Genomics, I’ve been given something rare in life – a second chance.
A Silicon Valley guy by upbringing and experience, I live in Palo Alto seven houses away from where I lived when I graduated from high school. I’ve worked in information technology for more than 20 years. It turns out that experience is invaluable in my current job. Let me explain. As most readers of this blog know, Complete Genomics offers whole human genome sequencing as an outsourced service. Customers forgo the purchase of expensive instruments that will be obsolete only too soon, opting instead to have us do the sequencing for them in our state-of-the-art factory. There are many parallels between Complete’s business model and that of UpShot Corporation, the company I founded 15 years ago. UpShot was the first company in Silicon Valley to provide software as an outsourced service in the approach that’s now called cloud computing. Customers did not have to buy servers to run our software; we ran it for them in our data center.
No argument from me in categorizing Complete Genomics as a life sciences company, but I would also call it an information company. Yes, we use biochemistry to prepare and sequence DNA samples. But then we throw the power of supercomputer processing at the images of those samples to provide researchers and clinicians a report on genomic variants they will use to prevent, diagnose, and treat genetic diseases and conditions.
The applications for the genomic information we generate are expanding as the price for genomic sequencing tumbles. Following Moore’s law, processing power has moved from mainframes to personal computers to smart phones. Whole human genome sequencing is heading along an analogous path. The decreasing price of genomic sequencing is extending its use from large-scale studies of cancer and idiopathic conditions at universities and research institutes to medical care of individuals.
Two centuries ago, Edward Jenner pioneered vaccination and 140 years later Howard Florey made the use of antibiotics practicable. Right now we are on the cusp of a medical revolution that is every bit as significant. Here’s the proofpoint: Inova Health System has contracted with Complete to sequence 1,500 genomes. Inova will be using these genomes in a pilot study to determine the most effective ways to apply sequencing to the care of individual patients. Inova’s aim is to provide better and less expensive medical care to its patients by making whole genome sequence part of their medical records. Personalized medicine is indeed on its way.
You can see why I feel so lucky to have joined Complete Genomics at this moment. If I had only taken those courses with Professor Gilbert, perhaps I would have found a career in life sciences in a less roundabout way. Here at Complete, we intend to make our products and services unrivaled for both researchers and clinicians and, just as importantly, to establish a close partnership with our customers.
I hope you will all cut me some slack for the next couple of months as I continue to get up to speed on industry nuances and dynamics. In the meantime, I will be doing my darnedest to listen and be responsive. Drop me an email anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About This Blog
Dr. Clifford Reid
Chairman, President and CEO
Dr. Reid is a successful, serial entrepreneur. He enjoys commercializing disruptive computing and life sciences technologies.
Dr. Rade Drmanac
Chief Scientific Officer
Dr. Drmanac is a genome sequencing pioneer; his inventions include massively parallel DNA sequencing by hybridization and combinatorial probe ligation. As a group leader at the Argonne National Labs, he was part of the Human Genome Project. In 1993, he cofounded Hyseq, one of the first genomic companies.