· 4 min read
How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?
I am currently the president and chief operating officer at drug discovery company Recursion, where our team is harnessing a convergence of technologies like AI and robotic automation to decode biology and find better medicines faster. I love sitting at the intersection of technology and medicine to pioneer new ways of bringing innovative medicines to patients who need them.
What’s the most compelling tech project you’ve worked on, and why?
In 1997, one year after joining Genentech as a young biochemical engineer, I worked tirelessly with my colleagues to bring a new facility online so we could manufacture Herceptin, a targeted therapy to treat cancer.
Genentech had positive clinical data for Herceptin, but it was not approved yet except under compassionate use, so women suffering and dying from aggressive breast cancer had to enter a lottery system to get access to the drug because we could not reliably manufacture it yet at scale. Prior to my joining, patients and their loved ones had shown up to the manufacturing plant and protested because they were so desperate to get doses of this revolutionary drug.
Bringing more Herceptin manufacturing capacity online was my first real engineering project, and it has inspired my entire career of using technology to change the way that healthcare is delivered.
What technologies are you most optimistic about? Least? And why?
I’m most excited about the potential to leverage many different breakthrough technologies to take a fundamentally different approach to the science and engineering of creating new medicines. We’re living in an era in which the pace of technological development is incredible, but no single technology or tool is going to transform how we do science on its own—not even AI.
It’s when we harness the power of these tools together—combining laboratory automation and biological engineering with advanced computation and generative AI—that we can create a step-function shift in how we initiate and advance drug discovery programs. I’m optimistic that if we harness these tools in the right way, creating virtuous cycles of prediction and experimentation, we will be able to truly industrialize drug discovery and development.
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What’s the best tech-related media you read/watch/listen to?
I like to read all the biotech media. And with large language models like ChatGPT, finding and distilling the most important stories has never been easier. Every day we have a bot at Recursion that digests and posts the most relevant stories from our sector—one of the many ways we’re using AI tools to reduce toil and make us more productive. I just need to grab my coffee and read.
What’s something about you we can’t guess from your LinkedIn profile?
I love exploring the outdoors, which I get to do often while living in Salt Lake City. Last weekend I was hiking in a local canyon and got stuck in a “moose jam.” A mama and baby moose decided to eat dinner on the trail, and the rest of us just had to hang out and wait.
What do you think about when you’re not thinking about tech?
My personal passion is people. I invest a lot of time in getting to know people on a deeper level, because when I understand their motivations, struggles, and goals, I can lend myself in a way that is going to be most meaningful to helping them grow. I often see potential in others even when they don’t see it themselves, and it’s a privilege to play a role in pushing people outside their comfort zone to become leaders in our industry—especially women and those who are underrepresented in leadership roles.
I’ve seen the industry change a lot for women since I joined the workforce. It came full circle for me when I was part of a panel discussion and I realized that my fellow panelists were either women I mentored or women hired by women I mentored. We still have more work to do, but we’re on the right track.