Name and Age: John Quackenbush, 51
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
What he does: In the past six years, the cost of sequencing a human genome has gone from $10 million a person to $3,000, making genomic data an accessible health-care tool for everyday use. “We are sitting at a point in time where we are facing an exponential growth in the amount of genomic data. The challenge is no longer generating the information, but managing it and interpreting it,” Quackenbush says.
Genomic data can be especially valuable to people battling serious diseases, such as cancer, because it can provide information on what drugs will be most effective and even the right dose. In response to the need, Quakenbush founded GenoSpace, which created a secure data store to capture the data. The data store targets researchers, doctors and patients and also includes a suite of tools that allows users to access and explore the data.
How he got started: While working at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Quakenbush was approached by researchers running a clinical trial who wanted to access both patient and genomic data, but the information wasn’t easily accessible or in a useful format. After investigating several different solutions, Quakenbush recognized that genomic data was fundamentally different from any other type of data and a new approach was needed. “We decided to launch a company outside of the hospital environment and build a new type of data store specifically for genomic information based on scalable Internet technology.”
Why he’s a game changer: "We have recognized that the revolution in science is being driven by only one thing—access to data and information,” Quackenbush says. “At GenoSpace, we have positioned ourselves to be digital architects of genomic medicine. We also recognize that there are different people who need access to this data, each with different needs. We are packaging and delivering the data so we can positively influence the way that patients are treated and diseases are managed.”
His best advice to other entrepreneurs: “One of the things that we learned in building our company is sometimes you need to just do it. You can spend a lot of time talking with people to present your vision and trying to raise money, but nothing communicates your vision to people better than actually acting on your ideas. We spent over a year trying to raise money, but once we acted on our vision, we realized we no longer had to spend time convincing people we could accomplish our goal."
What’s next: GenoSpace is currently working with the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation to create a patient community gateway that will allow patients to get information about their data, drug choices and their disease. “We want to make patients part of this ecosystem that increases their feeling that they are part of the entire process and can actively participate in their care and treatment,” Quackenbush says. The company is also working with a major pathology company to help deliver personalized medicine by creating customized physicians reports with actionable information to doctors.
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Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a journalist with over 17 years professional writing experience. She specializes in business writing, hospitality, technology and personal finance. Jennifer has a Masters degree in Technical Writing and worked as a software/technology technical writer at companies such as IBM and Arthur Anderson.
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