Title: CEO and co-founder
Industry experience: 16 years
Focus: Personal genomics
Anne Wojcicki watched the genomics bubble grow big and pop more than a decade ago, leaving lots of unfulfilled promises for revolutionizing treatment of serious diseases. In 2006, she co-founded 23andMe, the personal genomics company, and has spent a half-dozen years building a platform for consumers or patients to take control of their own health.
"I think that the healthcare that we actually want is the ability to prevent illness and know how we can live healthier. And if you are sick, you want to know how you can be best treated, what's going to be your best outcome," Wojcicki says. "23andMe was really set out in reaction to my experience from investing to really revolutionize healthcare and research."
Wojcicki is tech royalty for her role as CEO of closely watched 23andMe and as the wife of Sergey Brin, who along with Larry Page turned a Stanford grad school project into a multibillion-dollar Web giant, Google ($GOOG). But way before she married Brin, Wojcicki was a player in the biotech and healthcare investment scene.
The Wallenberg family, a dynastic industrialist clan in Sweden, hired Wojcicki after she graduated from Yale in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in biology. "Being 22 and having the background of the Wallenberg family and being able to call essentially any biotech company and any CEO in the world was incredibly awesome," she says.
Wojcicki's years in the investment game, which included hedge fund gigs, gave her insights into some of the unfortunate economic realities of healthcare. "I started realizing more and more that we make a ton of money off sickness--and you have all kinds of layers between you, the individual, and the health industry," she says. "There's a disconnect."
23andMe provides personal genetic tests, including reports on more than 100 disease risks, carrier status, drug reactions and ancestry. The findings are based on credible research and are updated regularly as genetic knowledge grows. As Wojcicki says, the company seeks to "connect" patients with their health information and reduce traditional barriers that have kept them in the dark.
Genetic discoveries from 23andMe have already made an impact on Wojcicki personally. Her husband carries the LRRK2 gene mutation linked to increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease, and Wojcicki says her company has discovered a variant in a gene that is protective against the mutation. She and Brin have given generously to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research to fund work on new therapies for the neurodegenerative disease.
23andMe is also fairly progressive in the composition of its leadership team and female executives are in the majority, according to the company's website. Wojcicki says the company hires and promotes people based on merit, and her advice for other women in life sciences also applies to people regardless of their gender.
"The advice that I offer to women and to men and to pretty much anyone is to find what you are passionate about, because when you are passionate about what you are doing it is seamless in your life," Wojcicki says. "If they have a passion, they should follow it. Never do anything for the money and never do anything for the specific title."
-- Ryan McBride (email | Twitter)