The word "techie" gets tossed around in many different contexts--IT workers, programmers, video game junkies and webaholics. Equally varied in meaning is "biotech," which some investors define as virtually anything under the umbrella of life sciences, including meds for cats and dogs and orthopedic screws. Here at Fierce the word covers therapeutics, primarily.
Jam "biotech" and "techie" together, and you get a term that might be twice as tricky to understand as either of those two words alone. Read the profiles in our second annual "Top 10 Biotech Techies" report (find last year's list here) and you'll see what this term means to us--people who combine the best of high technology and biotechnology to solve major problems in healthcare.
Almost all of the people in this report I've interviewed over the past year about trends in information technology in drug research. Some of the standouts include a cancer survivor and informatics expert who jumped ship from Big Pharma to lead IT efforts at the FDA, a biotech industry mogul who dipped into his fortune to secure a fiber-optic network and erect a supercomputing hub to enable personalized medicine, and a serial entrepreneur who is building a search engine to find blueprints for new drugs hidden within the genomes of microbes.
The 10 people featured in this report have huge healthcare problems in their crosshairs, using IT as a central component to their potential solutions. One solution calls for open science efforts, including computerized brain models, to bridge the wide gap in our understanding of devastating neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease. One solution empowers patients to track their own genetic codes online and participate in networks that shed light on healthy habits and treatment options.
Money helps. There are at least two billionaires on this year's list--which we've organized alphabetically by last name--and others have access to major investors. Yet we've singled them out for this report not because of the depth of their pockets but because of the great ingenuity and deft application of technologies in their pursuits.
We don't pretend to know every great programmer working in a biology lab. So please send me more ideas for people to feature in the future. The world needs a lot of biotech techies to tackle incredibly complex problems, and we're always on the lookout for them. -- Ryan McBride (email | Twitter)