Mark Fischer-Colbrie joined as CEO in September 2008, after taking a number of other technology and novel healthcare companies public. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford University and his MBA at the University of California, Berkeley.
What does the CEO position entail?
The main responsibilities are to ensure the entire enterprise is moving forward, and in a direction that the various stakeholders are all aligned. It means really marshaling the entire organization to accomplish key strategies and tactics. It sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of building blocks to put in place: sufficient capital, compliance with regulatory and legal requirements, long-term strategies, and short-term tactics, among others. There’s a lot of integration work that is required to achieve those goals, which is why the CEO is involved with every single part of the company, including research, development, operations, IT, human resources, finance, sales, and marketing.
What brought you to Labcyte?
I had done business development consulting for Labcyte for about a year before joining as CEO. By then, I knew the technology and its incredible promise well. Moving liquids around, whether for cells or reagents or clinical samples, is a foundation of life sciences. The current modalities are many decades old and are simply not up to taking advantage of the tremendous improvements in detection systems like mass spec or next-gen sequencing. There’s a giant bottleneck where things that feed those systems are slow, expensive, and highly inaccurate. It’s frankly appalling how poor traditional methods are. In no other scientific discipline would such imprecision be tolerated. We are already supporting hundreds of applications and I have long believed that acoustic dispensing is literally going to end up in all areas of healthcare with dramatic impact and results.
What did you do before coming to Labcyte?
My previous company developed a very exciting test to rule out imminent delivery for women who were having contractions early in their pregnancy. It was so important for avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations and medications that it is now standard of care in all U.S. hospitals. Throughout my career I’ve worked with many companies that have introduced novel technologies to the market, and I helped take them all public. I’ve held a variety of positions that were generally much broader than the financial role I had been trained in from the start. I actually have experience setting up and running clinical trials, doubling yield rates in complex manufacturing processes, and performing advanced technology development transactions and deals. I also have four issued patents in diagnostics and therapeutics.
What’s the best part of your job?
Getting to acknowledge victories that scientists have accomplished with our systems. I just came back from a meeting with a group that feels that without our system they wouldn’t have been able to rescue a 16-year-old leukemia patient. At a recent synthetic biology meeting, there was a group engineering microbes to isolate nitrogen from the air to fertilize plants. If that works, it could mean slashing the carbon footprint for fertilizers — no more production, transportation, or polluted runoff from the processes we use today. It’s incredibly exciting.
Where else is acoustic dispensing having an impact?
We see it already with new therapeutics being developed and with new precision medicine workflows which are putting people into remission. Better diagnostic tools are being developed to accurately determine a patient’s condition. Giving scientists precision and accuracy in liquid handling, for the first time, really allows them to do what they’re good at — but to do it faster, cheaper, and with way better data and information.
If you could cure any disease, what would it be and why?
As chairman of the board of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, we are actively looking to cure type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease. But more broadly, I would love to solve autoimmune diseases in general. Up to 80 million Americans have an autoimmune disease, so it’s a pressing need. I am closely following progress in immuno-oncology, because even though the target is cancer, these studies are going to teach us enormous amounts about immune response and potentially shed new light on autoimmune disease treatments.
What do you do in your free time?
I like to do long-distance triathlons with the attendant swimming, biking, and running. Whenever I get a chance to be outside, I like to get away for an extended mountain bike ride and see great vistas of nature and wildlife or go for a long run.
Who is your favorite influencer?
My first boss out of business school. He had come from General Motors and was the first person in the history of the 100-year company to skip a salary grade; he did it twice. He had a huge impact on how I looked at business and interacted with people in the workplace.
What’s your favorite career advice?
Treat people fairly, the way you would want to be treated. I try to follow that as best I can.