100 Days In At Helix
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” — Peter Drucker
This is one of my favorite quotes I heard during my time at Under Armour. With my first 100 days behind me at Helix, I’ve come to realize just how important culture is — even (or especially) for a small company. So what is our culture and why do people want to be a part of it? The Helix founders have built an incredible, collaborative culture — one that attracts individuals and quality partners who want to be part of a mission to help people discover their DNA and use that knowledge to improve their everyday lives. We continue to grow our internal team, and just this week, we announced new partnerships with National Geographic, Invitae, Mount Sinai and innovative developer Exploragen, continuing our momentum. I’ve seen our culture in action every day since I’ve been at Helix, but I’ve also seen a higher purpose that will drive the organization for years to come.
During my first few weeks I read a number of articles written by the skeptics of personal genomics, sent to me by the Chair of our Scientific Advisory Board, Dr. Robert Green. The articles range from mild arguments of why consumers do not need or cannot handle their genetic information without a doctor or counselor involved, to extreme arguments that DNA test results are misleading and of little or no practical use. Sadly, there are plenty of claims direct-to-consumer genetics companies have made about DNA tests that have created these conclusions, but just as sadly this is true of most industries.
In any new industry, you need individuals and teams of people with a strong focus on a common mission — people who are willing to fight the odds for the greater common good. The leadership of these trailblazers is needed to ensure that the mission is achieved while retaining the highest integrity and morals. In an industry like Consumer Genomics, this is even more important to ensure that the skeptics don’t win with their classic arguments — thus keeping these discoveries from fundamentally altering the future of humanity and empowering our basic human right of personal knowledge. Discovering the mysteries and realities of any new area cannot happen without accurate and diverse datasets, and consumer genomics is no different. We must collect the data first and continue to operate with utmost integrity. I believe Helix will be one of the first to reach five million or more exomes and possibly one million or more full genomes. Those numbers are astounding.
What I’ve discovered in the past few weeks is that the integrity and desire of the Helix team is incredible. I’m honored to lead a group so focused on our mission, while upholding the highest standards and integrity for consumer genomics as we prepare to go to market with our first products. Our ability to maintain this balance as a team will become one of our greatest assets and one I believe each team member will recall in the later parts of their lives. Additionally, the higher purpose of discovery is driving our team and the new employees that join us. The importance to individual consumers of building these products is potentially life-altering, but equally important is the profound impact our work can have on humanity. Unimaginable discoveries will suddenly be possible as a result of aggregating genotypes and phenotypes into a single and accurate cloud.
I came to Helix because of the team and its mission. As I live and breathe it every day, I continue to be blown away by our culture — a culture that is driven by the scale of discovery, the integrity of our actions, and the unity we have around this higher purpose. In the coming years, our industry will make discoveries which I believe are equal to Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravitational force in 1665, the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903, and Aldrin and Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969. We are at the beginning of a long journey — a journey that is uncertain, but one that will fundamentally change mankind. We are looking for individuals who want to join this amazing team and embark on a journey to invest in something greater than themselves with a future that will take twists and turns but will certainly be amazing. Sequencing the human genome repeatedly on a large scale is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the passionate, mission-driven people at Helix are doing just that.
“It is in our genes to understand the universe if we can, to keep trying even if we cannot, and to be enchanted by the act of learning all the way.” ― Lewis Thomas