On January 6, Markus Herrgård joins BioInnovation Institute as Chief Technical Officer.
He comes from a position as Director of Data Science and Automation at the Novo Nordisk Foundation’s Center for Biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark where he has been responsible for developing core data science and automation activities of the center.
At BII, Markus will be responsible for building a state-of-the-art technology platform as infrastructure for the start-ups at BII.
Markus is originally from Finland but moved to San Diego, California to pursue his Ph.D. studies in bioengineering. He found interest in the start-up scene in San Diego and decided to join the pioneering synthetic biology start-up Synthetic Genomics that grew from 25 to 150 people during his four years of employment from 2008 – 2012.
We had a talk with him about his career and new position.
What made you explore the world of start-ups in San Diego?
I was looking at both industry jobs and academic positions after my time at University of California in San Diego, but I wanted to make more of an immediate impact than I could as a university professor. I interviewed for jobs at three California-based start-ups and went with the most adventurous one. The company was one of the first ones to use low-cost genome sequencing and DNA synthesis, and when I joined no one told me what exactly to do. Our team had to figure that out ourselves and build from scratch. Not everything we did worked but I liked the fast pace and that the outcome was not a publication as I was used to in academia. Everything was much more business-driven, and if it did not have commercial value, it was not worth pursuing.
Why did you decide to move back to the Nordics?
My wife is also from Finland and although we enjoyed the start-up work culture and weather in California, we had been looking for opportunities in the Nordics and Copenhagen for some years to be closer to our families. I finally found the right opportunity when the Novo Nordisk Foundation established the Center for Biosustainability at DTU. I liked the idea of building a new research center from the ground up and being close to technology commercialization, which is also what attracted me to BII.
Why did you decide to join BII?
I was very interested in the different incubators in California when they started to be active about 10 years ago, so BII naturally caught my interest here in Denmark. I like the idea of being close to start-ups and helping them maximize their chances of success by building technology platforms that can support them. I also hope to contribute with my data science and automation know-how at the BII – biotech start-ups should have a digital strategy and often need to be able to scale-up their science using engineering and automation.