systems biology

Lee Hood: Salesman for Science, Part I

Podcast brought to you by the upcoming Personalized Medicine World Conference taking place in Mountain View, CA, January 28-29. Over 100 speakers in three tracks will discuss how best to navigate the changing landscape of personalized medicine.


Dr. Lee Hood, Founder, Institute for Systems Biology Bio and Contact Info

Listen (2:08) Where did you learn to be such a great salesman for science?

Listen (11:45) What led you to be at the confluence of disparate disciplines?

Listen (4:15) Emancipation from the university system

Listen (8:40) At the end of 2012 how far along are we on the journey to P4 Medicine?

Today's interview covers some very broad topics and comes in two parts. It could only be done with an industry Titan, a scientist, an entrepreneur, a visionary, and a great salesman. Our guest is Lee Hood, founder of the Institute for Systems Biology.

I've been looking forward to having Dr. Hood to the program since we started, and delighted that it worked out now. During the interview, you'll hear Lee's take on some of our common topics here at Mendelspod. First, I explore Lee's foresight in bringing together biology and engineering. This has proved a beautiful marriage and led to Lee's direct involvement in the design of the automated DNA sequencer. This discussion has further implications for Dr. Hood, as this was the first of several paradigm shifts he's been part of. In fact, paradigm shifts have been a study of his and a theme throughout his career. He says an early mentor at Caltech urged him to "be on the cutting edge."

It's not easy being at the cutting edge, breaking paradigms. Dr. Hood had to leave the university system to found his dream environment for research and education, the Institute for Systems Biology. Dr. Hood talks about that step as a defining moment for him and his ideas. He explains the core ideas on which the Institute is founded and relates them to the broader picture of healthcare. Rather than healthcare, he predicts we'll call it the wellness industry.

Another favorite topic at Mendelspod is the role of the scientist in society. More and more,scientific discoveries and technology dictate the course of human life. When asked whether scientists are the world's new rulers, Dr. Hood tells the anecdote of his brief flirtation with the idea of running for senator in Montana.

It's obvious that Lee's home state played an important role in his life. He attributes his confidence to the independence he felt at the behest of his mother and the opportunity to hike and experience the wilderness. He was exposed to an academic setting in highschool and recalls that often academic pursuits were combined with trips into the wild.

Finally I ask Dr. Hood a question that came from the audience about whether tax dollars should fund bad science. His answer is nuanced and thoughtful. He warns of being to cynical of 'bad science' or non-reproducable research. He goes on to make the point that there is Big Science and Small Science. He calls the NIH a funder of small science.

Dr. Hood's experience is vast. He's a great thinker. He's an innovator, concerned with a big vision. He's also been able to sell his vision, achieving remarkable success. We've split the interview into two because I just couldn't bring myself to stop Dr. Hood after 30 minutes. A listen through to both shows brings one very close to understanding what our industry is all about.

(Editor's Note: On 12/21/12, Dr. Hood was awarded a National Medal of Science.)