Annual IBB Distinguished Lecture

Since 2001, Georgia Tech's Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB) has had the distinct honor and pleasure of hosting world-renowned speakers for the IBB Annual Distinguished Lecture. This series brings nationally and internationally recognized leaders in bioengineering and bioscience to provide their perspective on the future of biotechnology. 

2024 IBB Distinguished Lecture

Richard Shen, Ph.D.
M. Richard Shen, Ph.D.
Managing Director and Founder
RS Technology Ventures, LLC

“From Underdog to Market Leader: The Development of Genetic Analysis Tools by Illumina in the Early Years”

October 22, 2024
11:00 a.m.
Petit Biotechnology Building
315 Ferst Drive NW, Nerem Atrium
Atlanta, GA 30332

Periods of accelerated discovery can be defined by the technologies that are created and their costs. Almost all of us are familiar with the story about semiconductors, integrated circuits, and Moore’s Law. The development of this compute technology has placed what would be building-sized supercomputers from the 1980s into simple, handheld devices in the 2020s. However, many may not be familiar with the story of the development of genetic analysis systems in the first decade of this century by a startup called Illumina. This startup has transformed genetic analysis by first creating the leading genotyping platform and then developing the dominant next-generation sequencing (NGS) platforms.

There are many factors that contribute to the successful development of these platforms, such as corporate culture, strategic vision, technology management and product development. We will focus on some of these factors and how they were used to develop products that have transformed biological analysis. We will also discuss how discoveries enabled by these scalable technologies have created new clinical applications and avenues of research. The high specificity and tunable sensitivity of NGS have enabled the development of non-invasive prenatal testing, cancer therapy selection and detection of residual disease from blood samples. The low-price points in these technologies have created markets in consumer genomics, forensic genealogy, and population-scale whole-genome sequencing.

The current period of accelerated biological discovery is being driven by robust genetic analysis tools, accessible compute infrastructure and low price.

Richard Shen, Ph.D., is an innovator, investor, and business executive. He has over 25 years of experience in the genomics and molecular diagnostics markets. He is active in the investment community as part of NuFund in San Diego and is managing director of RS Technology Ventures, LLC. He is currently on the Board of Directors of public and private companies in the liquid biopsy and diagnostics markets.

Shen held many senior executive positions in his career. Most recently at PacBio he was Sr. Vice President of R&D, responsible for software and bioinformatics, applications, and platform development. Prior to that he was President of Omniome, a start-up that developed a high-accuracy Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform. In the year 2000, Shen joined a startup that was Illumina. In his 16-year career at Illumina, he was responsible for scaling and running operations, development of the genotyping and NGS platforms and Oncology R&D.

Shen holds several key patents in the fields of nucleic acid analysis and sequencing. One of his patents enabled the development of a process to sequence the human genome for less than $1,000.

Shen is an alumnus of UCLA (B.S.) and LSU Medical Center (Ph.D.). He did postdoctoral fellowships at University of Michigan Medical Center to study gene therapy and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories to study variation in DNA repair genes. Shen is a certified director from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

*community luncheon to follow presentation


Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech

Past Distinguished Lecturers

2023 - Elaine Fuchs, NAS, NAM
2022-2023 - Paula T. Hammond, NAE, NAS, NAM, NAI
2021 - Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, NAE, NAM, NAI
2020 - Paused for pandemic
2019 - Wendell Lim, HHMI
2018 - Elias Zerhouni, NAM, NAE, Director of NIH
2017 - Michael DeBaun, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
2016 – Kristi Anseth, HHMI, NAS, NAM, NAE
2015 - Cori Bargmann, HHMI, NAS
2014 - Joseph DeSimone, NAE, NAS, NAM
2013 - Thomas Cech, NAM, NAS, Nobel Laureate
2012 - David Mooney, NAE, NAM
2011 - Subra Suresh, NAE, Director of NSF
2010 - Ronald McKay, NIH NINDS
2009 - Phillip Sharp, NAS, NAM, Nobel Laureate
2008 - George Whitesides, NAE, NAS
2007 - Shu Chien, NAE, NAS, NAM
2006 - Steven Chu, Nobel Laureate, Secretary of Energy
2005 - Leroy Hood, NAE, NAS, NAM
2004 - Bruce Alberts, President of NAS
2003 - Sir Richard Sykes, Royal Academy of Engineering
2002 - Arthur Collins, CEO Medtronic
2001 - Kenneth Shine, NAS, President of IOM

"Designer Nanocarriers for Cancer Therapy"
Paula T. Hammond, Ph.D.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
January 24, 2023 - IBB Distinguished Lecturer