Jerry started working for Micronoma in May 2023. He was born in China, and raised in San Francisco, where he also went to college (California State, East Bay). As a Senior Scientist, Jerry is part of the computational biology team responsible for data analysis and pipeline development. When he first heard about Micronoma, he thought: “What does the microbiome have to do with cancer?!” Completely onboarded now, his question these days is about whether golf is considered a sport.
Jerry spoke with us to provide some insight into his work and path to Micronoma.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As someone new to the world of microbiome, I’m learning to analyze data that I used to discard. While there are a lot of reading materials to catch up with, I spend most of the day crunching data and interpreting results for experiments generated by the wet lab team, as well as investigating new methods to better distinguish between cancer vs non-cancer samples.
Tell us about your educational background and previous work.
I earned my BS degree from Cal State East Bay. I was fortunate to have a part time job at Lawrence Berkeley Lab while earning my degree, which paved the way for my biotech career, starting with a gene therapy company where I performed various molecular biology tasks. When the first draft of the human genome was published in 2001, I was already working in my second biotech company, a start-up focused on identifying breast cancer-specific receptors that could be targeted by monoclonal antibodies. Its success resulted in an acquisition and ended my journey with them. That brought me down to San Diego, where I’ve worked at various biopharma and diagnostics companies. I made the transition from wet lab to dry lab at AltheaDx where I helped set up the company’s first NGS-based assay. I’m thankful that I was given the opportunity to learn some of the magic of bioinformatics on the job, turning strings of A, C, G, and Ts into meaningful data sets.
Did anyone inspire you along the way? Tell us about them.
I wouldn’t be where I’m now without the help and guidance of several people whom I used to work for. From Albert Zlotnik at my first job in San Diego who offered me the chance to join him in a new group that he was leading, to Mark Landers and Yipeng
Wang who gave me the opportunity to dive into bioinformatics, first at AltheaDx and then at Epic Sciences.
I was laid off from my previous job and spent a few fruitless months looking for a new role. Then Eddie Adams, CSO of Micronoma, reached out to me. My initial thought was: “What does the microbiome have to do with cancer?!” But after talking to Eddie and learning more about the discovery that was the basis for the company’s founding, I was totally intrigued and excited about the possibility of joining the team. Thankfully, further discussions with Sandrine and other members of the team proved fruitful, and I’m excited to be part of this talented team!
How has cancer personally impacted you?
I have an unfortunate number of friends whose loved ones have either succumbed to or are currently battling cancer. Their heartbreaking stories are a daily reminder of why I’m dedicated to this work, driven with the hope of making a difference in early detection and improved outcomes for patients and their families.
What’s your favorite part about working at Micronoma?
I love how everyone is so friendly and supportive here at Micronoma. There’s plenty of opportunity to learn and develop new skill sets, from metagenomics to machine learning. And there’s also the added perk of free snacks while I focus on my work!
What gets you most excited about the company’s future?
It’s not very often that one gets the opportunity to be part of a company that’s the first to do something unconventional. I’m honored and excited to be part of the first microbiome-driven liquid biopsy company as it gets ready to launch the OncobiotaLUNG test to address a great unmet medical need.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
I envision the company launching another Oncobiota assay in the next two years. I hope to contribute to finding more valuable nuggets of information from sequencing data that would have otherwise been discarded. As we collect and analyze new data, it will enable us to refine our models further, enhancing our ability to detect other cancer types at its earliest stages and provide more accurate diagnoses, bringing us closer to our goal of improving patient outcomes and advancing the field.
What are your hidden talents or hobbies?
I enjoy playing sports, particularly golf, which I never thought I would pick up, and some wouldn’t consider it a sport. But it challenges me to be patient and focused, taking one swing at a time. Yet after years of playing my handicap is still in the double digits. I also enjoy real sports like running, soccer and snowboarding. I used to run marathons, but the pandemic put an end to that, but I hope to pick it up again.