Dr. Barrett Bready is president and CEO of NABsys Inc. in Providence.
PBN: For people who aren’t familiar with NABsys, could you describe what you do at the company?
BREADY: NABsys is a life sciences company that is using semiconductor technology to sequence individual DNA molecules electronically. Essentially, we’re using technology used to make computer chips and using it to make bioanalytical devices. We believe this technology will allow for more accurate, higher throughput, and lower-cost analysis of DNA than has been possible thus far.
PBN: What would be some of the benefits from the technology NABsys is working on?
BREADY: While biotechnology and medicine have made great strides in the last century with respect to increasing human life expectancy, the vast majority of those gains have resulted from improvements in the treatment of infectious disease. Gains in life expectancy resulting from treating systemic diseases such as cancer have been less significant. We expect that the use of the NABsys technology by researchers and clinicians will allow them to understand the genetic basis of complex disease and ultimately give the medical community the same type of dominance over systemic diseases like cancer that it now enjoys over infectious disease.
PBN: How are things going at NABsys right now? What’s next for you?
BREADY: Things at NABsys are going well. We have been able to attract a world-class team at all levels of the organization. In February, we raised a $7 million equity round led by Stata Venture Partners, and Analog Devices founder Ray Stata joined the NABsys board. We are growing rapidly and have been able to fill each position with our first-choice candidate. On the technical side, NABsys has best-in-world status on multiple important metrics.
PBN: You recently moved to a new building in the Jewelry District. How do you like it? What do you think of the effort to turn that part of the city into the “Knowledge District?”
BREADY: The Economist did a video piece on NABsys last year in which I made the argument for growing a significant life sciences cluster in Providence. Providence has great research institutions in Brown and its affiliated teaching hospitals. We are also close to many life sciences venture capital firms and a great scientific work force. We have a strategic location between Boston and New York and a great quality of life. I think it’s important to marshal the popular will to invest in building a biotechnology economy in Providence.
PBN: You trained as a medical doctor and graduated from Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School. When you were in school, did you picture yourself winding up at a private company?
BREADY: In my free time, I teach a class at Brown called Biotechnology Management. In talking to the students about the business of biotechnology, I describe myself as the oldest person who is still young enough to have done biotechnology on purpose. I was part of the eight-year medical program at Brown known as the Program in Liberal Medical Education, which essentially combines the undergraduate and medical school years into a single program. I went through that program with the intention of going into biotechnology (used here to mean life sciences generally). We are at the very beginning of what many are calling the biotechnology century. I expect genomics to be the most dynamic life sciences sector for some time. It’s exciting to be right in the middle of it. •