Raj Krishnan: Moving From Cancer Diagnosis Innovation to a Business
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the salt concentration and constituents in the blood. But Krishnan has been able to demonstrate that this can be accomplished under certain conditions, proving that some widely held aspects of the previous theory were incorrect. Krishnan’s Eureka moment happened about two years ago, when he was running experiments on a microelectrode array. “Late that night I decided I had nothing better to do, and I would just run that experiment. As I had set it all up I needed only to push a button and leave the room; if nothing happened, there was no harm. When I came back to the room, I went ‘Oh my God! Nothing was supposed to happen!’ but it had happened,” says Krishnan. He had managed to isolate the DNA— even in blood samples with extremely high salt concentrations.
UCSD’s Heller was astonished. “I said to him first he must not have been doing it right,” laughs professor Heller, a former co-founder of Nanogen and now co-founder of Biological Dynamics. “All I did differently was try something when most people would have just accepted the answer as being impossible because the theory said so,” Krishnan says. The professor and graduate student spent six months finding out what happened and why nobody else had seen it.
Rajaram Krishnan was born in India. He lived in Calcutta, and later spent three years in Indonesia until his family moved to San Jose, CA, when he was eleven years old. He says he loves basketball, video games, books, traveling, and puzzles. At UCLA he first tried computer science but found it too monotonous, and chose bioengineering because he was really good at mathematics, chemistry and physics. “I didn’t want to be stuck in a cubicle in 10 years designing a smaller cell phone. I realized the best way I could have an impact was by building tools that doctors use,” he says. He received a B.S. in electrical engineering from UCLA in 2004, after which he moved to UCSD, where he received an M.S. in bioengineering in 2006.
Krishnan, professor Heller, and fellow grad students David Charlot and Roy Lefkowitz founded Biological Dynamics to move their diagnostic technology to clinics. The start-up company’s business plan calls for developing two products, a blood analyzing system priced around $20,000, and one-time disposable electrode cartridges priced around $20. They have secured their findings with patent applications, and they hope to soon begin making the devices. In laboratories at UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center, Krishnan and the rest of the team encounter late-stage cancer patients every day. “I just hope what we do would become something that could save a lot of lives,” says Krishnan.