In a single decade, Greg Lucier, 49, transformed a small reagent company, Invitrogen, with 1,500 employees into Life Technologies, an international behemoth with more than 12,000 employees, 5,000 patents, 50,000 products, and sales in 180 different countries. Although Thermo Fisher completed the acquisition of Life Technologies in February, and although Lucier has moved on, an intriguing question remains: What did Lucier to do help enable Life Technologies’ startling growth? And a possibly even more intriguing question: What’s next for this visionary entrepreneur?
The vision that helped create Life Technologies’ impressive rise is at least as audacious as the growth that underpins it. The future entrepreneur started out as an engineer, but as a graduate of the Harvard Business School, he asked himself, “What transformational factor would impact the 21st century the way harnessing the physical sciences impacted the last century?”
The answer for him was clear: the life sciences. “Our ability to harness the power of life,” he said in a recent interview, “will impact almost everything in our existence.”
Take the obvious example of medicine. When DNA sequencing becomes as common as childhood vaccinations, something Lucier believes will happen sooner than many expect, he says, “This knowledge will allow people to make better informed, individualized choices about diet, lifestyle, and medical treatments based on their own DNA makeup.” Further, “there are more than 900 cancer drugs in development right now. Eventually doctors will have a huge inventory from which to select how to treat the specific mutations found in your DNA.”
He expects that cancer drugs in the next decade will become highly specific and highly effective. “In ten years,” he predicts, “we will have turned cancer into a manageable condition. We may not cure it, but instead, we’ll manage it with ‘a cocktail,’ much the way we manage AIDS today.”
And that’s just cancer. “Ultimately,” he says, “we will find that many of the diseases that affect us have DNA at their origins.”
These discoveries will impact agriculture as well, whether in animal or plant health, or through creating new biological forms that could hardly have been imagined in the last century. “With synthetic genomics,” he says, “researchers are working on making a food source protein that doesn’t come from a cow. It’s pure because we engineered it from scratch.”
He also sees a pervasive impact on the economy. “In the next 20 years, the life sciences, with their integral connection to virtually all economic activity, will be the one of the largest employers.” He goes on to mention that many of Life Technologies’ 12,000 jobs didn’t even exist a decade ago.