Medidata and Beyond: A Visit with Astronaut Glen de Vries

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Editors Note: GEN is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Glen de Vries in an aircraft accident on November 12, 2021. This episode of “Close to the Edge” was recorded on October 21, eight days after his space flight.

Close to the Edge and over the Kármán line: in this special tenth episode of Close to the Edge, we caught up with Glen de Vries, who secured a coveted spot on the second manned spaceflight of Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin New Shepard, alongside William Shatner on October 13, 2021.

As the first astronaut to be interviewed on the program, we naturally had to begin by reliving de Vries’ extraterrestrial exploits on Blue Origin. In the first half of our interview, Glen vividly recalls the highlights of that momentous voyage, the training, his lifelong interest in space, and his defense of the long-term benefits of space tourism in the face of some sharp criticism from various quarters.

We also talked about his leadership at Medidata Solutions over two decades in the electronic data capture space, and the outlook for the company following its recent acquisition by Dassault Systèmes.

De Vries initially studied molecular biology and genetics at Carnegie Mellon University and worked as a research scientist at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, before turning to computer science at New York University. He was the founding chief technology officer at Medidata Solutions when the company launched in 1999, pioneering the development of clinical trial software solutions aimed at “powering smarter treatments and healthier people.” He is now the Life Sciences and Healthcare Vice Chair for Dassault, having relinquished his title as co-CEO of Medidata.

Given that this video show is named after the title of a classic album by the British rock band Yes, it was interesting that the title of another Yes album also came up in our conversation. Interviewed after the Blue Origin flight, William Shatner said the Earth looked so “fragile” from space. Astronaut de Vries echoes those sentiments in this unique interview.