Welcome to The Short Read, our weekly peek behind the curtain at the people who make this amazing community tick. Make sure to check back every Tuesday for the latest installment. 

Nan Doyle has a fairly unique perspective on genomic medicine. As Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, she uses both business and philanthropic partnerships to make a real impact in patient care. Throughout her career she has experienced the world of precision medicine from a wide range of viewpoints, from clinical trial companies to a science museum. And at a time when some of us might be thinking of winding down our careers, Nan decided to train as a genetic counsellor. 

Nan Doyle

Nan Doyle, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on several business and philanthropic partnerships that will advance MGH Pathology’s dual mission to deliver the highest-quality services – particularly computational and molecular diagnostics – to support and enhance the full continuum of patient care; and to move the field of pathology forward with a clear focus on personalized medicine.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work at the moment?

Reaching multiple, disparate audiences and honing the message that a) there are real opportunities in the diagnostics space, especially as genomic medicine integrates into every aspect of care; and b) the pathologist of the future looks very different from the pathologist of today, thus we all need to do a better job of training and preparing those who work in this exciting and vital discipline.

Name one big development that you would like to see in your field the next 18 months.

The current business environment favors therapeutics: 80-90% margins on therapeutics; much narrower for diagnostics. Sell the razor inexpensively, charge a lot for the blades, even though the blades would be useless without the razor. This model doesn’t augur well for innovation in diagnostics/pathology, and it has to change if personalized medicine is to realize its potential.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’ve had the good fortune to work in leading organizations in several sectors that contribute to genomic medicine: rare-disease and clinical-trials companies; academic medical centers; and a science museum… always bridging science and business to make innovation possible. I also became a board-certified genetic counselor at an age when many peers are thinking of winding down their careers. I’ve deferred clinical practice for now, but I use my knowledge of medical genetics and how to communicate it to multiple audiences every day.

Which scientists, living, dead, or fictional, would you invite to dinner, and why?

That would be quite a large dinner party! The guest of honor might be Leonardo da Vinci given his remarkable ability to study across disciplines. Gregor Mendel would have to be there, so that he could get an inkling of what his pioneering research on pea plants has led to. Salvador Luria, because of his work that to my mind foreshadowed CRISPR, and because of his humanity even as his scientific fame grew. Mary-Clare King, Barbara McClintock, Rosalind Franklin, and Susan Lindquist would provide perspective as women working to realize their scientific and personal dreams, and who accomplished so much in their careers.

What advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?

Get clear on what matters to you, and know that that may change over time. Remember the difference between “my work” and “my job.”


Opinions and views expressed in The Short Read are the interviewee’s and not those of the home institution


Check back on December 20 for the next installment of The Short Read, where David Smith, Professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the Mayo Clinic, will be giving us a glimpse into what the future of next generation sequencing could look like. And an “elementary” dinner party guest!


Who else has been in The Short Read?

George Church – “Follow your dreams, not the drove”

Amalio Telenti – Defying the “exome-centric” view

Anna Middleton – “It’s ok to be a bit creative and entrepreneurial”