“Let your work’s ripple effects help sort the future out” – Brendan Gallagher
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.
We continue on the data theme for this week’s Short Read, with Brendan Gallagher. Sentieon is one of the leading secondary analysis start ups out there, picking up 2016 wins in the precisionFDA Consistency Challenge, and Truth Challenge. You might recognise Brendan as he was part of both of those winning teams. You might also recoginse him if you’ve ever made it out to the Genomics Coffee Club!
What are you working on right now?
I am working on solving genomic data analysis challenges through my work at Sentieon, a bioinformatics company. Our goal is to characterise genomes, either germline or somatic, both individual and large cohorts, as accurately and efficiently as possible to enable precision data for precision medicine.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work at the moment?
The scarcity of objective truth of DNA analysis, that can be used to validate our solutions. Sentieon would like to develop solutions for many of the genomics computation problems. But, without a commonly accepted validation standards other than papers and publications, it is difficult to gauge and prove the effectiveness of new solutions.
Name one big development that you would like to see in your field the next 18 months.
A true super long read technology that can be used to generate an objective truth of a full genome, which will objectively validate the genome data analysis methods, and spark new algorithm development to analyse the full genome as whole.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of how I have grown professionally in the genomics industry and the contributions I am making at Sentieon. Also, I’d be remiss if I did not mention my wet lab work on the cancer drug Lutathera, a new precision medicine!
Which scientists, living, dead, or fictional, would you invite to dinner, and why?
Oliver Sachs because of his curiosity and versatility. There is too much I could write about him, but I think he was one of the people I would have most liked to know personally. I think everyone is so fortunate he took so much of his own time to write, so I would like to thank him for that as well.
I really learned a lot from two scientists, Jun Ye, my current boss, and Jack Erion, my previous boss. So, I would like hear them talk to each other. That is an issue about science that I think FLG is helping to solve, that much of it is accomplished by smart people working in small groups without much outside world communication. In my job, I speak to scientists all over the world, but often, even though they are working on similar things, they do not speak much to each other.
I would also add Jonas Salk, Richard Feynman, Grace Hopper, Avi Regev, and George Church for good measure. I like parties more than dinners!
What advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
Ha, in terms of a scientific career, I am probably still at the start of it 😉 but I feel very fortunate to be where I am. The advice I continue to give to myself is try to focus on the present and not think too much about the future. It is hard living in Silicon Valley as I am constantly seeing robot cars, new apps, and people blogging about the “future” but for an individual the important thing is to take care of your work in the present and let your work’s ripple effects help sort the future out.