We sat down with John Butler, CEO of Quantumcyte who has a long history in the biotech world of Silicon Valley, specifically building tools and technology that can answer and solve complex problems effectively.
Before founding Quantumcyte, John held a variety of roles in biotech companies ranging from
Pacific Biosciences to Applied Biosystems to his most role as the Director of Process Development at Stanford University School of Medicine. It was at Pacific Biosciences where John met his cofounder, Dr. Bidhan Chaudhuri and where they worked on complex products taking them from development to manufacturing and ultimately out the door. One key focus of John’s career has always been on bringing new products and to commercialization.
John found his life’s purpose when misfortune came to his family and his wife was diagnosed
with a rare untreatable cancer, that challenge inspired him to found Quantumcyte. We’re happy to report that 10 years later Mrs Butler is still with us and fighting strong.
John’s wife’s diagnosis was a rare metastasized carcinoid cancer with no cure and few, if any, options for treatment. After a couple of years of figuring out how to navigate their “new normal” which meant a new life of many doctors visits and medications, John set out to find a cure.
He set himself down a path of learning all that he could about cancer, meeting with people in the field approaching the problem from a DNA sequencing perspective, as well as computational biology with a goal of using technology to find a drug for his wife.
John focused his attention on circulating tumor cells. His approach suggested that he’d be able to measure responses to a panel of drugs within these cells. Thereby identifying drugs that achieved the desired impact on the tumor cells. Ultimately, John and Bidhan built a platform that correlates gene expression with phenotypic data.
What this means is through an automated process, Quantumcyte is dosing a targeted cell, determining the cell’s response to the drug, then studying how the disease reacts and how other cells react to the dosed cell.
Peers in the molecular profiling space are acknowledging the game changing aspect of this approach to treatment. Quantumcyte’s approach not only identifies what works at the molecular level, since it’s analyzing the patient’s specific circulating tumor cells, it’s addressing that individual’s cancer problem.
Seven years into the journey, every single experiment provides a breakthrough, John has been able to build the hardware, turn it into a consumable, and apply complex processes to accelerate the development. He’s begun to sell his tools to the scientists leading the industry. He credits IndieBio for teaching him how to sell and reshape his approach to the business side of his company.
John’s startup story, while familiar to many founders we profiled, of having to beg, borrow, and steal to get your idea off the ground carries with it a different weight and drive. We couldn’t imagine any greater motivating factor than saving your loved one’s life and that has been a mission that John has been on for the last 10 years, it is obvious to see his passion, desire and motivation to work until that cure is found.
Have a listen to John’s fascinating story, we applaud John and his founding team and of course wish his wife much strength through this journey as one thing is for sure, John will NOT give up until a cure is found.