Founder of Genaco to study links between early infections and late onset diseases
For many, profitably developing and selling a company like Genaco Biomedical Products to the world’s largest molecular diagnosis company would constitute adequate professional achievement for a lifetime. But Genaco founder Dr. Jian Han is ready for more as the first principal investigator to sign on at HudsonAlpha.
Han is already busy at work. “What I am going to do is develop tools so that we can read and understand the ‘logbook’ of a person’s infection history."
Han hypothesizes that infections early in our lives may be the cause of many late onset diseases. The challenge of proof, explained Han, is that when we are sick with cancer or other diseases in our 60s or 70s, we do not know the complete list of infections that we’ve had through our lifetime. “Fortunately, we keep an immuno-logbook in our body. Every time we get an infection, our immune system keeps a record. The problem is that nobody knows how to read this logbook.”
“So, my work here at the institute,” said Han, “is to develop a scientific method that allows us to study this log book and identify the missing links between early infections and late onset diseases.”
Han’s work to delve into detailed patient histories was prompted by his post-Human Genome Project observations. “After the Human Genome Project was completed, many scientists rushed to search for the genes or mutations that may be responsible for some common diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. But over the past five years, not many of these kind of genes have been found. It is time to ask, ‘Are we looking in the right place?’”
“The reason I joined the institute is because it is set up to do exactly what I love to do!” offered Han. “Working to speed up the utilization of genomic technology to help patients, to speed up the commercialization of genomic technology and to educate: I love to do all these.”
Dr. Han noted that as a researcher trained in the fields of molecular genetics and medicine, he knows what patients want and need. As an entrepreneur, he knows what the market needs and how to deliver it. His experience in both areas gives him a lot of first-hand knowledge to share with students.
During the SARS crisis earlier this decade, Han developed a molecular differential diagnostic test that detected SARS and nine other pathogens causing respiratory infections. In 2003, this technology was perfected into the current tem-PCR technology. This technology won Genaco the Frost and Sullivan Technology innovation leadership award of 2006 for technological know-how, advancements in infectious disease testing, and the successful implementation of their technology integration strategy. Notably, Han sits on the American Board of Medical Genetics as a certified clinical molecular geneticists– one of about 200 in the U.S.
Innovation is Jian Han’s passion. “What I enjoy most is to be an innovator: An innovator is different from an inventor.” Invention, he explained, is like a spark, a bright moment. “But innovation is a process: It requires integration of many good ideas and processes for a complete solution for the end user. Innovation is not just about science; it often requires us to develop new business models.”
Holly Ralston McClain
The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama, is the cornerstone of the Cummings Research Park Biotechnology Campus. The campus hosts a synergistic cluster of biotechnology talent – science and business professionals – that promises collaborative innovation too turn knowledge and ideas into commercial products and services for improving human health and strengthening Alabama’s progressively diverse economy. The non-profit institute is housed in a state-of-the-art, 270,000 square-ft. facility strategically located in the nation’s second largest research park. HudsonAlpha has a three-fold mission of genomic research, economic development and educational outreach.