As we continue with our profile series, today we’ll meet Michael Graige, Inscripta’s Chief Technology Officer. After growing up in southern California, he earned his PhD in chemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Diego. He joined the Inscripta team in 2017.
What’s your role at Inscripta?
Initially I had the privilege of leading the project to commercialize our OnyxTM platform. But with the growth of our team, the deep insights of talented team members taking on additional responsibilities, and driving the project to completion, I am now changing my focus to help train, build, and mentor our technical teams in preparation for the future. That includes identifying novel technologies and approaches that can drive the performance of our products higher. There’s so much great technology out there! I’ll be interacting with people to understand how new and existing technologies can address our product needs — and where there are gaps and opportunities.
What brought you to Inscripta?
A multitude of factors made me excited to join the Inscripta team. First was the technology. At conferences while I was still working at Illumina, I would sneak away to attend CRISPR talks. The untapped potential of this technology, coupled with the possibilities to transform the speed at which researchers could accumulate data, fascinated me. I did not know how to marry CRISPR with a tools business before talking with our chairman, John Stuelpnagel, who I had the opportunity to work closely with back at Illumina. From him I learned about the team and our investors, both best in class. I dug into our IP, and even at that time, it was solid and the breadth was amazing. It is even more important and valuable today.
How did you get into the genome editing field?
Inscripta was my entrance into the genome editing field. I had an understanding and an appreciation for CRISPR technology because it was gaining recognition as a means to manipulate DNA and could be used for sequencing sample prep and other in vitro applications. When I arrived, I had a ton of homework to do. Luckily, I had some great teachers here, and started learning the basics of editing. Using CRISPR inside cells is a whole new ballgame!
If you could use genome engineering to address any challenge, what would you choose?
I believe that we have decades of work to do before we (as a scientific community) understand biology to the extent that we can truly control it. The greatest challenge is to use precise gene editing techniques to collect mounds of data that can be analyzed with AI to truly understand the function of genes, unravel the interactions between pathways, understand epistasis, define cures, and unlock the power of biology. Maybe the succinct answer is: support community-sourced accumulation of massive data sets that, through AI, can be converted to cures and solutions to many important environmental problems.
What’s the best career advice you have to share?
Follow your passion. You’re typically great at things that you love to do because you spend time doing them. When you’re great at something you love to do, then everything else will take care of itself.
What did you do as a kid that you wish you could do more as an adult?
I wish I could hang out with my friends more. Given the COVID-19 situation, I think that is something we all wish we could do more.
What’s your favorite vacation?
The world is immense, so I can’t think of a favorite. I am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Egypt this November. A friend planned it as part of her 60th birthday party. Something about a boat, the Nile River, pyramids, and Katy Perry. I do not really have all the details yet, but check back with me in December and I will let you know how it went.