There’s something about the teeny-tiny that fascinates Doug Modlin. The microfluidics expert and newly appointed vice president of R&D at Fluidigm recognized early on that downsizing (in its most positive meaning) was the way to go.
“I spent about half of my career in the semiconductor and computer industry,” Modlin says. “There’s a big carryover from the semiconductor world to access things that are small.”
An electrical engineer, Modlin was recruited some years ago to join Affymax by Alejandro Zaffaroni, whose fund also invested in Fluidigm. He also held positions at Affymetrix and Molecular Devices, where he worked with fluidics and integrated screening systems. It was in this role that he realized microfluidics would have a major impact on biochips. So he went to Fluidigm, where the goal is to be able to “manipulate all the fundamental elements of biology at their native scale.”
Modlin will work on chips for all sorts of applications, including DNA amplification, hybridization, and sequencing; gene expression; and protein analysis and crystallization for mass-spec preparation. And he thinks he has really found a calling with his new job. “A lot of us at Fluidigm feel spoiled after working with this technology,” he says. “It would be hard to imagine a similar opportunity in any other company.”
— Meredith Salisbury