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Creativity Seeds Innovation: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Towards Redefining Health

LunaPBC’s CEO Bob Kain is named to Fast Company’s annual list of the Most Creative People in Business for 2020.

By Bob Kain, LunaPBC CEO and Co-founder

Innovation has always been proudly hailed as a core value in business, and rightfully so. Every business leader will admit this powerful tool supports developing valuable technologies, designing disruptive products, and vastly improving the way products or services are delivered to optimize business models. But what seeds innovation? How might business leaders develop this skill to make true, impactful change? It starts with creativity.

When applied appropriately, creativity is the secret sauce for improving organizational efficiency, decreasing costs, reducing risks, improving morale, and of course, seeding innovation. It is a crucial organization asset all too often left untapped. Fortunately, we all have the capacity to be creative in solving problems and carrying out work responsibilities. 

Developing a creative organization often starts with 1) clearly communicating the organizational challenges staff should consider, steering the creativity process squarely in the direction of value creation, and 2) teaching the fundamentals of the creativity process.

Organizations must encourage and nurture creative thinking and the sharing of ideas between employees. Innovation can arise when the right creative ideas are then implemented to solve important challenges and move the company forward to meet its goals. It is critical to continuously engage team members on the organization’s mission, goals, and main tactical challenges, while empowering them to think about, share, and discuss ideas.

Identifying the key problems to be solved, root causes of the problems and the strengths and weaknesses of existing options often enables us to surface valuable, new, creative solutions.”

Initial ideas may sometimes be silly, impractical, or seem to result in new problems, however, the journey to the right solution follows a path of thoughtful analysis of many wrong solutions. This deep understanding of the problem, the landscape around the problem, and the intricate details of the flaws in proposed solutions lead us to new creative solutions.

Bob Kain Head Shot Open Interior
Bob Kain, CEO + Co-founder at LunaPBC

Implementing Creativity to Impact Genomic Sequencing

Reflecting back on my 15-year career at Illumina, architecting the HiSeq is a great example of creativity utilizing technology tools to design a disruptive new product. Illumina, the biotech giant, was in a heated competition fighting to stay a half step ahead in the marketplace by introducing incremental product improvements to its Genome Analyzer DNA sequencing machine. Simultaneously, some of us focused our thinking on a bet-the-company strategy to reduce sequencing costs by at least a factor of ten. To accomplish this, we first had to understand and model the transformation that occurs in order to convert biological information — the A, C, T, and G’s in our genome – to digital information that could be stored on a computer.  Based on this understanding and knowledge of available technology building blocks, the HiSeq instrument was architected using technologies that followed Moore’s Law improvement curves. We chose technologies that would both provide an order of magnitude improvement over competitive offerings at launch, and provide a decade-long product roadmap that would improve on performance by two orders of magnitude. The resulting HiSeq product line not only broke the $1,000 genome barrier, but it was also capable of bringing the cost per genome down to $100 in the future.

Illumina HiSeq 2000
Illumina HiSeq 2000

Reinventing Industry Business Models

Similarly, LunaDNA’s solution to catalyzing health research is an example of creatively reinventing the industry business model to enable unfettered access to health data and accelerate the pace of discovery. This mission-driven journey began years before co-founding the organization when many of its executives from Illumina began investigating impediments to understanding how the human genome impacts health.  

We uncovered multiple factors slowing the pace of discoveries, including structural impediments. Institutions refused to share data, viewing this information as proprietary assets on their balance sheet. Attempts to establish federated data systems linking data from national genome centers, academic medical institutions, and for-profit organizations failed. Even when federated models included organizational permissioning and price setting for data access, there was little interest in data sharing. The personal data of individuals was being scooped up and locked away as organizational bounty.

We also identified social impediments to data sharing. In 2013, I sponsored a scientific meeting at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor titled Accelerating Genomic Research With Privacy Protections to determine the extent to which we, as a society, can protect genomic information and utilize it for the greater good. Many experts in the field were invited. Attendees reviewed technical options to protect privacy and security, and explored the challenges faced by academic researchers, hospital systems, and direct-to-consumer genetics companies in engaging study participants and soliciting consent for data sharing. 

It was at this Banbury meeting where we learned that an increasing participant engagement could not be solved solely by technology alone. Lack of engagement could be attributed to the individual’s lack of trust in the data stewardship. The group authored a White Paper published in PLOS Biology, entitled Redefining Genomic Privacy: Trust and Empowerment. The paper concluded that trust and empowerment were the keys to gaining consent and engagement from study participants, and this gaining of trust could be accomplished through transparency, control, and reciprocity around the use of their data. Needless to say, the lack of creativity the future of health discovery was facing was apparent to many experts in the field. 

As the meeting progressed, we shifted our focus from discovering links between our genome and our health to more generally improving health and quality of life. We became aware of additional impediments caused by “missing data” in studies; data that only exists in the heads of individuals. Examples of this missing data include patient-reported outcomes, patient adherence to physician recommendations, and behavioral information such as diet and exercise. This missing data could only be accessed by forming a trusted relationship with individuals, establishing long-term engagement, and educating people on the value to themselves and the communities of their participation in health research.

Creatively Changing Societal and Regulatory Issues of Data Ownership

Another important factor in health discovery much acknowledge is the changing legal and regulatory issues related to personal data privacy. The increasing awareness of how personal data is being used and abused is causing a societal backlash. Legislation is quickly putting a stop to many of these abuses, such as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Corporate brands are getting tarnished when privacy violations are publicized. These factors have to be taken into account when creatively designing a data and discovery ecosystem.

The LunaDNA business model and the HiSeq architecture did not arise simply by putting all this information into a bucket and magically coming up with a solution. The solutions arose because this information was understood by the founders. In the case of LunaDNA, the information formed the basis of many creative discussions around what a successful and disruptive solution to enabling unfettered access to health data might look like. In the end, one concept rose to the top: return ownership of the data back to the individual. The problem could not be solved with an institutional data ownership model. It was time to do what is right for people and respect a person’s right to data privacy, control, transparency, and attribution. We directly invite every person to join the journey, to collectively catalyze health discoveries. 

So in 2017, we formed LunaPBC, a Public Benefit Corporation, and then founded LunaDNA. 

Different than the institutional data silo model, LunaDNA forms a data-sharing relationship directly with individuals and communities, is interoperable across communities, delivers value to participants, and operates under the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission oversight (covered in Nature Biotech) and in compliance with modern international consumer privacy laws.

Both in the example of the HiSeq $1000 genome sequencer and creation of community-owned LunaDNA, creativity arose as a result of a deep and comprehensive understanding of the respective ecosystems and free-flowing analysis and conversations focused on new approaches to success in each ecosystem.”

These approaches aligned with the mission, purpose, and strategic aims of the people and organizations involved. 

I would like to thank all of my colleagues at Illumina and at LunaPBC for joining me on these journeys, and Fast Company for honoring me with Most Creative People in Business Award for 2020. It’s been a fun ride.

Bob Kain

LunaPBC’s CEO Bob Kain Named to Fast Company’s Annual List of Most Creative People in Business for 2020

We’re proud to announce that our Chief Executive Officer, Bob Kain, has been named to Fast Company’s annual list of the Most Creative People in Business for 2020.

This news comes just months after LunaPBC was named to Fast Company’s annual list of the Most Innovative Companies for 2020 in the Social Good category. Bob is recognized for his incredible achievements and significant impact in health tech, architecting Illumina’s HiSeq sequencing program, starting in 2008, and co-founding LunaDNA in 2017, the world’s first member-owned data-sharing platform for health research.

This year’s winning group features individuals working in artificial intelligence, winemaking, cybersecurity, television, underwater museum design, and more. It includes leaders from Patagonia, Amazon, Kaiser Permanente, Citi, and Google; and it spans across the globe, from China to Peru to Jordan to Burlington, Vermont.

“The Most Creative People in Business list offers a highly vetted, fully reported view of the powerful ideas and diverse leaders already shaping tomorrow,” said Jill Bernstein, Editorial Director at Fast Company.

Bob Kain
Bob Kain, CEO and Co-founder at LunaPBC

Bob Kain and His Creative Endeavors in Health Tech

Biotech executive, inventor, and entrepreneur, Bob is a renowned pioneer in genomics, dedicating most of his career building Illumina, Inc. pre-IPO from 30 employees with no revenue, to a burgeoning workforce of over 3,000 employees and $1.4B in revenue. In 2017, Bob came out of retirement following his 15-year career as the chief engineering officer at Illumina to co-found LunaPBC, the public benefit corporation behind LunaDNA. In between his career at Illumina and LunaPBC, Bob founded health and fitness business, Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center, with multiple sites in San Diego, California, and Reno, Nevada.

“Innovation has always been hailed as a core value in business, and rightfully so. Every business leader will admit this powerful tool supports developing valuable technologies, designing disruptive products, and vastly improving the way products or services are delivered. But what seeds innovation? How might business leaders develop this skill to deliver truly impactful change? It starts with creativity,” Bob shares in his article, Creativity Seeds Innovation.

When applied appropriately, creativity is the secret sauce to improving organizational efficiency, decreasing costs, reducing risks, improving morale, and of course, seeding innovation. It is a crucial asset to an organization often left untapped. Fortunately, we all have the capacity to be creative in solving problems and carrying out work responsibilities.”

LunaDNA’s COVID-19 Study Program

As technology advances, so do creative health innovations, including the recent spike in biotechnology companies aiming to support biomedical research studies at scale. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bob believes there’s no better time to seed innovation than now. In March 2020, Bob helped launch LunaDNA’s COVID-19 Study, a program that offers people and communities the tools to share their lived experiences during this unique time, recognizing that each person, community, and geography is uniquely impacted and will likely experience different longterm health effects. LunaPBC is collaborating with various groups to support privacy-protected COVID-19 information sharing including Genetic Alliance and Disease InfoSearch, xCures, San Diego Blood Bank, and the Propionic Acidemia Foundation. Each study has a special focus, ranging from how the virus affects people with cancer, genetic disorders and co-morbidities, to capturing individual’s interest to join research studies.

Co-founders from Left to Right: CFO David Lewis, CEO Bob Kain, President Dawn Barry

LunaPBC focuses on supporting research to identify links between our biology and health, as well as surface other factors related to wellness, such as environmental and social influences. LunaDNA elevates people to partners in research with data privacy, control, and transparency, recognizing that the future of discovery requires big relationships over big data. Bob hopes that LunaDNA will bring data together at scale to fill the missing gaps in today’s databases.

We praise Bob for this incredible recognition and look forward to the additional creative innovations he’ll bring to health tech.

“I would like to thank all of my colleagues at Illumina and at LunaPBC for joining me on these journeys, and Fast Company for honoring me with 2020’s Most Creative People in Business Award. It’s been a fun ride.”

About LunaDNA and LunaPBC
LunaDNA makes discovery representative of the real world and aligned with people’s true goals by giving all individuals a role in research from right where they are. LunaDNA is a digital data-sharing community owned by its members. By sharing health information, you directly power disease research. As a member, your data is confidential. You control the information you share — only one copy of your data exists and you always control its inclusion in LunaDNA. We make it simple for all credible researchers to pursue health and quality of life discovery. LunaDNA is managed by Public Benefit Corporation, LunaPBC, founded in 2017 and headquartered in San Diego, California. The LunaPBC team, investors, and advisors are renowned in the patient-advocacy, health, and science fields, including several former chief executives of Illumina, industry academics, and financial executives.

About Fast Company
Fast Company is the only media brand fully dedicated to the vital intersection of business, innovation, and design, engaging the most influential leaders, companies and thinkers on the future of business. Since 2011, Fast Company has received some of the most prestigious editorial and design accolades, including the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) National Magazine Award for “Magazine Of The Year,” Adweek’s Hot List for “Hottest Business Publication,” and six gold medals and 10 silver medals from the Society of Publication Designers. The editor-in-chief is Stephanie Mehta and the publisher is Amanda Smith. Headquartered in New York City,Fast Companyis published by Mansueto Ventures LLC, along with our sister publication Inc., and can be found online at

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LunaDNA Wins Most Innovative New Product Award

LunaPBC Selected as a Winner for Connect’s 2019 Most Innovative New Product Awards

Today, LunaPBC announced that LunaDNA has been selected as a winner of Connect’s Most Innovative New Product Awards.

Connect, a premier nonprofit helping entrepreneurs with innovative startups in the technology and life sciences sectors, continues its thirty-two-year tradition of celebrating innovation leaders in the local San Diego community.

LunaDNA is a people-powered health data sharing platform for improving the participant engagement, efficiency, and velocity of research. LunaDNA members share genomic, personal, and health data; consent their de-identified data for use in aggregate for population-level research; and earn ownership shares in LunaDNA.

We are honored to have won such a prestigious award that recognizes local innovation and unites people who whole-heartedly and consistency support San Diego’s culture,” said LunaPBC’s President and Co-Founder Dawn Barry.

LunaPBC, the public benefit corporation managing LunaDNA, was awarded in the Life Science and Healthtech category at the annual Innovation Awards event held on Thursday, December 5th, at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine. Winners were selected in the following seven categories: Big Data; Cleantech; Defense; Medical Device; Life Science and Healthtech; Smart City & Transportation, and Software.

For a complete list of winners and additional information, please visit the Connect’s website

About LunaPBC
LunaPBC was proudly founded in 2017 in San Diego, California by former Illumina executives and leaders in large-scale consumer platforms and economics. LunaDNA soft launched in December 2018 concurrent with SEC-qualification, thus making LunaDNA the world’s first company to offer shares of ownership in the organization to health data contributors.

For more than 30 years, Connect has focused on supporting and elevating entrepreneurs in the San Diego region. The organization has a long history as a powerhouse of resources for innovators, including mentorship, education, and connection to capital. Connect serves entrepreneurs and startups throughout their growth journey, from early stage to capital raise, with a suite of curated programs and events aimed to help companies grow, gain access to capital, and scale. 

Luna is bringing together individuals, communities, and researchers to better understand life. Directly drive health discovery by joining the Tell Us About You study. The more we come together to contribute health data for the greater good, the quicker and more efficient research will scale, and improve the quality of life for us all.  

Click here to get started.


LunaPBC Named 2019 World Economic Forum’s Tech Pioneer

We’re thrilled to announce that the World Economic Forum (WEF) today named LunaPBC™, the public benefit corporation behind LunaDNA™, one of its newest Technology Pioneers — ahead of hundreds of up-and-coming tech companies, worldwide. This designation globally recognizes LunaPBC as a startup breaking health data barriers towards the goal of accelerating health discovery through people-powered research.

Medical breakthroughs and improving quality of life depend on comprehensive, continuous, real-world health data organized to support medical discovery. People are the best curators of their health data, and we need them as partners in research,” said Dawn Barry, president and co-founder, LunaPBC. “This model brings together social responsibility with technology for real-world, frictionless, passive information capture. We can imagine research as a continuous relationship versus a moment in time transaction.”

WEF was established in 1971 as an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, engaging the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.

Since 2000, WEF established the Technology Pioneer community to recognize early to growth-stage companies from around the world that are making waves in the design, development, and deployment of new technologies and innovations, and are positioned to have a significant impact on the world. With this designation, LunaPBC joins acclaimed Technology Pioneers, including Wikimedia, Twitter, Spotify, Google and AirBnB.

LunaPBC is now immersed into WEF’s events and initiatives, where we’ll be at the center of cutting-edge insights and novel perspective in world-changing discussions. From July 1 to July 3, Bob Kain will be in Dalain, China, participating in the WEF Annual Meeting of the New Champions. There, he’ll be discussing the impact of ground-breaking genetics and molecular science related to human longevity in a session entitled, “What If: You Could Live to 150?”. Select awardees will also attend the January 2020 Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland to continue contributing to WEF initiatives over the next two years.

LunaPBC team from left to right: James White, Thomas Rodriguez, Debora Thompson, Kirby Bloom, David Lewis, Dawn Barry, Bob Kain, Scott Kahn, Alexandria Leonidova, Bojil Velinov, Mayank Tyagi, Genevieve Lopez
Bob Kain
Bob Kain, CEO + Co-founder at LunaPBC

This exciting news comes just one month after our funding announcement from top tier venture capitalists, including ARCH Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Illumina Ventures, and Osage University Partners. A few months before, we proudly announced our strategic partnership with Genetic Alliance, the world’s leading nonprofit health advocacy group committed to transforming health research for individuals and communities.

We’re only halfway through  the year and together we’re already paving global paths in health research. WEF’s Technology Pioneer 2019 award is a reminder of the strides we’re making as a community directly contributing to health discovery. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us at LunaDNA.