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Ryan Ashton

Forging New Territories

By: Melanie Johnson

March 9, 2009

Few things in life are as grueling as waiting for medical test results. Whether anticipating a minor illness or serious disease, the sit-and-wait game is a scenario the majority can relate to—including Ryan Ashton, president and CEO of Great Basin Scientific, a startup life sciences company that’s paving the way in developing simple, yet powerful, health screening technology. Although he comes from a high-tech background with success as a leader at companies including Novell, Megahertz Corporation and Printelligent, it wasn’t until former colleague David Stafford approached him about running Great Basin Scientific that Ashton saw an opportunity in the life sciences field and took it. “I thought, ‘my gosh, from high-tech to life sciences, that will be an interesting challenge,’” he recalls. After Ashton came on board in 2005, the company raised $3 million and continued to grow from there. Ashton says his can-do attitude got him where he is today, but the father of four children doesn’t attribute all his success to himself, “I’ve just been a member of great teams,” he explains, adding that he employs a value-based business philosophy by listening to customers, really anticipating their needs and then providing a worthwhile product. “Nobody told Apple they wanted an iPod,” Ashton says. “Customers will tell you what they want if you listen closely.” And at Great Basin Scientific, Ashton and his team heard that customers wanted their medical test results quicker and the company responded. “It’s been a really fun process of learning what the customers want, but understanding what they really want since they don’t know the technology, they don’t know what to ask for.” Utilizing silicon chip-based technology, Great Basin Scientific seeks to eliminate barriers associated with traditional diagnostic testing methods in hopes of making testing protocol easier on the patient. “Current tests are very expensive, complex and difficult to administer, so we’re bringing a great benefit to the market,” Ashton says. Depending on the type of test, it traditionally takes about two days to process the results. However, Great Basin Scientifics’ technology is designed to improve the traditional methods with more simplified and cost-effective processes, allowing test results to come back in about an hour. “This will allow for a faster diagnosis, reduced patient hospital stay and it reduces the overall costs,” Ashton says, adding that he believes the best part about the technology is that, for some, it alleviates the anxiety associated with waiting for test results. “It’s a standard of care that in the past was only dreamed of.” Although still in the developmental stage, the first test will go to trial in May of 2009, with an expected FDA clearance this fall. Ashton says there are two keys to business success: the ability to understand what the market opportunity is and how your product can make a difference in peoples’ lives. “It’s all about understanding what the technology can really do that’s of value,” Ashton says. “We aren’t trying to give them something just because it’s cool technology, but it’s all about providing something people can really use.”

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