Rothberg’s aim is to make healthcare accessible to everyone around the world.
Rothberg speaks at PopTech in 2011
Rothberg receives the National Medal of Technology and Innovation from President Obama in 2015. (Image: White House)
Dr. Jonathan Rothberg is a scientist and entrepreneur who was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, by President Obama for inventing and commercializing high-speed DNA sequencing. He is the founder of multiple life science and medical device companies including CuraGen, 454 Life Sciences, Ion Torrent, RainDance Technologies, ClariFI, Hyperfine Research, Quantum-Si, AI Therapeutics, Butterfly Network, 4Catalyzer, and 4Bionics.
Jonathan started his first company, CuraGen, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991. One of the first genomics companies, CuraGen went public in 1999, and at one time had a market cap of $5 billion, larger than that of American Airlines. With his next company, 454 Life Sciences, Jonathan brought to market the first new way to sequence genomes since 1980. The idea for massively parallel (“next-gen”) DNA sequencing came to Jonathan when his infant son was rushed into intensive care, helping him realize the critical importance of genomics to human health. He went on to invent semiconductor chip-based sequencing with Ion Torrent, paving the way for the $1,000 Genome. His contributions to the field of sequencing have formed the basis for all subsequent next generation sequencing technologies, and he is regarded as the inventor of the technology.
In the early 2010s, Jonathan concluded that he needed to become a parallel entrepreneur rather than a serial entrepreneur. He launched 4Catalyzer, an incubator based in Guilford, CT. 4Catalyzer incubates AI Therapeutics, Hyperfine Research, Quantum-Si, and Butterfly Network. It now has more than 300 scientists and has raised over $600M in funding. Its most mature company, Butterfly Network, develops the first ultrasound instrument built entirely on a semiconductor chip, giving it greater imaging flexibility than any device on the market. Butterfly’s device received the widest FDA clearance ever given to an ultrasound probe, making it the world’s first handheld whole-body scanner at a cost 50-fold less than existing devices, and launching an era of democratized medical imaging.
Jonathan was born in 1963 in New Haven, Connecticut, to a family of entrepreneurs. He earned a B.S. in chemical engineering from Carnegie Mellon and an M.S., M.Phil, and Ph.D. in biology from Yale. Rothberg is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, is a trustee of Carnegie Mellon, and an Adjunct Professor of Genetics at the Yale. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Bonnie, a physician, and five children. His main motivation for his work is his family; he works only on companies that will directly affect someone he loves. He and his wife started the nonprofit Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases which works on treatments for tuberous sclerosis, a rare disease that affects one of their children. Jonathan sponsors the Rothberg Catalyzer Prize, a "hack-athon" event, at four universities: Carnegie Melon University, Yale University, Brown University, and University of Pennsylvania. He had his own version of Stonehenge, which he calls the Circle of Life, build near his home in Guilford, CT, using 700 tons of granite imported from Norway. Interested in wine-making, he owns Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, CT. A lover of the high seas, Rothberg owns a yacht called Gene Machine, which is equipped with a lab on board.