With confidence he attributes to his free-range childhood, Chris Gibson has followed his instincts and his heart, stepping away from the MD/PhD program in which he’s enrolled to co-found and lead Recursion Pharmaceuticals, one of the buzziest companies bringing AI to drug development. In mid-July, Recursion closed a $121M Series C, bringing their valuation ever closer to unicorn status.
Chris grew up in Portland, the son of a tech entrepreneur and an artist, and as a child was permitted a degree of independence that seems vanishingly rare. He went to college at Rice, pursuing both bio-engineering and business management. At Rice, he also met his future wife, who then attended medical school in San Antonio; Chris followed, initially pursuing a PhD in tissue engineering, then joining the MD/PhD program. His wife then elected to continue her training in neurogenetics in Salt Lake City; Chris soon joined her in Utah, talking his way into the MD/PhD program at the University of Utah, and joining the lab of noted physician-scientist Dean Li.
Ultimately, it was in thinking through a failed experiment that he and Li came up with the idea for Recursion Pharma, a company that starts with the premise that biology is “massively complex.” They realized that in order to have a chance to understand biology at the level needed for most novel therapeutic interventions, you need to operate at a very large scale and remove human bias to the extent possible, generating highly reproducible data through the aggressive use of automation and imaging, analyzed through the lens of machine learning.
Founded in 2013, Recursion has not only raised significant capital, but it has also attracted a cadre of talented drug developers and sophisticated technologists. The company, based in Salt Lake City, now has over 150 employees, and continues to grow rapidly. In today’s show, Chris describes his vision for the company, but also his anxieties as a founder boldly pushing forward into largely uncharted waters.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Manatt Health—a multi-disciplinary professional services firm that integrates a full service law firm and a broad-based strategic business and policy consulting practice to help its clients grow and prosper. Manatt Health supports the full range of stakeholders in transforming America’s healthcare system.