A Software Engineer Who Wants to Save Lives – Recent College Graduate and Insilico Medicine Intern Prepares for a Career in Bioinformatics

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Michael Scarlett, a 2015 graduate of Johns Hopkins University, is just one of a growing number of young software engineers entering a young industry that sits at the cutting edge of biology and computer science.

Michael Scarlett - Insilico Medicine Bioinformatics Intern
It's exciting to know the biological discoveries I'm working on may one day save lives

Since the dawn of the internet, computer scientists graduating from universities throughout the US have set their sights on Silicon Valley, focusing on careers in business and internet startups.

In recent years, however, a growing number of graduates, like 22-year old Michael Scarlett, a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University, have more altruistic goals in mind. Scarlett plans to work in the fast growing industry of bioinformatics.

Why are software engineers like Scarlett launching careers in bioinformatics? "Software will transform medicine the same way it’s transforming our daily lives," said Scarlett. "It's exciting to know that biological discoveries I'll be working on may one day save lives; I believe the most powerful tool in making these discoveries will be the computer, not the microscope."

Bioinformatics is the application of computer technology to the management of biological information. Computers are used to gather, store, analyze and integrate biological and genetic information which can then be applied to gene-based drug discovery and development. Bioinformatics specialists like Scarlett must acquire an eclectic blend of training in molecular biology, chemistry, and computer science.

Over the past year, Scarlett acquired much of his training as an internet at Insilico Medicine, a Baltimore-based bioinformatics company. The mission of InSilico Medicine is to find working solutions to treat and cure age-related diseases and even cure aging itself. “I think that the Insilico mission is bold and ambitious," said Scarlett. "The company plans to transform the pharmaceutical industry with computational methods. I believe in their mission and their success."

As his internship at Insilico Medicine draws to an end, Scarlett and other young computer scientists have more career options than ever before. Big pharma, biotech, and software companies are clamoring to hire software engineers who know how to compile, analyze, and visualize huge amounts of biological data. This is why a recent study predicted the bioinformatics industry would generate more than 12 billion dollars in revenue by 2020.

"If the computer infrastructure of Facebook or Twitter was leveraged to find a cure for cancer and fight other age-related diseases, everyone's health worldwide would improve, said Scarlett. "That's why I chose a career in bioinformatics."

“A year ago we interviewed about two dozen local students for internship positions and Michael really stood out. How often do you see people, who can talk to you and code at the same time? ”, said Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, CEO of Insilico Medicine. “I hope that many young kids in Baltimore will use Michael Scarlett as a role model, who fights humanity’s main enemy – aging, using nothing but his computer. Solving aging will eclipse every other advance in human history. It will provide major economic boost and save and improve billions of lives a few billion lives. Fighting aging should be the best way to earn street cred”.

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Qingsong Zhu, PhD
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InSilico Medicine
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