Janice Chen is having an amazing career, and it’s just beginning. She’s only 30 years old and is the co-founder and chief technology officer of Mammoth Biosciences, a company that develops diagnostic tests using CRISPR gene editing. Mammoth is now worth $1 billion, and Chen hopes to steer the company to a $100 billion valuation.
She’s already attracted tons of recognition. She’s been selected for:
- MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35
- Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
- Forbes 30 Under 30 in Healthcare
- Business Insider’s 30 Under 40 in Healthcare
- SF Business Times Most Influential Women
- Endpoints Top 20 Women in Biopharma
- TEDx, where she gave a talk on the potential for CRISPR gene editing to democratize diagnostic tests
And yet, as hard as it may be to believe, she is not the most famous person in her family – at least not yet. That honor goes to her little brother, Nathan Chen, who dazzled the world with his championship figure skating performances at the 2022 Olympics.
She is not even the most well-known person at Mammoth. Jennifer Doudna, who won a Nobel Prize in 2020 for her pioneering work in discovering CRISPR gene editing, is one of Chen’s three other co-founders at Mammoth. Doudna was also Chen’s mentor when the younger scientist was getting her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, working as a graduate student researcher at Doudna’s lab.
Chen grew up in Salt Lake City. Her father had a small biotech business that sparked Chen’s interest in the field. Besides Nathan, she has three other siblings. Her drive to excel emerged early in her life. As a child, she played competitive chess, competed in dance, and played the violin.
Doudna received her undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biology at Johns Hopkins University and conducted research at Harvard Medical School. At Berkeley, she studied how CRISPR gene editing works, specifically how CRISPR recognizes and cuts its targets – information that was used to develop more precise detection technology.
Now, Mammoth Biosciences is forging ahead with the technology developed at Doudna’s lab. The company is growing rapidly, recently making large deals with Bayer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Tim Cook from Apple, and the venture capital firm Mayfield. On her LinkedIn profile, Chen describes what Mammoth does as “harnessing the diversity of nature” to create “the next generation of CRISPR products” and enable “the full potential … to read and write the code of life.”
Mammoth Biosciences is among the most well-funded of companies working with CRISPR technology. During the pandemic, the company received grants from the National Institutes of Health to work on technology for testing for Covid.
As she focuses on Mammoth’s business strategy, Chen has stepped out of the lab. She is known for her ability to take scientific discoveries and turn them into successful commercial products. In addition to Covid testing, Mammoth’s projects include developing tests and cures for liver disease and using CRISPR technology to advance other healthcare applications, environmental monitoring, agriculture, and biodefense.
Like her company, Janice Chen has a bright and prosperous future ahead.