New Member Spotlight: Zhao Ruilin

Zhao Ruilin.jpg

Company: Illumina

Position: VP & General Manager (Greater China)

Hometown:  Jincheng City, Shanxi Province

How did you arrive in your current position at Illumina?

20 years ago, I went to America to study medical physics and extended my learning in business aspects at Wharton Business School. Prior to joining Illumina, I had been working in medical devices and biotechnology industry for over 10 years.

What is something currently developing in the field of medicine and technology that influences Illumina’s operations?

The fast drop in price of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) from US $3 billion in 2003 to US $1,000 in 2014. Recent price drops were mainly enabled by Illumina, and we are extremely delighted to see many more advancements in the real understanding and care of related medical technologies. For example, there are hundreds of genome based diagnosis, drug, and therapy methods in clinical trials today. As a result, the latest National Institutes of Health report shows a considerable increase of five-year survival ratios with oncology patients in America. Another example with WGS - a new born baby with a Rare and Undiagnosed Genomic Disease (RUGD) can get quickly diagnosed, and in some cases, the negative conditions may be completely removed, rather than waiting for decades while attempting traditional methods. Such positive news in medical research and clinical practice further consolidated our commitment in new product research, and strengthened our willingness to bring these breakthroughs to benefit the local market.

What is the most interesting things about genomics and personalized medicine that you wish more people knew?

Approximately 8 percent of your DNA is derived from viruses that invaded your ancestors’ genomes and never left. Some viruses replicate by inserting their DNA into their hosts. If the virus integrates with a cell that will one day form an egg or sperm cell, then it will be passed on to every cell in the offspring. In this way, incorporated viruses build up within genomes over time. It is possible to map evolution by the presence of a deactivated virus. If a virus entered the genome fairly recently, then only very closely related species should have it. If it entered long ago, then many related species should share it. One such virus remnant has been found in nearly all mammals and is thought to have come from an infection 100 million years ago. It provides a proof that all creatures are “brothers and sisters.”

Where does Illumina hope to be in 20 years?

Illumina will turn 20 next year. We do not have a 20-year plan for 2037. So, if I may venture to give a few personal opinions: 1) Genomic testing, in form of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) or future versions, will be a routine test at birth, and coded into everyone’s personal ID; 2) All children born could expect his/her life to be above 100 years; 3) China would surpass the US as the largest market, and accordingly, a few global functions may move to China as well.

Why did you join AmCham China?

As an active player in China genome sequencing market with headquarters in the US, we see AmCham China as a window to get access and intelligence to updated industry policies, a channel to build trusted partnership with  the Chinese government, an advocate for collective interest and common concerns, and a platform to interact with peer companies to share and gain insights and knowledge.