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On Board the “Gene machine”

Jonathan Rothberg about how he combines scientific research, family life and yachting

American scientist, managed to turn the iPhone into a full-fledged ultrasound, founder of sequencing DNA Jonathan Rothberg (Jonathan Rothberg) manages to have on its 55-metre yacht Gene Machine five or six months of the year. About how the boat makes for a successful inventor to devote more time to family and serves as a laboratory for his middle daughter — in translation article Mower Marilyn (Marilyn Mower), who was on Board the “Gene machine.”

The owner of the 55-metre yacht Gene Machine, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, snuggled together on the terrace surrounded by his two youngest daughters, with whom goes to the water Park Atlantis in the Bahamas. He is taller than I imagined, and far more sociable than you might expect from a scholar of this magnitude. His bare feet soothe me no less than his open charming smile. And he good-naturedly laughs when we are joined by his son in a wet swimsuit.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet here while the kids are off school. So, what do you want to talk?” asks Jonathan.

I expected that the interview will be devoted to the voyage length of nine thousand miles, from the French Riviera to SalibaRDA in Norway — perfect family of Rotberga on Board the Gene Machine last year, but the story of this journey took only a small part of our conversation.

Dr. Jonathan Rothberg is an American chemical engineer and a biologist, inventor and entrepreneur. The fact that his expedition yacht Amels 180 Limited Edition is called the Gene Machine, talks about his passion for work. But if you look, he began to deal with developments in the field of high-speed DNA sequencing, to find a way to improve the lives of people he loves.

Frustrated too long-term process of diagnosis and treatment of diseases caused by the disorders of DNA and not the impact of the environment, he plunged into the study of genetics and computers. Rothberg different angle looked at the problems of deciphering the genetic code and improved the process which earlier was completely dependent on server capacity and took about a month.

In 1991, while still being one of the graduate students of the University, he founded CuraGen Corporation, one of the first companies involved in genomics. Key attention was focused on the study of how the genome codes for proteins.

research rotberga led to the development of drugs for the treatment of skin cancer and breast cancer.

“My mother bought our first boat when CuraGen went public,” says Rothberg about the boat Lucky Seven, named in honor of him and his brothers and sisters. On this boat the “lucky seven” children Lillian Rothberg for the first time felt the taste of the yachting lifestyle.

His second company — 454 Life Sciences — a new method of sequencing genes, the first working with technology since the 1980-ies. The revolutionary design will fully decode the human genome at one time.

In 2007, founded the company Ion Torrent, he continued his work on DNA sequencing.

Jonathan managed to develop a method of decoding a whole human genome-not on a huge mainframe, and using a semiconductor chip that is only worth $1000.

When in 2010, Ion Torrent was sold for $725 million, Rothberg bought my first Gene Machine — a 40-foot yacht Westport 130 (now Lady Pegasus). This boat is perfect for the study of the Bahamas and New England, but he wanted to show his children more interesting destinations worldwide. It was therefore decided to acquire a steel displacement yacht Dutch production.

With his eldest son Noah, then a freshman at Yale University, and middle daughter Elana Rothberg visited leading European shipyards, discussing options, making boats to order. In the end they opted for Amels.

“But when the Builder can start the construction, we would have had to miss three of the summer season. For me this was unacceptable,” says Rotberg.

Every summer a very busy couple (wife of Jonathan and Bonnie Gould Rothberg (Bonnie Gould Rothberg) — holds a PhD in epidemiology of chronic diseases, is a practicing physician and an associate Professor at Yale University) devoted to her five children.

“My children are incredibly close to each other and spend time together on Board at 14-16 weeks per year. I like to give them this unique experience, says Rothberg, noting that he often “falls” from the brothers and sisters for stealing nephews, which do not feed bread — give only spare time to spend on the boat. — We always have cousins, aiming to get aboard.”

Not to wait for the boat for so long, Roberge moved on to the brokerage market. Their goal was the rapid acquisition of yachts, which would allow them to travel anywhere and not depend on weather conditions. Noah remembers how exhausted, trying to get to Islands of Saint-Barthelemy (France) Gene on the previous Machine, which was semi-displacement.

“We immediately saw that this is the same boat, says Mr. Rotberg about the 55-metre Amels Engelberg, built for a European family. But it has already signed a contract. I began to think what to do next, when we got the call and was told that the deal fell through and Engelberg are available for purchase. I think my daughter Elana was very happy with it. She liked the yacht, and she said she was not sure I would trust my taste in the construction of new boats,” he laughs.

Pullman beds to accommodate additional guests and colorful room for observing marine life, already equipped in the aft, made this yacht an ideal option for Rotberga, and they bought it.

“I knew that the family would be spending a lot of time on Board, says captain Fraser Gow (Gow Fraser). — Rotberg warned about five or six months of the year! He is so like the boat that we have to kick him to the time of service”.

GOU was the second captain on one of the yachts Amels, when the children of rotberga met him during the search for a suitable boat.

“First they checked him out,” laughs Rothberg.

“The first summer with them we spent in the Mediterranean — continues to captain Gow. — Then the owner asked what I would advise for the cruise. I proposed to visit London, and then to make the month cruise in the Northern latitudes. I guess I was too ambitious: sometimes we walked all night to our next destination”.

Fraser Gow believes Norway ‘s most underrated and most magical place where we could go on the yacht.

“We spent two weeks exploring every valley of each fjord. With a series of Islands in the open sea, all very reminiscent of the inside passage to Alaska. The vast majority of our travels took place in a smooth, calm water”.

Before this trip, Rotberg added to the equipment Gene Machine the two front sonars and put them on tenders WASSP sounders. GOU prepared the boat to ensure that all members of the family could continue to enjoy water sports that they like to do in warm water.

“We just replaced the nylon gear in the diving suits of dry type,” adds the captain.

Rotary flying to paragliding over the glaciers, watching polar bears, swim with whales, was grilling on the beach, watched the Northern lights and took of the midnight sun.

“Most of the people on the boat taking pictures of whales, floating in the distance, says Noah. — We took pictures of themselves swimming with them. I never even could not imagine that I would see the blue whale and we saw it. The fjords in Norway gave me some idea of the scale of the Earth.”

A visit to Svalbard, the northernmost year-round settlement on the planet, located just 650 miles from the North pole, was for all those present on Board a highlight.

“Local food co-op delivered to the boat fresh food, and on the shore were three excellent restaurants where you can have lunch,” says Gow.

Under no circumstances during the adventure on the yacht, Rotberg has not suspended its work. His research has led to breakthroughs in reducing the bee population and organ transplantation. He seems tireless.

“If I can’t figure out how to solve a problem, I tend to find people who can,” says Jonathan.

In 2015, his efforts were awarded by the President of the United States Barack Obama, who presented Rotberga National medal of technology and innovation at the ceremony in the White house.

Rothberg is the owner of over 100 patents and currently heads the biotechnology business incubator 4Catalyzercreated with the aim of improving the medicine of the XXI century.

One of his most famous inventions is the world’s first portable scanner whole body from the Butterfly Network that allows to carry out ultrasound diagnosis in real time and display images of the internal organs on a smartphone.

The device received FDA approval and is only worth $2000 is a real revolution in the field of early diagnosis of diseases.

“Our main task was to make the imaging system cheap enough to become affordable even in the poorest parts of the world, says Rothberg. For training to operate the equipment only requires about an hour.”

The next step is the introduction of artificial intelligence (or “system deep learning”) to simplify and automate the diagnostics. As soon as I call rotberga altruistic for what he brought to market a device that can change life in places where there is no possibility to use expensive equipment, Noah picks up: “He likes to maximize the utility.”

In the summer of 2019 Gene Machine will allow the daughter of rotberga to combine scientific activity and rest. Elana attends school Choate rosemary Hall (Choate Hall Rosemery) in Connecticut and explores the smallest self-replicating organism of the Earth — bacteriophage. Phages — are viruses living in bacteria; some are beneficial and some are harmful. They are very rich in marine water. Identification and manipulation of their genome can lead to important discoveries in medicine, and also serve as an indicator of global warming.

“One of the few changes we made to Gene Machine is the refurbishment of the sky lounge to the laboratory for Elana, so she could examine the samples that will be collected. She intends to test my latest development, says Rotberg, winking. We call it SI Quantum Machine“.

Being more puzzled with the exterior of the yacht, Noah translates the conversation to a discussion of the design of these extraordinary boats, like Black Pearl, A Sailing Yacht, Tango and Symphony. He complains that the exhibition of yachts in Monaco takes place in the midst of his school year there are several new boats that he would like to see live.

“We are going to design the next yacht on their own,” concludes Noah.

Knowing this family, I cannot wait to see what they come up with.

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