ELITE 2021 Transformational Leader Helen Wan of Myriad Genetics, Inc.

Helen Wan

Sr. Director, Automation & Process Development

Myriad Genetics, Inc.

Robotics and Automation Superhero

If molecular robotics had a superhero, it would definitely be Helen Wan, MBA. Even if Helen’s modesty would lead her to be embarrassed by that title, it is accurate nonetheless.

Helen and her team transformed the lab operations process at Myriad Genetics by building a robotic work cell for prenatal testing that is essentially a constellation of advanced laboratory equipment of over 150 instruments that must be coordinated with software to work in synergy. Under her leadership, the team orchestrated this extremely complex and sensitive operation, coordinating everything from purchasing the appropriate equipment to engineering it for optimal performance.

Accuracy is critical in prenatal testing, which looks at three billion locations across the entire human genome. Making the process clinically sensitive is immensely complex. Helen’s transformational initiative massively increased operational productivity and provided a nearly six-fold increase in samples processed within a three-day timeframe.

Besides faster reporting of results, this robotic work cell provides two additional elements that benefit patients. First, two very different types of genomic assays run through the same system. This orchestration is extremely complex and difficult to accomplish but results in a much more consolidated, efficient process. Second, it incorporates integrated redundancy, meaning that if any component is out of service, there is an entirely redundant system that can shoulder the burden until the non-functioning component is restored. Again, this is enormously complicated but critical to a seamless operation that prevents disruption to patient care.

By combining robotics, AI, software, and bioinformatics to automate laboratory operations, Helen is helping to provide access to affordable genetic lab results on a mass scale, which is just one of Myriad’s many initiatives to address health inequality. Ultimately, Helen is not just transforming her lab or her company, but healthcare as a whole.

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