Brady Ryan and the WBBA: leading the charge to support healthcare innovation in Washington state

04/06/2015 | By Glenn Smith

This post originally appeared on

Brady Ryan is a Commercialization Manager at The Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association, and also volunteers as an organizer for Startup Weekend Bothell. We wanted to get his insight into Health Startup Weekend and the marriage of the biomedical and biotechnology worlds, how it all works together, and where there's room for growth.

Image via
SW: You're in an industry perfectly aligned with Startup Weekend Bothell's biomedical and biotechnology theme. Were you in attendance at a previous Startup Weekend event? How did you and Brian (Crouch, principal organizer of SWBothell) come to be connected?

BR: We were introduced to Brian through Lynne Gregg, one of the mentors in our entrepreneur mentoring program (Washington Innovation Network for Life Sciences Entrepreneur Mentoring), and WBBA immediately saw the enormous potential for an event like this. I am familiar with Startup Weekend and the success of the model, and I believe that a health-focused event in Washington is well needed and well deserved.

In Washington, we are incredibly fortunate to have a unique and powerful convergence of entrepreneurs, engineers, geeks, healthcare providers, large employers, payers, and institutions. The trick is getting them all around the table, and finding the really good ideas to pursue.

SW: Why do you say we need and deserve a health-focused event?

BR: Washington has all the pieces necessary for health innovation: providers, employers, entrepreneurs, engineers, payers, etc. Events like this catalyze relationships and ideas that can move the needle in healthcare, and our resources here mean that ideas hatched at Startup Weekend have a great chance to turn into real innovations.

SW: Is there not enough attention paid to health sectors around the Pacific Northwest? Does tech take all the attention?

BR: As Chris Rivera (WBBA President and CEO) says, everyone in Washington knows who makes coffee, airplanes and software in our state. But people don’t know who invented ultrasound, opened the first dialysis clinic, or invented the cardiac defibrillator—all in Washington.

As an industry, we can do a better job of telling our stories and making ourselves visible. That said, when local companies like Juno raise $310M in their first year, and Adaptive Biotechnologies raise almost $200M and acquire a competitor, people start to take notice.

WBBA's Innovative Health Initiative—click picture for link
SW: Would you encourage people to attend Startup Weekend? Why?

BR: I have been telling everyone I see to attend Startup Weekend. It is a fantastic opportunity to try your hand at entrepreneurship without any risk, learn valuable skills, and maybe even get in on the ground floor of the next multi-billion dollar health company! The skillset that you can learn in a few days, and the connections you can make are well worth the price of admission. Also, if we do our job organizing the event, it should be a blast!

SW: How did you get involved in the biomedical and biotechnology industry? How long have you worked in your current position? What's your background?

BR: I was hired for an eight-week internship with the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association right out of undergrad in 2012. I was fortunate enough to transition to a full time position as Commercialization Associate at the end of the internship, and eventually shifted to the Commercialization Manager role here. My background is in biology, but I would say my passion lies in working with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the most passionate, driven, and engaging people I’ve found, and everyone at WBBA love to help them however we can!

SW: Where were you born?

BR: I was born in Tacoma, a short, though traffic-ridden drive from Seattle.

SW: What's your favorite band?

BR: My favorite band is The Weather Machine, [it’s] a friend of mine from college.

SW: What do you think the biomedical / biotechnology industry needs, as far as something a new, upstart startup could provide? To put it another way, what do you see as the best-case scenario coming from this upcoming Bothell Startup Weekend? What pie-in-the-sky thing would you like to see? What's something immediate you'd like to see?

BR: There are a few things I would love to see come out of this event. First is a team that decides to move their idea forward after the weekend is over—and WBBA will be ready and willing to help them however possible. Second is a bit of press for the industry that brings the collective attention of the larger health community to Washington. Third is a bunch of people who learned about the health sector and how to be entrepreneurs.