adyn CEO Elizabeth Ruzzo. (adyn photo)
As a scientist, Elizabeth Ruzzo likes to make decisions based on data. When she went through trial and error with several doctors trying to find a method of contraception that would not make her unhappy, she was angry and confused. She consulted a doctor only to learn what she called “medical gaslighting” about her symptoms.
“I decided to devote my expertise in precision medicine to promoting a new standard of care,” said Ruzzo.
Part of that journey took her to adyn, a startup she founded and runs in Seattle, which is launching a test this fall to analyze genetic and hormonal data in women and identify possible side effects caused by various methods of birth control.
“Adyn’s scientific approach means eliminating painful years of trial, error, and even self-doubt,” said Ruzzo, our newest geek of the week.
Ruzzo said she has been interested in understanding the genetic causes of human disease since learning about DNA. Born and raised in Seattle, she received her PhD in human genetics and genomics from Duke University and learned how to analyze data from a technology then emerging called next generation sequencing.
“My research included exploring how biology and genetic markers can be used to understand disease and predict drug response,” she said. “I discovered over 36 genes and linked them to certain human diseases and also used machine learning to uncover 16 new autism genes, which provides clear evidence of an inherited risk of autism.”
Ruzzo’s mission at adyn is to make scientific discoveries more inclusive and to fill the gaps caused by what Ruzzo calls “historical inequality in medical research”.
“Medical studies are targeting men and people of European descent, which keeps hindering our ability to develop integrative diagnoses and treatments that help everyone,” she said. “People who use adyn to optimize their birth control can register as anonymous research participants to fill the gap in medical gender and race research.”
There are a number of different directions in precision medicine that the startup is exploring beyond birth control side effect testing. adyn raised $ 2.5 million in April.
After studying in North Carolina and Los Angeles, Ruzzo said she couldn’t resist the chance to build adyn in Seattle amid the booming tech scene. When she’s not working, she likes to cook, train and play soccer.
Find out more about our newest geek of the week, Elizabeth Ruzzo:
What is the most important thing people should know about your specialty? There are so many important and surprising things to know about precision medicine and genetics, so I’ll give you two:
In terms of DNA, we are all 99.9% the same. It is this 0.1% that makes every person unique – from their appearance to their response to medication. These tiny differences can explain why you react differently to a particular drug than your friend or even your sibling.
Women did not have to be enrolled in clinical trials in the United States until 1993. This gap in medical research has had a massive impact on women’s health: women are more likely than men to experience drug side effects because drug dosage recommendations were based on clinical trials conducted on men in the past.
Where do you find your inspiration? Past and present scientists who make discoveries and share them with the world. Also the stories of the Adyn community … women shared their contraceptive odyssey with us and I read each one. No two stories are alike, but the effects wrong (or right) birth control can have are amazing.
Which technology could you not do without and why? DNA sequencing. This technology has allowed me to identify the causes of several diseases and it inspires me to continue making discoveries about human biology.
What does your workplace look like and why does it work for you? I finally cracked and bought a standing desk converter. I love my external monitor and my solar powered keyboard. I have a window in my office that makes it possible to have (and keep alive) a plant that I’ve heard can relieve stress, increase productivity, and even increase creativity. I also have a scientific illustration of a rhinoceros my sister drew behind me, which adds a touch of allure to an otherwise pretty normal workplace!
Your best tip or trick for coping with everyday work and life. (Help us, we need it.) We are a distributed team with a strong line-up of east coast riders. As a West Coaster, I spend the first hours of the day making phone calls and meetings. I’ve adjusted my schedule so that I take a break from training at the end of the East Coast lessons and then go back to things. It gives my brain and eyes a break from screen time and boosts my energy for the rest of the day.
Mac, Windows or Linux? Mac.
Favorite superhero or science fiction character? Deanna Troi (also my 4th grade Halloween costume).
Transporter, time machine or invisibility cloak? Transporter all the way! My wish-list of destinations and friends to visit is far too long for any other choice.
If someone gave me $ 1 million to start a startup, I would … They did! And I started adyn.
I got in line for … Taco truck tacos (OK, maybe more than once).
Your role models: My grandmother. She was 103 years old and would have lived longer without Covid. She lived through the Great Depression and taught me the importance of not wasting anything. She was a home economics teacher and an incredible quilter. She always loved good jokes (even the slightly inappropriate ones). She was stubborn and independent. She lived alone for years and continued to quilt even though she was legally blind. She made a mean devil egg and was more popular than I’ll ever be.
Greatest game in history: “Code names.”
Best gadget ever: Bluetooth audio sunglasses – these are at the top of my “Treat yourself” list.
First computer: PowerBook G3.
Current phone: iPhones.
Favorite app: Insight timer.
Favorite cause: Health equity.
Most important technology of 2021: adyns birth control optimization test.
Most important technology of 2023: Personalized medicine for everything – birth control, anxiety, depression, AD (H) D, acne, etc.
Final advice for your fellow freaks: I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy in my career fighting Impostor Syndrome. What I noticed is that nobody knows what they’re doing (definitely not at first). So work hard, stay curious, and be open to learning. Build your expertise and trust your own hard work. Surround yourself with people who are similarly curious and hardworking.
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Ruzzo