Your Haas Network
Erik Holmlin, MBA 06
Chief Commercial Officer, Exiqon A/S
Long before the media took notice, Erik Holmlin, MBA 06, understood the pressing need to diagnose carriers of antibiotic-resistant superbugs more quickly than two or three days. A faster test, he knew, could mean the difference between life or death from pneumonia or a bone and skin infection.
"The carriers of these superbugs are asymptomatic. You admit them and they transmit the bugs to other patients," says Holmlin, who started molecular diagnostic company GeneOhm Sciences with his Ph.D. advisor in 2001 while doing post-doctoral chemistry work at Harvard. "To prevent transmission, you need a test that gives results within hours."
GeneOhm began selling that test in 2005. So far, nearly 2 million patients have been tested.
While working as chief technology officer at GeneOhm, Holmlin enrolled in the Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA program to gain a better grasp of the business side of his company. He found himself juggling the sale of his 230-person startup while studying for his MBA.
He recalls a nail-biting stint in a student conference room at Columbia trying to hammer out a deal.
"The deal fell apart during one conference call," he says. "I was just crushed and I had to go back to class for the week." A weekend scramble put the deal back on the table and Holmlin sold GeneOhm for $230 million.
At Haas, Holmlin found Professor Philip Tetlock's Organizational Behavior class surprisingly insightful. His skepticism toward the less analytical nature of the course quickly faded, he says, as he learned to appreciate that human behavior "makes the difference between a company's success and failure."
Holmlin is now chief commercial officer of Exiqon A/S, a Danish company that recently entered the US oncology diagnostics market. He is bringing the principles applied successfully in GeneOhm to cancer testing. "It's about teaching people — physicians and patients — that they can do things differently," he says.