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Ryan Ashton: Making a Difference in the Life Sciences

By: By Amy Steinbrech

January 11, 2016

You can say the entrepreneurial gene has always been in Ryan Ashton’s DNA. Ashton’s résumé focuses on advanced-technology companies, and his experience includes key leadership roles at Megahertz and Inari, as CEO of Printelligent Corporation, and now as CEO of Great Basin Scientific, a molecular diagnostics company. Ashton has a proven track record of successfully managing diverse teams of scientists, marketing, sales and administrative resources in high-growth technology companies.

What is Great Basin Scientific?

Great Basin Scientific is a molecular diagnostics company that provides simple, yet powerful, sample-to-result testing technology. We provide products that give our customers fast and accurate test results. Our focus is the smaller hospital market, typically hospitals with under 400 beds. Great Basin’s diagnostic system uses integrated disposable cartridges and a bench-top analyzer that interprets results and provides an electronic output to clinicians.

What diagnostic testing does Great Basin offer?

We have two Food and Drug Administration cleared tests. The first test is for C. diff, which causes severe intestinal problems. The second test is our GBS test that tests expectant mothers for bacteria that can be passed to their infant during childbirth. We also have several tests in development for blood culture panel, a nasal pre-surgical screen and a GI panel, to name a few.

What is unique about Great Basin’s tests?

Historically, a specimen would be taken from a patient and the clinician would wait until it was cultured. This dated process typically takes one to three days and has a 60 to 80 percent correct positive rate. With our system, instead of trying to grow the bacteria, a clinician takes a patient’s sample and prepares it to determine if the DNA, and thereby the bacteria, is present. Our tests take from one to two hours and have a 97 to 99 percent correct positive rate. By receiving results much faster and more accurately, patients have a better overall outcome.

What is your competitive advantage?

Our competitive pricing and ease of use of our system are our competitive advantages. We are resolving the cost/complexity challenge that previously made it difficult for smaller hospitals to adopt molecular diagnostic testing. Great Basin places our instruments in labs free of charge and hospitals only need to purchase our disposal cartridges. We don’t require service contracts or fees to assure our customers’ success in using our system.

What challenges and successes have you experienced since becoming CEO? 

Our biggest challenge has been raising enough capital since founding the company 10 years ago. We took the company public in October of 2014, and before we were financed mostly by local Utah investors until that IPO. A healthcare company takes an enormous amount of upfront investment before you get the first product to market and become profitable. Our greatest success has been our ability to attract and keep customers and to provide a system that smaller hospitals can use to provide better patient outcomes.

What is the mission and values that guide you in your daily work?

Our mission is to develop products that are powerful, inexpensive and versatile and provide those products to rural and suburban hospitals who do not have access to big city medical centers. Our values are collaboration, urgency and discipline. We must collaborate as a team, move forward with a sense of urgency and act with great discipline because of our minimal resources.

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