How hard can it be?

Back in 1994 I joined the team that was building the “online” component of Windows 95 — a competitor to America Online that eventually became known as MSN. None of us really knew what we were doing, but trusted we could figure it out along the way, a state of mind my then-boss Jeff Lill immortalized with the following shirt:

As it turns out, this has been kind of a repeating theme for me — one of the best things about writing software is that it applies to everything, so there’s an endless supply of new problems to explore.

Cut to my new home at Adaptive Biotechnologies — a company that has developed insanely awesome new techniques to measure and quantify the adaptive immune system. Our tools isolate the sections of T-Cell and B-Cell DNA that bind to specific antigens, amplify and sequence those fragments using next-generation sequencing machines, error-correct and normalize the data, and finally make it available to researchers and clinicians for custom online analysis.

The resulting picture of the immune system is many, many times more granular than anything the world has seen before … which opens up the door to some pretty amazing applications. For example, our clonoSEQ diagnostic tool can monitor residual disease in post-treatment cancer patients far more accurately than traditional approaches — and that can save real lives.

The team at Adaptive also believes that software has to be a key differentiator for the company. There is a metric ton of additional value we can create on top of the raw data, from better error-correction at the front of the process to new ways of analyzing and sharing data at the end. It’s a wide open world — and the most exciting problem I’ve attacked in a long time. I may be a biology newbie, but hey, how hard can it be, right?

Anyways — the point of this new blog is to share some of the great things I’m learning here at Adaptive. There’ll be some biology-for-dummies, conversations about software challenges both unique to and shared across industries, and when it makes sense a bit of personal anecdote as well.

If you spent any time reading about my last gig at, you’ll be right at home here. You can also find me on Twitter as @importimmunity. Woo hoo!

2 thoughts on “How hard can it be?

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