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Class Notes May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Genetically Blessed
Charles Dunlop, Warren '98

Have you founded a company? Worked at a company started by a UCSD alum? We want to know. 
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Only six months after graduation, Charles Dunlop, Warren '98, was already sick of working for his boss. And so he spontaneously decided to start Ambry Genetics (named for his father's pet dog that he never liked), which focuses on specialized genetic testing. In only 10 days, Dunlop had raised $500,000 through donations and devised a business plan.

"To tell you the truth, I just thought it would be cool if my friends and I didn't have to get real jobs," says Dunlop. "It was that simple. I just woke up the next morning and turned my living room into an office."

The lark turned into one of the biggest players in the biotech industry. Ambry Genetics, based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., started out utilizing proprietary technology to test for the gene that causes cystic fibrosis. It is now over 250 employees strong and is the first laboratory to offer genome sequencing for its patients.

"If your child is born and the doctor can't figure out what's wrong, you send me that sample and I will go through and do a human genome project for that baby, and have medical directors go through and sign off on the case," he says. "Medicine and genetics, they're two different worlds. So what we've done is bridge that by saying 'OK, we're going to have our doctors go through it.'"

Dunlop has also been a major supporter, and one of the founders, of Mauli Ola, a foundation that utilizes surfing as a natural treatment for genetic disorders. The organization began in 2004, the same year Ambry Genetics turned its first profit.

"We're a household name in our industry, we're the big dogs. We've been profitable for many years and we've paid dividends, which is super abnormal in the biotech world," says Dunlop.

But in the end, for Dunlop, the patients come first.

"I've never billed someone and made them pay me when they don't have the money," says Dunlop. "We're the good guys in the industry, we've done it right."

—Neda Salamat, Muir '12