As a kid, Dr. Jill Pecon-Slattery was in love with nature—frogs, butterflies, and all living things. A childhood spent outdoors exploring the natural world led, logically, to a career in science, although Jill’s path has had twists and turns. Initially, she wanted to be a marine field biologist; with a master’s degree in oceanography, Jill envisioned herself as the next Jacques Cousteau.

She pivoted to human biomedicine and animal biology research, however, and over the course of her career, a significant insight emerged which ultimately spurred the creation of Cornerstone Genomics. Most researchers struggle with identifying which part of a DNA sequence is useful for their research problem. Her company is focused around a central problem: there is no established mechanism to identify which mutations are key.

With Cornerstone Genomics, Jill is developing software to resolve the essential challenge of how to integrate genomic data into the study of diseases of wildlife and humans, by developing a precise, highly accurate screen for interpreting variation in DNA. In collaboration with data scientists at the University of Minnesota, this cloud-based solution aims to break down silos by leveraging the capabilities of software to address pressing research questions common to both human biomedicine and animal health.

Jill came to FITCI to learn about business “in a big way” and the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. Life is short, she says. It was the right time to take the leap—and to build a technology bridge.