Todd Czerwinski joined the Micronoma team formally in May of 2022 as the Vice President of Business Development. Originally from the suburbs of Detroit, he has been in San Diego since the summer of 1995 (he wants us to know it was early September ’95 – officially arriving the day after Cal Ripken broke the record for consecutive games played in Major League Baseball). He is responsible for commercializing Micronoma’s service offering, creating, and developing the company sales and marketing plans, finding new growth opportunities including identifying strategic partnerships to enhance our growth, stability, and presence in our marketplace; and hiring and training our future sales team.
Todd spoke with us to provide some insight into his work and path to Micronoma
What does a typical day look like for you?
Since we are a start-up, each day varies widely. I spend time working with various consultants on shaping and honing our messaging for discreet strategic opportunities. Messaging is different for investors, clinicians, patients, and health insurance companies. We may be at an early stage now but making sure the lives of clinicians when ordering our assays or receiving their patient results is as easy as possible is a key part of my job. Lastly, building out our sales team is quite a broad endeavor and strategizing – where to hire new personnel, the shape their territories take, the type of experience they need to have to be successful with our service offering, and building out training materials.
Tell us about your educational background and previous work.
I graduated from Michigan State University (go Spartans!) in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science. I majored in cell and developmental biology. There was no molecular biology program there at that time, but there is a very strong one now. I moved west to San Diego on the advice of an histology professor who I did my capstone research under, Dr. Surinder K. Aggarwal (ret). My first lab job was with Corning Life Sciences processing clinical samples. Basically, I loaded a patient sample into a machine, pressed go, and made sure the proper assay results were attached to the proper sample. I held other bench jobs in my 20s, Biosite and Quidel being the most notable, before moving into sales with Whatman (now part of GE Healthcare) in 2003. I learned the ropes of successful selling skills there for almost four years and then worked for a couple of start-ups before landing at Mo Bio Labs. Mo Bio was the first molecular kit provider to figure out how to extract and purify nucleic acid microbiome samples while keeping the large majority of the taxa and abundance intact. This was 2009 and the microbiome world was in its infancy. Eventually, Sandrine, Micronoma’s CEO, joined Mo Bio as Director of Sales & Marketing and we worked very well together, and both enjoyed ‘moving the ball forward’ as we like to say. Qiagen acquired Mo Bio in 2017 and I spent 2.5 years with them before leaving for my next chapter. Fast forward to early 2022, I am working at DNA Genotek as a Senior Sales Director when Sandrine and I reconnect as she had co-founded Micronoma in 2020. She let me know that she needed help commercializing the offering, and I could not wait to work together again.
Did anyone inspire you along the way? Tell us about them.
My Dad. He had this incredible work ethic and sense of family. Out the door early to get to the office before anyone else so he could actually get his work done and home each night by 5:00-5:30 pm to play wiffle ball or hoops or any of the assorted other games we played. He always treated people with kindness and had a certain gravitas that drew people to him. He passed during COVID and I miss him every day. Love you, Dad!
What led you to working at Micronoma?
I worked with Sandrine, our CEO, as well as our CSO, Eddie Adams, at Mo Bio for a good spell. We all worked hard and had a convivial spirit about us. I trust Eddie implicitly; he knows how to create products that are reliable and easy to commercialize because he sees the assay from the side of the person using it. As I said previously, Sandrine asked me to join, and I was ecstatic at the opportunity and her belief in me (again).
How has cancer personally impacted you?
My grandmother died of ovarian cancer that had metastasized to her brain, which is relatively uncommon. I was only 10. She had brain surgery near the end, and my perception was that she had died of ‘brain’ cancer. I saw her death certificate on my dad’s desk. It listed the Cause of Death as ovarian cancer. This got my mind working and led to lots of questions; and that is when I learned how cancers can metastasize. Science has always fascinated me.
What’s your favorite part about working at Micronoma?
The people. It is a genuine and fun place to work. Like all group dynamics, we have our obstacles to overcome, but everyone is dedicated to the mission and there is a good amount of laughter in the building.
What gets you most excited about the company’s future?
Bringing the microbiome to the clinic. What seemed like a dream when I started on the discovery side of microbiome work has a tangible runway to clinical utility and, more importantly, better outcomes for patients.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
Firstly, we will be tackling more cancer types than our initial assay for lung cancer. The silent killers like pancreatic cancer need a model like ours for much earlier testing and diagnosis. We will see plenty of growth and hire many more people. I see myself as integral to establishing and maintaining a culture that fosters innovation and allows people to grow into what they envision for themselves as a contributor at Micronoma.
What are your hidden talents or hobbies?
I love to cook. One of the highlights of my week is going to the local Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning with my family. The kids might enjoy a smoothie or something savory to eat. My wife and I will get our essentials for the week and, most likely, a few esoteric items to experiment with in the kitchen. We have a large garden in our canyon, and I enjoy growing a variety of vegetables and using these in my recipes. Most hit, some miss, but all-in-all it is a fun hobby which helps the kids to learn about where the food comes from and how to handle and prepare it. It allows us to have wonderful family meals and teaches some good life skills. My signature dish is moussaka. It is a Greek dish that I would make akin to an eggplant lasagna with bechamel sauce. Delicious!
Anything else you would like to share that I didn’t ask?
Though I have been in San Diego 27+ years, I am a diehard Detroit sports fan. I will always root for my Detroit Pistons, Tigers, Lions and Red Wings. Don’t sleep on the Wings. The rebuild is almost complete. Trust the Yzerplan.