Jonathan Rothberg

Jonathan Marc Rothberg (born 1963) is an American scientist and entrepreneur. He is best known for his contributions to next-generation DNA sequencing.[1] He works and resides in Guilford, Connecticut.

Jonathan Rothberg
Jonathan Rothberg.jpg
Rothberg, January 2008
Alma mater
Known for454 Life Sciences, Ion Torrent, RainDance Technologies
AwardsNational Medal of Technology and Innovation (2016)
Scientific career
FieldsNext-generation sequencing, medical imaging, pharmaceuticals, medical devices

Early lifeEdit

Jonathan Marc Rothberg was born in New Haven, Connecticut to Lillian Rothberg and Henry Rothberg, a chemical engineer. Prior to Rothberg's birth, his parents founded Laticrete International, Inc. a family-owned manufacturer of products for the installation of tile and stone.[2] As a child Jonathan went on sales calls with his father.[3] Rothberg's family established the foundation for his scientific career.[4]

Education and scientific careerEdit

Rothberg earned a BS in Chemical Engineering with an option in Biomedical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985.

While a graduate student at Yale in 1991, he founded CuraGen, one of the first genomics companies. CuraGen went public in 1999.[3] By the next year it had a market cap of $5 billion, bigger than that of American Airlines.[3] Rothberg resigned as chief executive of CuraGen in 2005.[2] CellDex Therapeutics acquired CuraGen in 2009 for $93.5 million in stock and reduced it to only five employees by October.[5][2]

In 2000, 454 Life Sciences was founded as a subsidiary of CuraGen; Rothberg was the CEO of CuraGen at the time.[6] The idea for 454 Life Sciences came when Noah, his second child, was born in 1999, and had to be sent to the neonatal intensive care unit because of breathing troubles.[3] Noah turned out to be fine, but Rothberg was frustrated that doctors did not have a rapid test to ensure his son did not have an inherited disease.[3] Rothberg brought to market a machine for massively parallel DNA sequencing. 454 Life Sciences and the Baylor College of Medicine Genome Center were the first to complete and make public the sequence of an individual human genome (James D. Watson[7][8]). Published in Nature magazine, that genome was made publicly on GenBank and browsable via the efforts of Lincoln Stein's group[9] contributing to personal genomics. Rothberg lost control of 454 Life Sciences by 2007.[3] The company was acquired by Roche Diagnostics in 2007 for $140 million then closed down by Roche in 2013 after other approaches to sequencing rendered the underlying technology noncompetitive.[10][2]

In 2004, Rothberg founded RainDance Technologies, which used droplet-based microfluidics.[11] RainDance was acquired in 2017 by Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc.[12] Rothberg also co-founded ClariFi, a company that sells software for hedge funds. ClariFI was acquired by S&P in 2007 for an undisclosed amount.[13]

Rothberg founded Ion Torrent in 2007, which developed ion semiconductor sequencing, a technology utilized by their Personal Genome Machine (PGM) DNA sequencer.[14] He founded the company with an undisclosed amount of his own money and later took in $23 million in venture capital. After experiences at CuraGen and 454 Life Sciences, he made sure to retain supervoting share majority so he could not be forced out.[3] At the time, the PGM device was the smallest and cheapest DNA decoder to hit the market.[3] It was able to read 10 million letters of genetic code in two hours, and sold for $50,000.[3] In 2010, Ion Torrent was acquired for $375 million in cash and stock upfront, plus as much as $350 million later if sales were to reach certain levels.[2]

In 2011, Rothberg founded Butterfly Network after seeing a talk by MIT physicist Max Tegmark, who was becoming fascinated by artificial intelligence.[15] Rothberg brought in one of Tegmark's smartest students, Nevada Sanchez, a co-founder of the company who was named among Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2015.[15] Butterfly Network sells a hand-held ultrasound imaging device that connects to an iPhone, called the iQ.[15] The core technology is a silicon chip, contrasting with other ultrasound devices that use piezoelectric crystals.[15] The use of silicon makes the device far cheaper to manufacture.[15] The iQ received 13 different device clearances from the Food and Drug Administration.[15] The iQ sells for just under $2,000, and is now shipping, with tens of thousands of orders placed.[16] In September, 2018, Butterfly Network raised $250 million from investors Fidelity, the Gates Foundation, and Fosun Pharma at an estimated $1.25 billion valuation.[16]

Rothberg established a startup accelerator called 4Catalyzer in Guilford, CT, in 2014. 4Catalyzer companies include AI Therapeutics, Hyperfine, and Quantum-Si.[17]

Rothberg himself holds more than 100 patents.[18]

Personal lifeEdit

Rothberg and his wife Bonnie, who is a physician with a Ph.D. in epidemiology from Yale, have five children, whom Rothberg often refers to in his speeches.[2][19] in 2002, The couple started the nonprofit Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases which works on treatments for tuberous sclerosis, a rare disease that affects one of their children.[2] The institute ran a distributed computing project called Community TSC until April 2009.[20] The TSC project was based on technology known as the Drug Design and Optimization Lab (D2OL), which the institute sponsored through 2009, to use volunteers' personal computers to model interactions of drug candidates with their target molecules.[21]

Rothberg sponsors the Rothberg Catalyzer Prize at four universities: Carnegie Mellon University, Yale University, Brown University, and University of Pennsylvania.[22]

Rothberg had his own version of Stonehenge, which he calls the Circle of Life, build near his home in Guilford, CT, using 700 tons of granite imported from Norway.[2] Interested in wine-making, he acquired Chamard Vineyards in Nearby Clinton, CT.[2] Rothberg owns a yacht called Gene Machine, which is equipped with a lab on board.[18]


Rothberg was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama in 2016 for his “pioneering inventions and commercialization of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, making access to genomic information easier, faster and more cost-effective for researchers around the world."[23]

Rothberg received the Connecticut Medal of Technology in 2010.[4] In 2012, Rothberg was awarded the Wilbur Cross Medal as a distinguished alumni from Yale University.[24] Rothberg made Fortune Magazine's 2001 list of the 40 richest Americans under 40.[2]


  1. ^ STAFF, COURANT. "Laurencin and Rothberg Receive White House Honors". Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Pollack, Andrew (2011-01-04). "Rothberg Seeks to Make DNA Sequencing Common". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Herper, Matthew. "Gene Machine" Check |url= value (help). Forbes. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  4. ^ a b "Jonathan M. Rothberg" (PDF). 2010 Connecticut Medal of Technology bio. Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. June 18, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  5. ^ Eric Gerson (October 10, 2009). "A Smaller CuraGen Corp. To Stay Open In Branford". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Curagen Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2000". SEC.
  7. ^ Project Jim: Watson’s Personal Genome Goes Public at Bio-IT
  8. ^ Nicholas Wade (May 31, 2007). "Genome of DNA Pioneer Is Deciphered". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  9. ^ James Watson's Personal Genome Sequence Archived 2008-12-03 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Hollmer, Mark (October 17, 2013). "Roche to close 454 Life Sciences as it reduces gene sequencing focus". Fierce Biotech.
  11. ^ "List of Technology Pioneers 2008". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  12. ^ "RainDance Technologies To Be Sold to Bio-Rad". 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  13. ^ "ClariFi acquired by S&P Capital IQ".
  14. ^ Ion Torrent Official Webpage. Archived 2012-11-06 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ a b c d e f Herper, Matthew. "An Entrepreneur Aims To Peer Inside The Body With A Small, Simple, Cheap Device". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  16. ^ a b Herper, Matthew. "Aiming To Revolutionize Medical Ultrasound, Butterfly Raises $250 Million At A $1.25 Billion Valuation". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  17. ^ Hoffman, Christopher (2015-02-01). "Guilford incubator 4Catalyzer aims for game-changing medical products". New Haven Register. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  18. ^ a b "On board with Jonathan Rothberg, owner of 55m explorer yacht Gene Machine". Boat International. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  19. ^ Green, Penelope (2005-10-13). "The Monoliths Next Door". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  20. ^ "The End of an Era". Rothberg Institute for Childhood Diseases. April 9, 2009. Archived from the original on February 16, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  21. ^ "On April 15, 2009, the D2OL distributed computing project will officially end operations". D2OL web site. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Retrieved November 14, 2016.
  22. ^ Belli, Brita (2018-03-20). "Alumnus Rothberg enlists students to solve next healthcare challenges". YaleNews. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  23. ^ Rothberg. "NMTI Laureate".
  24. ^ "Graduate School Honors Four Alumni with Wilbur Cross Medals | Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences". Retrieved 2018-06-04.