Barbara Zehentner is inspired by the power of science, continuous learning, teamwork, and technological innovation to transform lives. Because of this, her career has been dedicated to advancing healthcare through clinical diagnostic innovations. This month, she stepped into her new role as Chief Operating Officer for Vancouver-based Molecular Testing Labs. We asked her about her background, what led her to Clark County, and what her goals are for her new position.
Q: Please describe how you got to where you are today. What’s your education and career history?
After completing my engineering education in Germany, I earned a PhD in Molecular Biology while working at Roche Diagnostics. Subsequently, I joined Corixa Corporation (later Glaxo Smith Kline) in Seattle in early 2000, where I played a pivotal role in developing complex molecular assays for detecting residual tumor cells for various cancer types to help monitor drug efficacy in clinical trials. Seeking closer engagement with healthcare providers bringing value to the patients in their care, I joined HematoLogics, a clinical diagnostics laboratory in Seattle, where I significantly expanded their test offerings to pathology and oncology providers as well as hospitals nationwide. My most recent role, as Vice President of Molecular Laboratory Operations at Adaptive Biotechnologies, involved overseeing and growing their high-throughput clinical diagnostics facilities utilizing next-generation sequencing. My extensive and large-scale clinical laboratory background, which includes a High Complexity Laboratory Director (HCLD) certification, as well as my business expertise, which includes a Master of Business Administration, has led me to Molecular Testing Labs, committed to providing consumer-initiated access to state-of-the art diagnostic testing for patients wherever they are.
Q: What brought you to Vancouver and made you want to accept this new role?
MTL has the unique and groundbreaking opportunity to bring state-of-the art diagnostic testing results to more patients while lowering healthcare inequities and costs. I could not be more excited and honored to join Molecular Testing Labs as Chief Operating Officer. Vancouver’s dynamic environment and the company’s commitment to improving healthcare align perfectly with my professional goals. Molecular Testing Labs has a rich history that began with a profound desire to un-restrict access to lab testing. The founders, who have worked together for over 30 years, brought their extensive experience from the semiconductor industry when they started Molecular Testing Labs here in Vancouver in 2010. Their global experience in high-tech manufacturing has significantly influenced the framework and function of the lab, emphasizing quality control, high-volume productivity, cost controls, and reproducible outcomes. I’m thrilled to contribute to this legacy of innovation in healthcare.
Q: With a unique combination of technical genomics and diagnostics expertise with business scaling experience, how do you plan to take Molecular Testing Labs to the next level?
Molecular Testing Labs is well positioned for growth, and I aim to accelerate it. My technical background directly supports the quality and precision of our diagnostic services, while my extensive business experience allows us to scale efficiently. We will foster innovation, establish strategic partnerships, leverage cutting-edge technologies, and scale our operations to build out our position as healthcare pioneers. Our goal is to provide advanced testing solutions to a wider audience, further advancing healthcare outcomes.
Q: How do you envision Molecular Testing Labs fitting into the future of healthcare?
Molecular Testing Labs is poised to play a pivotal role in the future of healthcare. Our mission and focus are to bring state-of-the art diagnostic testing to more people and communities, whether they are in a clinical or remote setting. With more and more healthcare moving to the home, we believe that one of the most meaningful innovations in lab testing is being able to get results from samples that are collected by the patient. We aim to be a trusted partner for healthcare providers and patients, offering advanced testing solutions that enhance health outcomes while improving overall healthcare accessibility and associated costs.
Q: How do you plan to help Molecular Testing Labs better serve customers and patients who are taking more ownership of their own health and healthcare?
Empowering customers and patients is paramount. Our commitment is to provide them with state-of-the art diagnostic services while minimizing financial and logistical barriers. Proactive engagement with our evolving customers’ needs as well as healthcare innovations will allow us to tailor our offerings.
Q: What advice do you have for other young women who are interested in science or business leadership?
To aspiring young women, my advice is to follow your passions and be fearless when aspiring for ambitious goals. Seek out mentors and learning opportunities that help you continuously increase your confidence and knowledge in technical expertise, strategic thinking, and leadership skills.
Q: What do you most look forward to in your new role as COO?
I’m enthusiastic about working with all the cross-functional teams here at Molecular Testing Labs as we embark on our vision of becoming the market leader in consumer-initiated diagnostic testing. Our teams have the incredible opportunity of streamlining operations, increasing capacity while contributing to the company’s mission of improving healthcare accessibility and affordability. Collaborating with our team and partners to drive positive change in healthcare delivery is what excites me most about this role.