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After building Facebook’s search bar into a pivotal part of its platform, Tom Stocky is setting his sights on a new target: biology. The onetime tech executive decided to switch tracks after taking a weekly biotech class at Stanford.

“I was inspired. I thought, maybe there’s something I can do to deliver medications faster to people,” Stocky, who recently joined AI-powered drug development startup Insitro as vice president of product, told STAT.


Before Insitro, Stocky spent more than a decade building tools for two of the world’s largest companies — first at Google as a director of product management, and then at Facebook, as vice president of search. Then he enrolled in the Stanford class, and decided to apply his search know-how to drug discovery. His teacher, Ryan Watts, just so happened to be the chief executive officer of Denali Therapeutics, a drug development startup focused on neurodegenerative disease. Watts offered Stocky a job at his company as a technology fellow, where he spent a year learning how to virtually engage with patients, and using his machine learning skills to enhance Denali’s drug discovery engine.

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