We are delighted to introduce you to Kenny Yeh, a senior business development director and technical expert in biodefense, threat reduction and global health security at MRIGlobal. His responsibilities include program and business development, marketing and sales.
Yeh’s experience includes overseeing a cooperative research program that included a dozen studies for international partnerships funded by the U.S. government. His earlier industry work was key to developing and deploying a real-time qPCR platform for identifying biological agents in the field. He provided hands-on expertise in real-world events including 2001 anthrax events, the anthrax decontamination of the American Media Inc. building in Boca Raton, Florida, and United Nations weapons inspection activities. Since 2016, Yeh has authored 15 publications (8 as first author). He earned his B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Maryland, and his M.S. in Microbiology from Clemson University.
GETTING TO KNOW KENNY YEH
When did you know you wanted to be a scientist?
I became a scientist when it was apparent that I could not become a professional athlete or engineer. Humor aside, I was always interested in biology and natural sciences, especially how organisms adapt, evolve, and behave. At an early age, I enjoyed reading and visiting museums, especially those in natural history, technology, and art. My parents came to the U.S. from Taiwan. My father was a chemist who emphasized traditional “hard” science and now referred to as STEM. My mother was an artist and emphasized creativity, so I gained appreciation for art and design, especially the importance of illustration and perspective. My career as a scientist is driven by my curiosity and desire to form related networks and communities.
What was your pathway to becoming a scientist?
I majored in microbiology which is a great field to study because it is technically challenging, stimulating, and practical to me. The hands-on component was a natural fit and there are so many opportunities where you can use these skills in the lab and field. As an applied science, microbiology touches food and beverage, industrial fermentations, environment, and infectious disease. Similar to some of my co-workers at MRIGlobal, I gained experience in marine and environmental science early in my career. As an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, I worked in a marine microbiology lab that researched the presence of Vibrio bacteria in the Chesapeake Bay. A ship’s ballast water can transport microbial flora from one area of the world to another. My experience in detection and identification of biological agents started with this work practicing culture-based and biochemical methods. After graduate school, I worked as a civilian microbiologist in an Army biosafety level-3 laboratory and handled pathogens such as anthrax. From there, I was able to leverage that training and biodefense experience to develop molecular diagnostic tests using qPCR at various product companies. The experience in research and product development also led my career path into technical sales and business development.
What is your role at MRIGlobal?
Currently, I am a senior director in business development. I lead our business capture teams to develop solutions that enhance global health security. My work requires broad scientific knowledge and business practice. Both include identifying teammates to build partnerships and teams: reinforce MRIGlobal’s core capabilities. When I was promoted to senior advisor in 2016, I was part of a program development team (akin to product development in the commercial world) to grow our respective expertise and programs internally while making meaningful and long-lasting collaborations and partnerships externally. I joined MRIGlobal in 2009 as a principal scientist where I led and managed several cooperative research studies for a U.S. Department of Defense threat reduction partnership with scientists in Kazakhstan. Much of my work has reinforced my experiences in microbiology, biocontainment, and R&D as relevant to global health security and One Health.
What excites you about working at MRIGlobal?
The opportunities to do work that has real world impact. In terms of health security, we are much better prepared now than the 2001 anthrax attacks even though the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone globally. I am able to take advantage of a setting to do a variety of work: science, business, and health security across different markets. The opportunities to mentor are so important and I value leadership and the importance to coach the next generation. I had a very positive experience working with MRIGlobal prior to joining the company. My industry experience also taught me what a successful product is and the level of excellence needed to achieve that for a complex solution. The first and last steps are customer focus.
What are your interests outside of work?
As a lifelong athlete, I love endurance events: running, cycling, swimming, and cross-country skiing, so physical fitness is very important to me. I look forward to working out with my kids who I enjoy learning from: my son graduated from the Naval Academy and my daughter is a junior at University of California-Davis. I support my wife, who competes in dog agility, and her canine friends. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family, traveling, and learning about history.