Trevor Martin ’11, the co-founder and CEO of Mammoth Biosciences, didn’t expect to find a career in creating a startup. At Princeton, Martin was a biology major in the Integrated Science Program, which combined computer science, math, physics, statistics, and chemistry through coursework and independent research. “That program I credit big time in convincing me to go down the path towards graduate school,” Martin said. He began a Ph.D. at Stanford immediately after graduation and continued work similar to his Princeton senior thesis, a biology and statistics project looking at gene expression in tissues.
Toward the end of his program at Stanford, Martin became interested more in diagnostics — a field he noticed had much less activity and older technology than other emerging fields like AI and cryptocurrencies. Along with another Ph.D. student, Martin proposed a thesis arguing that there will be new innovative methods for tackling diagnostics. He began the initial version of his company, which focused primarily on democratizing access to diagnostics. At the same time, biologists at Berkeley had discovered a new application of CRISPR, an enzyme that’s become a popular gene-editing tool. They were working on an accessible and simple platform for disease detection, which Martin saw as the perfect technological approach for his vision; later, two Ph.D. students from the Berkeley lab that developed these CRISPR systems joined Martin’s team. Martin and co-founders Lucas Herrington and Janice Chen were included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for 2019 in the health care category.
Since Mammoth Biosciences was founded in May 2017, Martin and his colleagues have been working on core research and tech development. They are in talks with dozens of partners who are interested in their technology for a range of applications, from health care to agriculture and forensics to nonprofit opportunities abroad. Improving on traditional methods for disease detection, their approach is more efficient, accessible, and less labor-intensive.
Though Martin had no formal business training, he said his self-directed Ph.D. program helped him build entrepreneur skills. “If you’re passionate and really motived and interested in starting a company, there are opportunities to peruse that regardless of background,” he said.
And from Princeton, too, he learned to value curiosity and take intellectual risks. During his Ph.D., for instance, on top of his research in biology, Martin published a paper on the intersection of statistics and sociology in The Atlantic and FiveThirtyEight because he “had a strong foundation of being comfortable trying new things, even if they fail.”