Woodruff School's Annual Harold W. Gegenheimer Lecture

Primary tabs

"Confessions of a Medtech Engineer: How I Learned to Love Marketing in Silicon Valley"

Deborah Kilpatrick, PhD (MSME '94, PhDME '96)

Chief Commercial Officer
CardioDx, Inc.

Deborah Kilpatrick, PhD, is the chief commercial officer of genomic diagnostics company CardioDx, in Palo Alto, CA, with responsibilities for all product sales and marketing. Prior to joining CardioDx in 2006, Deborah held various roles within Guidant Corporation prior to its acquisition by Abbott, including Research Fellow, Director of R&D, and Director of New Ventures. Early in her career, Deborah was a structural engineer at Pratt and Whitney on the F22 Raptor program before undertaking her doctoral thesis research at Georgia Tech in vascular biomechanics and atherosclerosis.

She currently serves on the Advisory Boards for Georgia Tech as well as the College of Engineering, she is on the Board of Directors for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, and she is a Fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2013, Deborah was named to the FierceBiotech list of the Top Women in Biotech while also receiving a Stevie Award in NYC for Female Executive of Year in new consumer products. Most recently, the Silicon Valley Business Journal named Deborah to their 2014 list of 100 Women of Influence in Silicon Valley. She holds multiple U.S. patents for medical devices and received her B. Engineering Science and Mechanics and both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech.

When one engineer talks to another about transitioning out of R&D into more commercial roles, references are very often made to their having “gone to the dark side.” In fact, there are even websites and blogs entirely devoted to guiding engineers through the dark valley of marketing, and not surprisingly, they are full of references to Star Wars. Yet when you look up “engineer” on www.merriam-webster.com, one of the definitions found refers to “a person who carries through an enterprise by skillful or artful contrivance.” One might argue that the latter part of the definition sounds remarkably similar to product marketing!

In any given company, R&D innovation can yield the greatest product in the world, and yet it will rapidly become the greatest product never used if there is not a smart plan to commercialize it. This harsh-but-true reality has never been more evident than in the case of new products and technologies in the U.S. healthcare sector today. Commercialization approaches for medtech products are now being reinvented at every turn, as driven by the merging of drugs, biologics and devices, market demands for improved efficiencies and better economics, and a renewed focus on quality—all taking place in an increasingly digital era of big data where patients have never been more empowered. In today’s Silicon Valley medtech world, many engineers find themselves taking a step out of the R&D lab to drive innovation in new product commercialization for domestic and global markets. In other words, engineers are bringing their “skillful and artful” approaches to directly impact how some of the most cutting-edge medtech products are moving from bench to bedside in the healthcare marketplace. This lecture will discuss some of the speaker’s observations and experiences in both Fortune 500 and startup settings in Silicon Valley to illustrate this trend.


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Colly Mitchell
  • Created: 02/12/2014
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 04/13/2017


No keywords were submitted.

Target Audience

No target audience selected.