Retiring Hologic Co-Founder Jay Stein Reflects on the Importance of Purpose-Driven Innovation

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Innovate for the sake of doing good. That north star led Jay Stein to co-found Hologic in 1985 with a dozen employees and ideas for developing one product.

Today, as Stein retires from his professional career, that same north star has guided Hologic to become a global force for good in medical technology. The company’s revenue reached a record $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2021 based on leadership in women’s health and public health. About 6,400 employees bring Hologic’s life-changing and life-saving technologies to more than 100 countries and territories.

“Innovation is the method by which the company arose from a small obscure medical manufacturer to a world-class organization that it is today, and it will be the mechanism by which the company expands from its status today to an international giant in the future,” said Stein, who served over the years as Hologic’s Chief Technology Officer and Chairman of the Board.

Stein and his Hologic co-founder, the late David Ellenbogen, did not harbor grand visions when they established the company. They did see an opportunity to do good by developing a more effective device for healthcare providers to evaluate the bone-weakening condition known as osteoporosis. After they and their team created a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry system, they used the resulting financial success to make an increasingly bigger impact in med tech.

During the past 36 years, that purpose-driven approach has fueled a lengthening list of innovations for Hologic. The company’s current product portfolio includes:
• 3DimensionsTM, the latest version of the world’s first system for 3D mammography, which is widely considered the gold standard for detecting breast tumors.
• A comprehensive continuum of care for breast and skeletal health, from the Supersonic® MACHTM ultrasound series and the Brevera® breast biopsy system to solutions for breast-conserving surgeries and the Horizon® DXA system for musculoskeletal analysis, which is the latest successor to Hologic’s inaugural product for assessing osteoporosis.
• ThinPrep® Pap test, the market-leading liquid-based cytology test for cervical health screening.
• An increasingly wide menu of molecular diagnostic tests, including assays for HIV, HPV, vaginitis, sexually transmitted infections, respiratory infections, influenza and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
• Panther®, one of the world’s most widely placed platforms of fully automated, high-throughput systems for molecular diagnostics.
• The NovaSure® endometrial ablation system for abnormal uterine bleeding and the MyoSure® and Acessa® systems for treatment of uterine fibroids.

While innovation is often associated with product development, Stein said it actually encompasses all aspects of a company. He regards the broadening of Hologic’s scope to significantly invest in both capital-heavy and “razor-blade” consumables businesses – a strategy taken by Steve MacMillan, Hologic’s current chairman, president and CEO – as the greatest innovation in the company’s history.

Stein also highlights the importance of two non-product initiatives: the groundbreaking Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, which provides data-driven insights for how governments worldwide can increase lifespan and quality of life for women, and the multifaceted Project Health Equality, which helps underserved women access top-quality healthcare resources.

Looking forward, Stein hopes purpose-driven innovation will always steer Hologic’s efforts to make a positive difference. 

He appreciates that Hologic recently honored his focus on innovation by funding an endowment in his name. The endowment supports a professorship in the School of Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stein’s alma mater.

“Hologic started with an act of doing good … and it has continued by doing good for so many employees and so many customers and patients around the world,” Stein said. “And I truly hope that the act of doing good for people, which was the core foundation of the company, continues into the far future.”