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Karl Deisseroth joins Backyard Brains

In a deal noted by many industry insiders as “a neurotechnology coup,” Karl Deisseroth, professor and physician at Stanford, has moved to Detroit, MI to join Backyard Brains as its first salaried employee. Vinod Khosla, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, noted "it’s common practice for high tech firms in the Bay Area, whether SquareUp or Anybot, to compete for talented employees. This move by Detroit area biologists to recruit one of our top neural engineers is no different…I just didn’t think it would happen so soon…." a distracted Vinod trailed off as he browsed Ann Arbor real estate on his iPad 1.

Karl drove a hard package, but ultimately agreed to a 2002 silver Ford Focus for travel from Palo Alto and a salary of $45,000/year, along with an undisclosed amount to renovate Michigan Central Station as his new lab space. To the shock of many local politicians, Crain’s Detroit is reporting that talks between Sequoia Capital and Manuel J. Moroun are commencing to negotiate the transformation of the train station into a cutting edge neuroscience institution. Karl has also negotiated equity in Backyard Brains, with a cap of 0.5% ownership vesting over 10 years.

The future home of the Central Station Neural Labs in Corktown

Karl notes: “I have long been a fan of the Motor City. A couple weeks ago, after I had just published my recent Nature Paper on the mechanisms of anxiety, I went for a walk on the west side of Stanford campus, passing the Dayglo mountain bikers and triathlete med students. On such a beautiful sunny Spring California Day as is every day out here, my thoughts were grey and cloudy. I thought, "Karl, it’s time for a challenge. You just published 12 Science and Nature papers in almost as many months, and no one has ever done that before. You should be happy. Why aren"t you? Karl further noted: "To tell you the truth, it was hard to become excited anymore, even with all the grants coming in, all the world class talent of graduate students and post-docs banging on my door, the bombshell papers I keep writing and writing… it all felt a bit sisyphean to me. What more can life offer?"

"I needed to find something new, but what would I work on that would ignite the fire? And what could I add? I soul-searched for weeks." Karl paused a moment to check something funny on the MSU basketball internet forum before continuing…"Late one night, as I was writing a Nature article on the mechanism of the neocortex’s storage of declarative long term memory in humans, and another Science paper that finally answers whether or not we have free will, I became intellectually bored, and began surfing my favorite tech sites and the, when something immediately caught my eye. What’s this? A Remote Control Cockroach in Michigan? No way! This project is just asking for optogenetics! I pulled out my Rolodex, gave Tim and Greg a call, and before I knew it, I had arranged a 30 year mortgage on a nice fixer-upper townhouse right off Telegraph and 11 mile, just commuting distance to Detroit, but of course, not as expensive as living in the city itself."

Tim and Greg happily pose with their first hire! There's always a line at Slows!

Rick Synder, governor of Michigan, noted: “We need the kind of "can do attitude" in Michigan that leads to new technologies, which Deisseroth has repeatedly demonstrated with his harvesting of green algae and desert bacteria ion pumps.” Mayor David Bing has expressed interest in expanding the people mover service to the new Central Station Neural Labs (CSNL) to accommodate the increased traffic.

"I am excited about heading to the D, just in time for baseball", said Deisseroth, adjusting his ballcap. "I’m looking forward to see Jackson build on his incredible rookie season […] With Cabrera and Guillen healthy in the lineup, and Verlander and Porcello looking good in the rotation… I like our chances." When asked how he felt that his start date (April 8th) coincides with opening day for Tigers, Karl said with a wry smile: "I think I feel a sickness coming on next week… but I should be better by the following Monday".

His new optogenetics center, located across the street from Slow’s BBQ, is speculated to become the new hotbed of ideas. The owners of Buck’s of Woodside have reportedly been spotted in Roosevelt Park speaking with Phil Cooley. Jeff DeBruyn, whose non-profit ‘Imagination Station’ owns several buildings and vacant land around the new facility, has seen an unprecedented amount of activity on his sites. Wheelhouse Detroit has inquired with city officials to build a new bike shop which will capitalize on the shift to a younger, more mobile demographic in the area.

Backyard Brains released its official statement today, which reads "Please join us as Detroit and Backyard Brains welcomes Karl to his new home in the state of Michigan. We are looking forward to Karl building on his 13-year experience at Stanford by bringing Neuroscience to the people. We are cautiously optimistic to see what Karl has in store in the years to come."

UPDATE: May 9th, 2011

After four weeks of work, Karl unveiled to his new supervisors his brand new optogenetic prototype. Design Reviews are brutal….

Karl also received his official business cards! Feel free to contact him for tech support!

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