Meet the Founders — Chief Commercialization Officer, Mackenzie Andrews
Last, but certainly not least, Nanodropper is excited to introduce you to the last of the four co-founders. Mackenzie’s gold-medal mindset serves the Nanodropper team well as she heads up the business side of things. Read on to learn more about CCO Mackenzie Andrews!
Mackenzie is a device design engineer who earned her master’s degree in bioengineering with a focus on technology commercialization from the University of Washington. She is passionate about designing and commercializing solutions to address current healthcare problems, especially to help close health equity gaps.
At Nanodropper, Mackenzie manages all things business — she oversees marketing, sales, and customer relations. She is committed to connecting and collaborating with eyecare professionals as well as patients to utilize feedback from the users themselves to continue improving the Nanodropper adaptor. Her charisma and ambition have helped transition the budding campus start-up to a rapidly expanding company with an impactful, patient-centered product ready to be available in clinics nationwide and around the globe.
Mackenzie was born in San Rafael, California but moved to Olympia, Washington with her family at 6 years old and has considered the rainy and beautiful Pacific Northwest her home ever since. Moving north to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, she earned double Bachelor’s of Science degrees in Bioengineering and Neurobiology, a Minor in Neural Computation and Engineering, and a Master’s in Bioengineering.
Mackenzie is a powerhouse whose competitive edge has helped the Nanodropper team win and place in numerous business competitions as she delivered winning pitches to investors and judges alike. Most impressively, Nanodropper was the IntuitiveX Grand Prize winner at Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge and Graduate Medal Winner at the Collegiate Inventors Competition, awarded by National Inventors Hall of Fame and USPTO. Click here to see Nanodropper’s full list of awards.
Tackling Challenges Early On
But winning gold at competitions isn’t new to Mackenzie. In fact, it’s something she’s been practicing for over 20 years since she became a gymnast.
“When I was 2 years old, I saw some gymnasts on TV and was hooked. From that point on, I couldn’t be taken out of the gym.”
From leaping between bars eight feet in the air to a series of flips on a balance beam only four inches wide, competing in gymnastics was a defining part of Mackenzie’s childhood as she progressed toward near-elite status. The qualities required to be successful in the demanding sport gave her a fierce competitive edge that continues to serve her well in non-athletic pursuits.
“I was training at least 4 hours a day, 5 days a week… few days were easy. Apart from the physical challenge, I think that type of commitment at a young age taught me a combination of work ethic, perseverance, and time management, as well as a willingness to take risks and sacrifice a lot in pursuit of my goals. I think all that time in the gym is still paying dividends.”
Mackenzie continues to contribute to the sport by coaching the next generation of young gymnasts.
Looking for Answers and Finding her Path
At the University of Washington, Mackenzie studied bioengineering and neuroscience and in her second year joined a research lab that specializes in addiction research. However, her interest in understanding addiction had begun years before.
Throughout her childhood, Mackenzie’s father struggled with controlling addiction to heroin, prescription drugs, and alcohol, which culminated in his arrest when Mackenzie was 13 years old. Her personal experience of how powerfully addiction damaged her father and family life ultimately motivated her to understand the causes of a condition that so many struggle with.
At a young age, her father’s inventive mind sparked Mackenzie’s scientific curiosity, “Through everything we went through, he continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation for me.” It was the beginning to a path of scientific exploration and engineering innovation. For the complete story about Mackenzie’s journey with her father, read this Seattle Times article.
Mackenzie’s device design journey began when she joined the Chavkin research lab — a neuropharmacology lab with a focus on behavioral, mechanistic, and molecular approaches to study the relationship between anxiety, stress, drug abuse and addiction. Her most significant contribution was independently designing an ‘optrode’ device to modulate and record neural activity from multiple brain regions simultaneously with the goal of interrogating neural circuits involved in drug abuse and addictive behaviors.
She also got her feet wet in increasing accessibility when she worked on a team designing an electromyograph signal driven controller for Nintendo Mario Kart to increase accessibility to gaming for individuals with motor disabilities.
From Researching Brains to Helping Patients
With her background in device design, Mackenzie was well-poised to join the budding Nanodropper team when CEO Allisa Song approached her about a design project idea in November 2017, Mackenzie’s undergraduate senior year. She read the ProPublica article explaining the problems of oversized eyedrops.
“She told me about the NPR article and asked if I wanted to work with COO Elias Baker to help design the Nanodropper.”
Mackenzie was eager to apply her skills.
“I originally joined because I thought it would be a good way to practice some of what I had learned in the classroom to potentially solve a real world problem… and because I never said no to anything.”
Allisa also mentioned to Mackenzie that she wanted to partake in the UW Health Innovation Challenge. Mackenzie’s competitive side kicked in and she embraced the challenge. It was just the first of many successes for Nanodropper.
She started helping with the design and prototyping with Elias in January of 2018, and thus began Nanodropper’s journey from idea to physical product.
She’s the Brains and the Brawn
While finishing up her undergraduate degrees and continuing master’s studies, Mackenzie presented at business and entrepreneur competitions around the country.
But business competitions weren’t the only places she was grabbing the gold. As if her master’s studies and role with the Nanodropper team weren’t enough, Mackenzie was also training full-time for competitive powerlifting. Her gymnastics background provided a strong foundation as she shifted her athletic focus (and muscles) toward powerlifting. As president of the Barbell Squad at UW, she placed high at multiple national meets, including the Arnold Sports Festival and even strong-armed her way to a gold medal at the 2017 International Powerlifting League World Title, Junior Division.
She continues to lift heavy, but recently has found herself drawn back to her acrobatic roots — she currently participates on an All Star cheer squad. She also spends many weekends hiking in the Pacifc Northwest mountains with her partner Jake and husky Sesi, where she usually can’t resist a quick handstand.
Mackenzie looks forward to continue increasing health equity for patients and reducing waste, cost, and other barriers to healthcare.
Click here to learn how the Nanodropper delivers you value-based care, one drop at a time. It’s time to take back control of your eye health.