This won't be the last time Merkin takes the plunge into such initiatives. He brainstorms with agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and visionaries such as Craig Ventner on new challenges. One puzzle: How to store the genomic data of all 7 billion human beings on the planet. "I think that's equivalent to 25% of all the data that's ever been stored, so now they need new storage devices," he says.
Merkin's even talking to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and National Institutes of Health about additional opportunities that would help the agencies and regulatory processes perform more efficiently.
Merkin's interests may extend beyond healthcare, but they still train on the tough challenges. Sitting on the Jet Propulsion committee of CalTech's Jet Propulsion Lab, he was one of those experts who signed off on the sky-hook scheme that safely landed Curiosity on Mars. "A lot of the experts said that would never work."
Merkin delights in proving the experts wrong.
"Who would have thought that two bicycle mechanics would have flown over Kitty Hawk?" he says. "There's so much talent out there, and particularly now with technology and the Internet, there's going to be a billion people that didn't have access to education that are going to be able to solve problems and change the world."