Talking to the energetic Wildtype Media CEO and publisher, Juliana Chan – also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum and holds four US patents – makes you feel like you’re moving in slow motion. Many media outlets have featured her research on drug delivery and nanomedicine. Pfizer has even licensed one of her patents for commercialisation. But the Cambridge- and MIT-educated scientist arguably made the greatest wave when she left a tenure-track career in biomedical research at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) for her other passion: science communication.
Chan founded Wildtype Media Group in 2018. Today, it is one of Asia’s leading STEM-focused media companies, spanning digital, print, events, custom publishing and content marketing. The acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. “It surprised me when many people thought this was a terrible decision,” she says. “Everyone told me the media renaissance was over and that I should get out, not in.” It started with Asian Scientist, a personal blog Chan started in 2011 to ease the “insularity and isolation” of scientific work. The blog grew big enough to attract the attention of World Scientific Publishing.
The firm offered the business newbie – “I had no business acumen; I didn’t even know what P&L meant” – plenty of cash and kind to turn it into a magazine and serve as its editor-in-chief. Eventually, with two children, Chan was running what felt like “three full-time jobs”. Something had to give. “I couldn’t let my kids become orphans or give up my hobby,” she laughs.
So, she embraced media full time and started Wildtype Media Group. It publishes flagship titles Asian Scientist Magazine and Supercomputing Asia as well as several custom titles for government agencies and academic clients. Chan has two key missions for Wildtype. The first is to make Asian scientists household names.
“If I asked people to name a scientist, they might name Marie Curie. The only scientist they can think of is a Polish-French woman who died nearly 90 years ago!” Her second is to raise the global profile of Asian science. She tells us language barriers and lack of communication have held back scientists in the region. “The lingua franca of the research and financial world is English. If you’re not able to communicate on a global scale, you’re limited to the investors in your market, and that’s not good enough.”
Chan has also found personal meaning in advocating for women in business after finding the same “leaky pipeline” she’s witnessed in the STEM field. A recent NTU study of 738 Singaporeans found that 58 per cent of the female STEM degree and diploma graduates have related careers versus that of 70 per cent of men.
In response, Wildtype Media launched an initiative at this year’s International Women’s Day in March, offering 50 women free professional headshots for their LinkedIn profiles. “The only networking left right now is LinkedIn,” says Chan, who has over 33,000 followers on the platform. Her willingness to experiment with new media has enabled Wildtype to establish itself on newer channels such as TikTok.
And if you’re wondering, no. Wildtype isn’t a fancy font. It refers to individual organisms deemed the standard against which variation is measured, and is a term “people in the industry would know,” says Chan. “It has great energy,” she adds. “And it’s the original.”
- Power List 2021