Solana Beach resident brings biotech experience to Alzheimer’s Association

Dawn Barry

Solana Beach resident Dawn Barry has brought her experience in genomics to the board of the Alzheimer’s Association’s San Diego/Imperial County chapter.

“They were looking for someone who was blending both the science that San Diego is so well known for with community engagement and communications and networking, like most members are recruited for,” Barry said. “And I was immediately drawn to the association because Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease. For me, it also has a particular disproportionate impact on women, both as patients and caregivers.”

Barry, who was vice president of applied genomics at biotech company Illumina, said she thinks “Alzheimer’s and all dementias are particularly complicated in their biology.”

“I think that’s part of the reason why, even today, there is no cure, there’s no prevention,” said Barry, who was recognized as San Diego Business Journal’s Business Woman of the Year in 2017. “The best we can do is delay and slow the onset. It is a very complicated disease, and part of the reason why we need great people working in it.”

She has also been an advocate for women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“I work with Girl Scouts to make sure girls know that science and STEM fields are a great profession for them, and for women who are in their career in a STEM field, I love to mentor and advocate for them advancing their careers,” Barry added. “And I think there’s no better place than San Diego, which is such a wonderful hub of high-tech, biotech and life science, to be advocating for women.”

Some of the issues in the healthcare industry, she continued, are caused by a lack of input from women.

“If women aren’t at the table, one could argue the products won’t be as inclusive as they should be, and I think we’ve seen that in women’s health lagging well behind in the health care system and in products and even in companies that investors invest in,” Barry said. “So we need many more women at the leadership table in STEM fields.”

Almost two-thirds of the Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and about two-thirds of people who are caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients are women.

In the year ahead, Barry said her goals on the board include increasing awareness, advocacy for research, and reaching funding goals to fund the necessary research.

“My goal is always to just keep doing better than the last year,” she added.

Barry is also the president and cofounder of LunaDNA, which takes a data-driven approach to helping people understand their health. She has lived in Solana Beach since 2014 with her husband Jason and daughters Sienna and Shayla.

For more information about the Alzheimer’s Association, visit The organization’s helpline, which provides information to people who have questions or concerns about someone they know who might have symptoms, is 800-272-3900.