Rich Uhlig on Leadership: Set the Goal, Empower and Reward your Team, Improve Lives

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


After graduating from Cornell University in 1988, Rich Uhlig’s career spanned a few decades on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. He built and ran an investment banking division and bond-trading business for Deutsche Bank and proprietary trading businesses for Merrill and Morgan, and also worked for the Fed, taught a bit at Cornell, and was happily settled in Central New York.

Then, one of his sons had a significant concussion injury playing hockey. The diagnosis and treatment struck Uhlig as little more than guesswork. He realized that children might die because of second-impact syndrome or develop significant cognitive impairment for the rest of their lives from multiple concussions.

So, Uhlig pivoted from Wall Street finance and put his undergraduate biology education to work. He spent about six months studying decades of clinical research and finding threads that convinced him there was a path to better diagnosis of brain injuries.

In 2015, he founded Motion Intelligence. He put in his life savings and worked his Wall Street contacts for other investors. His aim then and now is to “improve the lives of children and their families.”

Before long, the company was renamed Quadrant Biosciences, and by 2019 Quadrant had been recognized as New York Technology Business of the Year. His team of scientists was using saliva to develop breakthrough tests for early detection of brain conditions like concussions, autism, and Parkinson’s disease. When the pandemic hit, Quadrant temporarily pivoted to saliva and waste-water tests for the Covid-19 virus and other viruses. Quadrant still does them, and it’s why New York was able to warn about a worrisome resurgence of polio last year.

Quadrant’s main focus has returned to brain issues, where the company has recently received more patents for saliva-based tests to detect concussions and autism.

Uhlig is soft-spoken and can grow emotional as he describes his deeply held mission and what he calls the brilliant team of doctors, engineers, and scientists now assembled in Syracuse. The company is a privately held C-corp with several subsidiary LLCs in Syracuse, Cleveland, and San Antonio. When Quadrant has its initial public offering in a year or two, Uhlig has made sure that Quadrant’s 200 employees and the Research Foundation of the State University of New York will share in that good fortune.

On leadership, Uhlig says empowerment is one of the most important things a leader can do: “It’s empowering people to bring their best work to a project. The word empower is so overused, but what I’ve found consistently from the first time that I started managing people back in 1995 was rather than tell them what to do I would share the outcome that I’d like to see happen … how they got to that outcome was so much smarter and better than anything that I could have come up with.”

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