By Malorye A. Branca
March 10, 2003 | Three high-profile staffers quietly slipped away from Celera Genomics as the new year dawned. Gene Myers, Scott Patterson, and Terrence Ryan all resigned, moving on to academia, a protein-therapeutics startup, and big pharma, respectively.
The man whose informatics prowess helped Celera knit the genome together, Gene Myers, officially resigned his post of vice president of informatics research on January 1 to become a full professor in the computer science department at the University of California at Berkeley. When he left, Myers was technically an employee of Celera sister company Applied Biosystems Inc. (ABI), which took over marketing of Celera’s Discovery System database last summer. But Myers’ office remained at Celera, and after receiving his new assignment, he almost immediately went on paid leave to prepare for the move to Berkeley, which was announced in late October.
Patterson, Celera’s vice president of proteomics, became chief scientific officer at protein therapeutics developer Farmal Pharmaceuticals. Ryan, once Patterson’s chief lieutenant, is now director of Integrative Genomics at GlaxoSmithKline.
“This was a really interesting opportunity to take on a larger role, and really be involved in building up a company,” says Patterson of his new job. According to Patterson, Farmal grew out of academic work that is now being commercialized.
At GSK, Ryan also has broader responsibilities. “It is a new position designed to integrate a lot of ‘omics’ platforms to better identify markers of drug efficacy and make animal models more predictive,” he says. “I have high hopes for this. It is an area I have been pushing, and some very encouraging examples [of this approach] are emerging.”
The departures reinforce the idea that at Celera, high-throughput genomics is out and actual drug development is in. The company recently appointed James Yee to head its
therapeutic development activities and clinical trial processes. Yee has more than 20 years of experience managing pharmaceutical research and development at groups including Syntex Corp. and Roche Pharmaceuticals. Most recently, he was vice president of clinical and preclinical research for inflammatory and viral diseases at Roche Bioscience
The turnover at Celera also illustrates how the genomics business landscape is changing. Genomics firms are struggling to distance themselves from the very word they built their businesses on and to prove they are more than just gene-finding factories. But other sectors, particularly academia and biotech, now see genomics as a fundamental rather than a specialty field, and an area where they need to be well represented.