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Bioinformatics on the Back Nine: Genedata’s Depristo


Andrew DePristo had an eventful November. “I got a hole in one, had my birthday, and then got to be president [of GeneData’s US operations],” says the ardent golfer. “It just doesn’t get much better than that.”

At 50, DePristo calls himself “the oldest person in bioinformatics.” He began his career in computational chemistry and taught at Iowa State and the University of North Carolina before joining the DOE in 1989. (He had meant to go into medicine, but realized “I just could not take the sight of blood.”)

As US president of GeneData, he aims to establish an American presence for the comparative genomics and gene expression tools developed by the Swiss company, formed as a spinoff after the Novartis merger in 1997.

GeneData, based in Basel, Switzerland, has about 80 employees and customers include several big pharmas — mostly European, with Boston’s AstraZeneca as the latest — as well as a nonexclusive co-marketing agreement with Affymetrix. After AstraZeneca signed on, GeneData opened an office in Waltham, Mass., where DePristo came on as a vice president.

DePristo had been at Genome Therapeutics, where he held the mouthful title of vice president of bioinformatics, information technology, and emerging technologies. During his three years there, “I decided that I quite liked the business side,” he says. A year ago, he left GTC and consulted. “It was great for my golf game” — but still wasn’t what he had hoped for, so in early May he began talking to some people he knew at GeneData and was charged with opening the company’s East Coast office. By now, he’s hired a small sales force and as president is working to better coordinate the San Francisco and Waltham offices. He expects his US team to grow to 25 by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, he looks forward to GeneData’s upcoming products, still in development stages: high-throughput protein and mass spec analysis systems as well as a high-throughput screening tool. At least one of these, he predicts, should become a “major product” this year. But even that might not top the hole in one.


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