Molly Schmid has always looked for the next step. When she left a faculty research position at Princeton, it was to join Microcide Pharmaceuticals and establish a genomics-oriented antimicrobial drug discovery program. Seven years later, she sought a fresh challenge and landed at Genencor in the new position of senior director of functional genomics and bioinformatics. Her goal is to get past conventional genomics and put the data to use.
Genencor produces microbes and enzymes for everything from beer to laundry detergent. “It’s not a genomics company in the traditional way,” Schmid concedes. Her focus is on microbial genomics, and with the sheer number of available microbe genomes, she says, “Microbial genomics is really post-sequencing.”
And that’s the interesting part for Schmid. “Part of the lure of genomics is trying to find business value out of the sequence information,” she says. Since Genencor has to market economical enzymes, “part of the game is producing microbes that don’t mind making tons and tons of these enzymes,” Schmid explains. “It’s a platform where we can exercise a lot of creativity.”
Schmid believes that the systems biology approach to genomics will be key to finding the value she’s looking for. Genencor will also need to perform lots of large-scale data analysis, she says. Together, these approaches will “allow us to become more and more computational in our understanding of how all the biological parts work together.”
Genencor’s strike at the genomics market is a gamble, considering the number of established companies already in the field. “It certainly is an investment,” Schmid says. But she doesn’t dwell on potential drawbacks. “We’re going to have a blast,” she predicts.
— Meredith Salisbury