Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Burks Rolls Up Sleeves to Take Affinium to Discovery

Premium

For someone who’s moved around most of his life, relocating is now “sort of a compulsion,” says Christian Burks, who recently left his post as chief informatics officer of South San Francisco’s Exelixis to become CSO at Affinium Pharmaceuticals, the former Integrative Proteomics, in Toronto.

At Affinium, Burks, 48, will oversee the technology departments and help the company shift from its history of building proteomics tools to using them for its own drug discovery. He believes his experience at Exelixis — watching the company grow “from 25 people when I joined to well over 500 when I left” as well as being there for the company’s IPO and its M&A activity — will be crucial for the transition. “A very important part of any company wanting to go down that same path is having people on board [who did it already],” he says.

Though his Exelixis experience may be what made him valuable to Affinium, Burks spent most of his career in the public sector working at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He went there as a postdoc in 1982, intrigued by “the very entrepreneurial opportunity of starting up a DNA sequence database.” He was part of the team that created GenBank and later headed up the database, eventually leading a group that covered molecular biology, mathematical modeling, protein structure prediction, and pattern analysis.

Burks, a fan of the “roll up your sleeves and do it” approach, decided there would be more opportunities for that in the private sector and left for Exelixis in 1996. It “was the lead company out the door on the functional genomics landscape,” he says.

Now, his challenge is tying together Affinium’s various technologies — x-ray crystallography, NMR, and protein purification and screening techniques — into a package that will produce meaningful data. “The real challenge, and the real payoff,” he says, “is integrating those.”

— Meredith Salisbury

The Scan

Drug Response Variants May Be Distinct in Somatic, Germline Samples

Based on variants from across 21 drug response genes, researchers in The Pharmacogenomics Journal suspect that tumor-only DNA sequences may miss drug response clues found in the germline.

Breast Cancer Risk Gene Candidates Found by Multi-Ancestry Low-Frequency Variant Analysis

Researchers narrowed in on new and known risk gene candidates with variant profiles for almost 83,500 individuals with breast cancer and 59,199 unaffected controls in Genome Medicine.

Health-Related Quality of Life Gets Boost After Microbiome-Based Treatment for Recurrent C. Diff

A secondary analysis of Phase 3 clinical trial data in JAMA Network Open suggests an investigational oral microbiome-based drug may lead to enhanced quality of life measures.

Study Follows Consequences of Early Confirmatory Trials for Accelerated Approval Indications

Time to traditional approval or withdrawal was shorter when confirmatory trials started prior to accelerated approval, though overall regulatory outcomes remained similar, a JAMA study finds.