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CAT Calls to Chambre, but What About Celera?


For better or worse, Peter Chambre is bound to be under scrutiny as the new CEO of Cambridge Antibody Technology in Melbourne, UK. When Chambre, 46, bowed out of his COO post at Celera, it was with the explanation that he wasn’t the right person to lead the genomics company down the road to its biopharmaceutical future.

Then, a few months later, he wound up at CAT, announcing that he would guide the company in its “transition to a product-focused biopharmaceutical company.” Chambre avoids questions about the obvious comparison of positions, but says, “It’s a difficult transition to make [to biopharmaceuticals], and yet the starting point for CAT is one that few others have.” The company, he contends, has “the strongest clinical pipeline of human monoclonal antibodies.” It also has the beginnings of a target pipeline, with its own and shared leads — one partner Chambre mentions is Genzyme. “That doesn’t make the transition easy, but it does make it more possible,” he says.

Chambre joined Celera in 2000 — “the phase of Celera’s growth which involved taking the company from the point at which it had raised substantial amounts of cash, but it was clear that the information business was not going to provide the kind of returns” it needed. Chambre played a large role in setting a path for the company, insisting that it had to become a biopharmaceutical player. He also advocated establishing the company’s proteomics platform and was key to the acquisition of Axys Pharmaceuticals.

Formerly the CEO of UK drug discovery company Bespak, Chambre also spent six years in management consulting. He’s taken the first several weeks at CAT to meet as many of the 270 employees as possible and to get to know the company’s products, which sell primarily to big pharma. “I’m not deeply embedded in the science or the research of the company,” he says. So he focuses more on identifying future opportunities for the company: “You can’t stand still in this field.”

— Meredith Salisbury


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