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Diagnostics Roche vet brings Dx savvy to Sequenom

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After 16 years at Roche, Betty Dragon was ready for a new opportunity. That chance came earlier this year when she decided to join Sequenom, where she will work on developing new applications for the company’s mass spec genotyping platform.

“I think mass spec affords an opportunity to do something very specific and dynamic,” says Dragon, now the senior vice president of research and development at Sequenom. “We can get really good specificity with this technology that allows us to do some things that we can’t with PCR. It’s an adjunct to PCR, so it will allow us to heighten specificity,” says Dragon, who helped launch the first commercial PCR-based tests during her tenure at Roche.

Dragon, who will be working on the MassArray platform, brings 25 years of extensive diagnostic experience to Sequenom’s prenatal and molecular diagnostic programs. The company owns exclusive intellectual property rights for looking at fetal sequences in maternal plasma and serum. “That’s a field we intend to explore quite heavily — and that’s where my background in diagnostics is going to come in handy,” Dragon says. “Noninvasive diagnostics is a very strong part of our future.”

That future hasn’t always looked so bright to industry onlookers in recent years, but Dragon says fresh funding will keep the company on track. Sequenom’s struggles have been highlighted this year by two NASDAQ delisting warnings for failing to meet its minimum bid price requirement and to maintain its $10,000 stockholder equity requirement. Then in June, Sequenom managed to secure roughly $33 million from institutional investors. “The funding is going to allow us to move forward very quickly,” Dragon says. 

Dragon joined Roche in 1990, where she worked alongside such scientists as David Gelfand, Tom White, and John Seninski to launch the first PCR test. “It was a wonderful team and a very wonderful experience,” she recalls. “I really enjoyed that opportunity.”

Despite the fond memories, Dragon has no regrets about her move. “This is a great place to be. I’m actually quite happy about being here — I think it’s really exciting,” she says.

— Matthew Dublin

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