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Extremophile Expert Heats Up New Amp Technology

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David Lane recently became vice president of biotech R&D at Hamilton Thorne Biosciences, a company that has extended its technological scope into diagnostics after specializing in measuring sperm viability. He will use a new technology, the Ramification Amplification Method, to test samples for the presence of particular genes or viruses implicated in disease to customize treatments.

Lane spent much of the 1980s sequencing the DNA of natural populations of bacteria living in super-heated waters, such as underwater volcanoes and hot springs. But in 1986 Lane entered the field of genetic and infectious disease testing, taking a job at the now-defunct Gene-Trak, owned by Amoco. Why the change? Studying bacteria “is a huge amount of fun,” Lane said. “But deep sea research is a hard way to make a living.”

Turns out, it was a natural transition for the 49-year-old to make. Whether profiling a colony of bacteria or searching for the genes involved with disease, the technology for genetic analysis was very similar, and Lane eventually became Gene-Trak’s director of research. When the company closed down in 1995, he moved to its sister company, Vysis.

Changing careers often means changing locations, something Lane has grown up doing. He earned his degree in cell biology at the University of Colorado, but was born in Pennsylvania and grew up in Long Island, where he spent the summers of his youth working on skyscrapers in Manhattan. Now, he is preparing to move back to the northeast with Hamilton Thorne. “Everywhere I’ve ever lived has been nice,” he says. “But I like Massachusetts, I like coming back here.”

— Alison McCook

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