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Hooked on a (highly effective) Feeling

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Call him the Stephen Covey of genomics. Walter Simson, recently appointed CEO of Infigen in DeForest, Wis., has some ideas that he hopes will please his new colleagues.

Simson, 45, began his career in investment banking. “That would probably have been the sum total of my experience,” he says, but he wound up helping his father and got a taste of small business that he relished. He later joined Research Biochemicals (now Sigma-RBI).

“That was when I became hooked on working with scientists,” he recalls. “Scientists are the most open people to new ideas, and they’re extremely rational in their consideration of these ideas. That’s refreshing.” Simson’s zest for science eventually led him to Massachusetts-based MJ Research, where he became CFO.

His approach could make Simson popular among scientists. “I see myself as an enabler,” he says. He believes his job is to help scientists “get to the levels they want to reach.”

A crucial component in his plan is respect (his personal rules include safety, respect, and integrity). “Once you establish that, people in all levels can rise up and do their best work,” he says. Simson continually takes science and medical school courses so he can better communicate with scientists. In addition to helping him understand researchers’ needs, he says, it’s a way to be courteous.

Despite his conviction that he’d never leave Boston, Simson was so intrigued by Infigen that he accepted the CEO position. He was lured by the company’s technology and expertise in the emerging field of protein therapeutics. Infigen, he contends, is ahead of its competition because of its cloning technologies and nuclear transfer patents.

Not that he’s bragging. “Humility’s something I learned in many years of consulting,” Simson says. If he ever decides to leave the business world, he could probably peddle his own seven habits.

— Meredith Salisbury

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