For Yannick Pouliot, 39, director of informatics at Novartis Genome Research Foundation spinoff Kalypsys, the moment of revelation came during last year’s GSAC.
“If you’re working in genomics, typically, you’re extremely far away from the product,” he says. “And it became clear to me at the time that given the investment climate, it would be unwise to be as far removed from the product as most people are.” That provided the impetus to move to a broader perspective of data management, which would include data analysis of medicinal chemistry, such as pharma screening processes.
Being “closer” to the end-product was one of the reasons Pouliot became interested in San Diego’s Kalypsys, a private startup tasked with commercializing the high-throughput screening and robot technologies developed by the Novartis foundation to expedite and increase the efficiency of the drug discovery process.
“We can out-screen anybody on the planet by a factor of a lot, to put it vaguely,” he says, adding that the dual cell-based and target-based approach to screening used at Kalypsys has a proven track record. “By not focusing exclusively on targets, it gives us the opportunity to identify drug candidates that would not be identified simply because we don’t know what these proteins are doing.”
Pouliot is a veteran of startups, having worked at five others in the decade he’s spent in the industry, most recently as director of bioinformatics knowledge engineering at DoubleTwist, and at Sequana Therapeutics.
“I was employee number 20 at Sequana and number 13 at Kalypsys, so they were both early startups and have very much the same feel,” he says of the two companies, coincidentally housed in the same building near the Torrey Pines golf course.
Pouliot’s advice for success in the bioinformatics field stems from that fateful GSAC conference. “The days when, because you knew how to run a Blast, you would get 30 to 40 percent more on your salary, are totally gone,” he says. “I certainly would recommend that anyone in bioinformatics start learning the world of chemistry in a hurry if they want to be competitive in the job market.”
— Dana Frisch