Rick Woychik is no stranger to the Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. That will likely ease the transition when he takes over this month as the lab’s director, leaving behind his post as CSO of Lynx Therapeutics.
A member of the lab’s board of scientific overseers since 1999, Woychik says the lab sought him out for the position. “When I went to try it on for size, it felt really comfortable.” Woychik has been a customer of the lab’s mouse genes — in particular, the agouti allele that earned him the cover of Cell in 1992 — for years. He was at the Oak Ridge National Lab for almost 10 years, using genome-wide tools to study mouse models of human disease. After a decade of that, “we had lots of models of human disease. What I didn’t have was a good connection with human [studies],” he says. He accepted an offer in 1996 to head to Case Western Reserve University in the pediatric nephrology group, and left a couple of years later to oversee Warner Lambert’s new genomics center in California.
That was when “a rather exciting opportunity came up with Lynx,” he recalls. He talked with Sydney Brenner and Norrie Russell, former Lynx CEO, and “they enticed me to commute another 10 minutes down the road.”
Woychik will stay involved with Lynx as a new board member when he moves to the Jackson Lab. He feels that with his background in biotech and pharma, he’ll be able to handle the research and the business sides of the lab. “It’s not just a basic biomedical research lab that does mouse genetics,” Woychik says, pointing out Jackson’s educational programs and genetics resources. “It’s a repository for important knockout lines and embryonic stem cell lines,” he says, remembering his own days of ordering hard-to-find genes from the lab.
The mark Woychik leaves on Jackson may begin with an emphasis on systems biology. “This would be a little bit of a new direction” for the lab, but the “mouse will be the ideal organism to do systems biology research on,” he says. “It really builds on the IT and bioinformatics infrastructure that’s already there.”
Woychik, an avid skier, is looking forward to the move to Maine. But it sounds like the folks at Lynx have cause to be excited, too: Woychik’s already planning to use the company’s MPSS platform at the lab.
— Meredith Salisbury