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Liebman Leaves Roche for New Motorola Venture, UPenn Post

NEW YORK, Nov 27 – Noted bioinformaticist Michael Liebman has resigned as Roche Bioscience’s global director of bioinformatics to become chief scientific officer at Genmatics, a joint venture between Motorola and Medical Science Associates, and director of computational biology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Genmatics is a provider of products that integrate genomic, epidemiological, and clinical data to solve problems for the biopharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

“Most people are looking at the genomics and then trying to drive it towards the disease. We’re looking at it from the other side,” said Liebman, who will direct the research component of the business from Philadelphia.

CEO Jon Morris will lead Genmatics from the San Francisco Bay area. Morris was formerly a vice president of medical systems at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) of San Diego.

The company expects its approach to result in better views of disease susceptibility and response. It wants to develop higher resolution definitions of diseases to better reflect the level of detail available in data today.

“Genmatics is going to be looking at clinical data for the perspective of stratifying disease, then adding the genomics into the stratified disease. It’s to get a better handle on what the different disease substructures are,” said Liebman.

At UPenn, Liebman will establish a computational biology program with an emphasis on cancer genetics. He plans to install a computing infrastructure for the program but said it was too early to discuss those details.

Besides allowing him to work on his research interests, the post will enable him to do consulting work on the side. He will also be a professor of cancer biology.

Liebman left Roche in Palo Alto, Calif., this summer after nine months at the company.

Before that, he had been head of bioinformatics for Wyeth-Ayerst in Radnor, Pa., for two years and director of bioinformatics and genomics at Vysis/Amoco for seven years.

He decided to leave the world of big pharma due to his disappointment with the industry’s traditional focus on drug development rather than treating disease.

“I’m committed to the integration of diagnostics and therapeutics, and I don’t find that the pharmaceutical industry has really bought into that model yet,” he said.

Liebman has for some time been an advocate of integrating clinical data into early-stage genomic research efforts in order to target treatments for individual patients.