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Lim Waltzes Through Genomics World

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Hwa Lim knows you. He’s been to your booth. Most likely, he knows your former job, and the odds are good that he sits on your board, or at least has been invited to.

But that’s because Lim knows everybody (and, in most cases, he keeps tabs on prior jobs) and visits every booth at just about every conference he attends. President and CEO of D’Trends, a small firm started in 1997 that provides software and databases to pharmaceutical companies, the native Malaysian says he considers it a personal responsibility to promote genomics and biotech. Networking is just one of the ways he does that.

Another is writing. Lim, 40, recently walked away from a publishing contract for his latest book, which “explains the biotech industry at a layman’s level,” he says. The publisher saw it as a scientific book — which would cost about $150 in bookstores, Lim guesses. So he’s looking for someone to publish it in paperback to make it affordable for the average consumer. He’s working on the last two chapters, trying to keep up with the latest in the field. Some rewriting was needed after the February 12 genome publication and again after senate debates on cloning. Lim scrapped the original title, “Bioinforming, Biopharming, and Biofarming” in favor of “Genetically Yours” when he remembered an Argentinian woman who had contacted him in 1992 asking how to clone her recently deceased son.

At that time, Lim was program director of the supercomputer institute at Florida State University. He is credited with founding the Bioinformatics and Genome Research conference, now in its tenth year. Later, Lim worked at Hyseq and then DoubleTwist before heading off on his own with D’Trends.

He’s also the chairman of four boards of directors, and spends quite a bit of time traveling as a genomics consultant or as a visiting professor. He contends that his report to the president of Taiwan last October helped pave the way for the country’s current push into the field. He’s off on invitation to India soon to see how the industry is developing there. (And, for all the market watchers, Lim predicts that Intel will soon be making strides in genomics.)

That doesn’t mean he spends all his time working, though. A former badminton and racquetball aficionado, Lim’s a competitive ballroom dancer, and he spends four hours every Friday practicing. “On Fridays my productivity goes up,” he says, “because I know that at night I’ll be dancing.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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