Steve Lombardi still prefers not to talk about his reputedly involuntary departure from Applied Biosystems in April. He’d much rather focus on his new post as vice president of corporate development at Affymetrix. But industry watchers wonder how Lombardi will parlay 16 years of experience at the company whose acronym customers have been known to translate to “Arrogant Beyond Imagination” into a role at the image-conscious Affy.
Lombardi, a Boston native, now California convert (“If you get me back into Boston, my accent comes back really quick,” he admits), wanted to stay local after leaving ABI, where he was most recently senior VP of applications and products. His own background is in genetic analysis — when he started out in the field of DNA synthesis in 1978, he recalls, “We used to make an oligonucleotide once every three months.” So when Affy came into view, “the lure of getting back into genetic analysis and being involved from a corporate strategy perspective was very hard for me to say no to,” he says.
Lombardi’s first job was at a company that would become Genomics Collaborative, and he left to be a senior scientist at Ciba-Geigy working on nucleic acids in plant molecular biology research. “At both of those places I was a customer of ABI,” Lombardi says. So when a marketing opportunity opened up at the California company, he leapt at it and spent two and a half years on DNA synthesis and 10 years on the sequencing line. “My dad was a sales guy, so I guess I have the sales gene in me,” he jokes.
At Affy, Lombardi will be responsible for getting “key customers early access to some of the new technologies” as well as planning a long-term company strategy. The second part promises to be quite a challenge: “This is a very dynamic market,” Lombardi says. “You’ve got to have the strategic agility and organizational agility to move with the times.”
— Meredith Salisbury