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Neomorphic CEO Exhanges Old Regrets for New Ones


It’s a safe bet that 30-year-old Cyrus Harmon has forgotten any regrets he might have had about dropping out of graduate school to start up his own software company. Affymetrix last month agreed to buy Neomorphic for $70 million in stock. Harmon was the largest single shareholder and CEO of the 25-person company, which had revenues of $2.6 million in 1999. Harmon’s title at Affymetrix will be vice president of computational genomics.

Some see Affy’s acquisition as a vindication of Harmon’s youthful company. Even as Neomorphic grew and formed relationships with heavy-hitters such as Celera, Monsanto, and The Institute for Genomic Research, the baby-faced CEO and his dread-locked cofounder Gregg Helt had a hard time shedding their college kids image. Harmon’s recent appointment of long-time biotech industry executive David Pritchard as executive vice president seemed an attempt to gain some credibility for his company.

Reached in Italy on the day the Affy deal was announced, Harmon, who was attending wedding festivities for a college friend, seemed less than exuberant about his new status. Negotiations with Affy had forced him to delay for three days the trip that he and his wife had planned for a year, and he missed out on a wine-tasting event in Florence to answer analysts’ questions by conference call from his hotel.

And another thing was niggling at him too: The day he sold his company to Affy was the same day Genomica raised over $120 million in its initial public offering. Maybe he should have taken Neomorphic public instead.

—Adrienne Burke


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