Invitrogen has been on a buying spree lately, and not even bioinformatics executives, it seems, are safe from this shopaholic. Earlier this year the Carlsbad, Calif., purveyor of life science reagents — and more — hired Michael Stapleton away from Accelrys. Then again, having acquired moribund bioinformatics software developer InforMax in October 2002, perhaps Invitrogen’s desire for new bioinformatics leadership should come as no surprise.
Stapleton had no qualms about leaving his chief operating officer position at Accelrys after spending 12 years in the service of the scientific software conglomerate. “From a personal career perspective, I did what I could do [there],” he says. “I didn’t aspire to be CEO of Pharmacopeia [Accelrys’ parent], and if you’re as career-driven as I am, it’s time to move on.”
At Invitrogen, UK-native Stapleton will oversee the high-level management of the company’s informatics offerings as general manager and VP of its bioinformatics business. In the short term, he says, his strategy will be to secure the assets and customer base for InforMax’s Vector NTI data management software, and “rebuild confidence in bioinformatics,” he says. Bolstering the InforMax team in Frederick, Md., with Invitrogen’s other addition — Vivien Bonazzi from Celera Genomics — should help invigorate R&D, he adds. Stapleton ruled out plans to further consolidate the 60-employee Maryland office “at present.”
But in the long run Stapleton has bigger plans for Invitrogen’s informatics capabilities. One component of his strategy is to upgrade the caliber of informatics tools available on Invitrogen’s website by embedding new software for such tasks as selecting the proper tool or reagent and designing vectors. Such an approach, already in place on the sites of many RNAi reagent manufacturers, would help drive catalog sales to Invitrogen’s website, Stapleton says, thereby boosting margins. And from a scientific perspective, he says, a more multifunctional site should facilitate scientists’ ability to answer their research questions.
In addition, Stapleton has made a goal of designing software to enhance the capabilities of Invitrogen’s other products, such as the Gateway expression system, and eventually moving into the business of providing software and data management services for big pharma. While at least a year or two away, Stapleton says entering this market will allow Invitrogen to capitalize on the data management challenges facing pharma. “For pharma, it’s costly to maintain all that infrastructure and support,” he says. “As [Invitrogen] grows, we’ll be able to develop these service-based relationships.”
— John S. MacNeil