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New Nanogen CEO Says Management Changes Result from Shift in Strategy

NEW YORK, June 19 - Although recent management changes at Nanogen might make it seem the company is struggling to find its footing, the company's new CEO Randy White told GenomeWeb the changes in personnel come with the company's shift in focus from the research to the clinical diagnostics market.

The most recent example of the microelectronic DNA chip maker's management turnover occurred last week, when Michael Heller, a co-founder of Nanogen and chief technical officer, resigned to take a position as a full professor at the University of California, San Diego. 

White, however, said that Heller had always "wanted to pursue cutting-edge technology," a goal he could fulfill more easily in academic research than at a product-focused diagnostics company. In any case, White added, Heller would provide one third of his time to the company as an exclusively consultant. "Nanogen may even fund his research," he said.

White joined the company three weeks ago from American Medical Laboratories, where he served as vice president of technical operations. He said he was brought on to replace Nanogen founder Howard Birndorf as CEO because of his close knowledge and experience working in the clinical laboratory market. Birndorf, who had served as the CEO of the company since 1993, became chairman of the company's board.

In late April, Nanogen also hired George Wills as chief financial officer, because the company needed a full-time chief financial officer to oversee the company's increasingly complex books as it began selling products. Until Nanogen hired Wills, Kieran Gallahue had served as the both the company's president and chief financial officer.

White said the company's microarray technology, which uses a matrix of 100 charged pads to immobilize strands of DNA to perform assays, is ideally suited for the diagnostics market because it can investigate SNPs, short tandem repeats, insertions and deletions. Currently, the company is working with 13 unnamed partners, who receive the microarray system free-of-charge and develop new assays with the equipment. Nanogen, White said, has the rights to license the assay technology back from its partners to sell to other customers.

The company is targeting clinical laboratories and medical institutions in the US and Europe, White said.  

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