It seems Structural GenomiX never stops hiring, at least not for its upper echelon. The company announced that Stephen Burley came aboard as chief scientific officer and senior vice president of R&D, and Mike Grey became chief business officer.
Burley, 43, joins SGX in January from Rockefeller University, where he’s a professor and provost, as well as an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “I became increasingly interested in finding small-molecule inhibitors targeted at medically important proteins,” Burley says, “and work in structural genomics here in New York is limited by the size of the investment we can make in automation and chemistry.” The private sector certainly had advantages, but it wasn’t a private-versus-public decision for him. Burley is the principal investigator for an NIH-funded structural genomics consortium in New York, and he will not only continue working with the group but will also use the SGX infrastructure to help speed up the consortium’s efforts.
A cofounder of Prospect Genomics, acquired by SGX, Burley was intrigued by the company’s technology. “The thing that impressed me about SGX is the robotic platform for going from genes to expressed proteins to crystals and then to x-ray structures of the protein in very short order,” he says. The company’s crystallography facility at the advanced photon source at Argonne, expected to be operational this month, added incentive. “It means you can do in a matter of a few minutes what used to take days to weeks,” Burley says.
A UK native, Burley’s career has taken him around the globe — he’s lived in Australia and Canada, attended Harvard medical school and did postdoc work at MIT, and now expects to be in southern California “for the duration.”
SGX also brought on CBO Mike Grey, who spent nearly 20 years at Glaxo before becoming president of BioChem Therapeutics and then CEO and president of Trega Biosciences, which was acquired by Lion Bioscience. After two headliner positions, CBO could be seen as a step down — but Grey, 48, is quick to dispel that idea. “I had a number of opportunities to be the CEO of another company,” he says. “My taking [chief business officer] is really a reflection of my views as to the nature of the opportunity that we have.”
Grey, a chemist by training, says his post-merger departure from Trega-turned-Lion was amicable. “The area of technology that [Trega] could command was relatively small,” he says. “It made sense to combine with another company such as Lion.”
He sees SGX, though, as having enough breadth in the market to survive on its own, and his goal is to build the company quickly. It should be a leader in the protein structure field, he argues, with its near-real-time crystallization and determination capabilities. He’ll also seek out collaborations and partnerships while keeping an eye on the end goal, discovery.
— Meredith Salisbury