Fran DiNuzzo was part of a 10-member executive team that was working on combining Agilent Technologies’ genomics, proteomics, informatics, and bioreagents into a single business unit when Chris van Ingen, president and general manager of Agilent’s Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis unit, asked him to lead the Integrated Biology Solutions group.
“I jumped at the opportunity,” DiNuzzo told BioCommerce Week last week during a break from an analyst conference in Boston.
DiNuzzo, a 23-year veteran of Agilent and parent company Hewlett-Packard, now heads up a 100-employee team that represents the leading edge of how large tool makers are approaching the still-undefined concept of integrated molecular biology research.
“Several years ago, people were looking first at genes, then proteins, metabolites, [and] whole-cell biology as independent sciences and independent markets,” DiNuzzo said. “But that is changing and it was a natural progression for us to start taking a look at the business for a more holistic view.”
And, there was buy-in all the way from the top, said DiNuzzo.
“The champion of this actually goes all the way up to Ned Barnholt, our CEO,” DiNuzzo said.
The IBS unit has begun to move aggressively. In August, the unit moved to acquire Silicon Genetics and cemented a collaboration with Rosetta Biosoftware. This week, it participated with Agilent Ventures, the company’s venture capital investor, in a $16.4 million Series C funding round for Genospectra, a Fremont, Calif.-based company that will use the financing to develop cell-based assays and a quantitative cell-based method for gene expression profiling. The funding syndicate pairs Agilent with previous investors Affymetrix, and Alex Zaffaroni, a founder of Affymetrix.
“That’s one of the advantages of being a startup inside an established company,” said DiNuzzo. “I do have investments assigned to my business that I can make, and if opportunities come up, I can pitch the value to our corporate execs.”
The Silicon Genetics investment came from working with Agilent’s informatics team. The deal took less than three months to consummate.
“[The process] was very fast and a good demonstration that we are committed to move at the speed that is necessary for a market that is as nascent as this life sciences market is,” DiNuzzo said.
Are there more moves needed?
“We believe that the combination of [acquisitions and investments] provide us a solid base from which to build, remembering that we have relations with other partners including Millennium in the proteomics area,” he said. “We will partner with large and small companies as necessary to create value in the marketplace.”
Clearly, the company is taking a bigger stake in the bioinformatics world, a marketplace that has swallowed more than one company.
“The challenge is a good one,” DiNuzzo said. “A lot of people have taken a shot at this bioinformatics world. We are well aware of that.”
Selling Integrated Biology Solutions
The market that IBS is targeting is one that involves more than one core set of sales and support expertise.
IBS products are sold by a life science business that is separate from chemical analysis sales, and separate from the pharmaceutical sales unit. Platform experts are shared across the sales markets. Additionally, there is a set of application-focused, market-focused experts who work pre- sales and post-sales, as well as working directly with R&D teams.
Hires come from a variety of disciplines, DiNuzzo said. The IBS sales team has a sales manager in each of the company’s primary geographic regions, who reports to the sales organization and is also part of the IBS staff.
The IBS unit is focused on investing to develop markets and get business growth started, he said. Already, the unit is having an impact on overall LSCA revenues.
“We see being a contributing element to that business,” said DiNuzzo. “But, I’d like to have a better crystal ball.”
— Mo Krochmal ([email protected])
IBS Within Agilent’s Organization: Fran DiNuzzo’s sketch of the organization of Agilent's Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis unit. IBS joins PHS, which services pharmaceutical customers; CAS, which services the chemical analysis sector; CSS, a supply and services organization; as well as manufacturing and sales. IBS sales are under the general sales group, but also report to IBS.