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Structural Genomix Hires Away Millennium and Novartis Execs

NEW YORK, Jan 24 – Structural Genomix said Wednesday it has made two high-profile hires, naming Janice Culpepper, a senior technology executive at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, to the position of vice president of genomics and drug discovery and Doug Livingston, formerly of Novartis, to the position of vice president of chemistry and new technology.

The privately-held San Diego company, which has raised $85 million in venture capital, previously said it was planning to increase its staff from 75 at present to 160 people by the end of 2001, and increase production of protein structures.

Culpepper, who directed high throughput DNA sequencing, genotyping, and protein production and put together a cDNA library at Millennium, will lead Structural Genomix’ efforts to implement robotics and other technologies for its protein structure determination efforts, the company said.

The company has said that it is working on developing an auotmated image display robot to look for crystals as well as robots for handling liquids and samples. Structural Genomix is widely believed to be behind its proteomics competitor Syrrx in the development of robotics.

Structural Genomix was not immediately available for comment.

Livingston, the former director of chemistry at Novartis Research Foundation’s Genomics Institute, will analyze the protein structures and evaluate them for their value in drug target discovery.

" Janice and Doug will be very valuable to our company as we continue to build our platform for high throughput protein structure determination and look to expand our knowledge of protein structures for use in rational drug design," Structural Genomix CEO Tim Harris said in a statement. " Janice's leadership will accelerate our technology expansion through in-house development and integration of other relevant technologies. Doug's experience in bringing compounds to the clinic is a strong measure of our desire to add value to our structures in terms of compound discovery."

Structural Genomix is currently determining protein structures using x-ray crystallography and robotics devices. These structures reveal binding sites and information about the function of the protein that the company hopes will prove useful to pharmaceutical researchers developing new drugs. So far the company has completed over 20 structures, and plans to license a structure database in a year or two.

Earlier in the month, Structural Genomix penned a deal with Caliper to use Caliper’s LabChip microfluidics devices in its protein structure efforts. Putting the protein sizing and analysis assay into the LabChip could allow Structural Genomix to process hundreds of protein samples a day. By the end of the year, the company also plans to build a facility that will enable it to complete at least 10-15 structures per day, or 2,000-3,000 a year.

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