Not only does Beyond Genomics have a new CEO, but now the Cambridge, Mass.-based purveyor of integrated biology services also has a new name. From here on out, according to Pieter Muntendam, who took over as CEO in December of last year, Beyond Genomics will be known as BG Medicine. “The paradox of being called Beyond Genomics is that to investors the focus is on genomics, and that’s a connotation we don’t necessarily want,” says Muntendam, who adds that the name change occurred before he came on board.
Sure, many companies change their name. What makes BG unique is that the company was one of the first to advertise itself as practicing (and selling its services) in systems biology. In fact, BG’s brand of science involves combining proteomics and gene and metabolite expression experiments in a bioinformatics platform to paint a picture of one state (disease tissue, for example) versus another (such as healthy tissue). In the past few years, scientists have come and gone — Steve Naylor, a proteomics scientist, left for Boston University School of Medicine, to be eventually replaced by Steve Martin, a proteomics expert from Applied Biosystems — but the focus on integrating biological data has remained the same.
And Muntendam says that focus will remain unchanged, despite the new name. Thus far the company’s projects for pharma and biotech customers have involved proof-of-principle studies, he says, and only now is BG poised to take on priority projects critical to pharma’s drug discovery efforts. “It’s not necessarily different in what we do, but which projects we do it for,” Muntendam says. “Now we’re ready to put our platform to use in areas such as follow-on compound discovery, early efficacy trials, and safety studies.”
BG is betting its sales pitch may get some help from recent safety issues with drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex. According to Muntendam, these events point to a flawed R&D process that focuses too much on expected results rather than seeking out every angle. “When it comes to safety, pharma researchers have typically looked only for [toxins] on the FDA’s list; nowhere is there an attempt to fully understand what the drug does,” Muntendam says. BG’s more inclusive approach to studying a drug’s effects should in theory tease out a drug’s potential strengths and weaknesses faster and earlier on in the process, he adds. But will pharma buy it?
— John S. MacNeil