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Technology Scout Moves to Applera

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When he was a vice president at Applied Biosystems, Michael Albin was pretty sure he had the coolest job around. And now that he’s a veep with Applera, he’s taking “the same fun [to] a different level.”

Albin joined ABI in 1989 as a bench scientist studying capillary electrophoresis after getting a PhD at Penn State and doing his postdoc at Caltech. Like most scientists, his job had two sides: working on the science, and keeping a lookout for new technologies or ideas that might have an impact on what’s going on in the lab. “It’s pretty consuming,” Albin says. “It means you work 20 hours a day, or you compromise on both.”

ABI’s solution was to funnel more money into research and split the department into two groups: R&D and a new science and technology team, of which Albin was one of the initial five members. Eventually, he headed up the group, which grew to about 45 people by the time he left last fall to join Applera. His job description was simple: find the most interesting concepts or emerging technologies and see if ABI can do anything with them. “I got to see everything that was happening out there first,” Albin says.

By the time he left, it wasn’t even a matter of going out and digging up ideas — people everywhere knew Albin and brought their pitches to him. “We were seeing two to five opportunities a week,” he says.

Capitalizing on the success of ABI’s sci/tech initiative, Albin and Applera’s Tony White agreed that what he did could help even more on a corporate-wide level as vice president of strategic technologies. The position is a cross between a CTO and CBO, he adds — it’s business-oriented, but his technical background gives him an edge.

ABI’s team continues, but Albin, 44, will now assemble another group at Applera to do much the same thing. This time, instead of just looking for technologies or licensing possibilities, he’ll try to find new business opportunities beyond ABI, Celera, and Celera Diagnostics, or seek out ways Applera’s existing companies can operate better with each other. “It’s more of a challenge, but more fun,” Albin says.

— Meredith Salisbury

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