Jeffrey White is having a good day. President of the new genomics division at NaPro BioTherapeutics, he just launched at the ASHG conference a promising services capability, and the company’s scientific collaborator Eric Kmiec gave a well-received keynote speech that same morning.
Prior to NaPro, White spent 18 years at Hewlett-Packard and then at spinout Agilent Technologies, where he was most recently vice president of biochemistries and services for the life sciences group. He left for NaPro, which was in the unusual position of having to commercialize its genomics technology more than a year and a half ahead of schedule.
“I hadn’t seen a technology ever before that had the kind of pervasive capabilities that NaPro possesses with their gene editing technology,” says White, 40. It’s licensed from Kmiec’s lab at the University of Delaware, which is where Boulder, Colo.-based NaPro opted to launch its genomics unit. The technology, according to White, can change genes at single-base resolution in their natural state, or detect and label bases.
For White, the beauty of the opportunity was getting to work at a startup-esque company with the cash-flow backing of NaPro, which has a drug marketed by Abbott. The first step for his company will be its service component: providing custom genes. “We can put a SNP or mutation anywhere you want in any gene,” White says. He predicts it’s “the next step” for countless SNP scoring studies done by genomics companies and big pharma.
While he tries to get the genomics unit — which at 20 or 25 people just outgrew its office space — going full speed, White is courting potential customers and paying a good deal of attention to the company’s relationship with Delaware, which could pay off in state-supported ag genomics deals down the road.
— Meredith Salisbury