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Whitehead Bigwig Moves to ABI

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To Lauren Linton, her move from public sector to private was a natural extension of what she’d already been doing. But to some members of the industry, it was more than a bit surprising when the woman who helped develop the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research’s involvement in the human genome project wound up working for Applied Biosystems.

After getting degrees in organic chemistry and molecular biology, Linton did postdoc work at MIT in the early ’90s and worked at Praecis Pharmaceuticals before meeting up with Eric Lander. The lure of pulling together Whitehead’s role in the human genome project was too strong to resist, though Linton jokes, “It was not necessarily a career decision to work in academia on federal grant projects.”

About a year ago, Linton decided to move on from her post as co-director of the Genome Sequencing Center. She and Lander began hiring people who would take on her responsibilities while she planned what was next. At first, she expected to start her own company. “I tumbled around a little bit in the spring, raising some money with mixed success,” she says. But when she heard about the opportunity to be vice president of applications marketing and R&D at ABI, she considered it “unparalleled” and joined the company. Linton, 39, will focus on proteomics and high-throughput screening (genomics technology also falls in her purview) to work on new platforms and new ways to combine existing platforms. Her goal: to “look forward to the lab of the future, five, 10, 15 years.”

“It was a lot of fun to go back to industry,” says the Massachusetts native. Though she no doubt gets ribbed about crossing over to ABI, Linton says she never felt any tension between the company and Whitehead, and that it was partially based on the relationship she cultivated with Mike Hunkapiller, president of the vendor that supplied most of Whitehead’s sequencing instruments, that convinced her to take the job with his company.

“It was quite an honor and a privilege to work on the federal human genome project,” Linton says. “The feeling I have in coming here is very similar to that.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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