Aclara Biosciences has seen a fair number of its CEOs come and go over the last six months. First Joseph Limber left the company in October after a company-wide reorganization, then interim CEO Edward Hurwitz left in February to return to his full-time job as a venture capitalist. Limber was asked to return temporarily while the company completed its search for a new chief executive, and three weeks later the Mountain View, Calif.-based purveyor of tagging chemistries found a new leader in Thomas Klopack, an electronics executive turned biotech manager.
Klopack, 51, joins Aclara after four years at Aurora Biosciences, where he served as chief operating officer until its 2001 acquisition by Vertex Pharmaceuticals. He says he left Vertex because he wouldn’t have had much opportunity to develop outside business relationships around drug discovery tools — “Vertex took a lot of that business off the market.” So Klopack spent the next year in consulting engagements and serving as an interim CEO for PhotoThera, a San Diego-based manufacturer of medical devices.
Joining Aclara will give Klopack the opportunity to show how the company’s tagging chemistries — known as the eTag technology — can help researchers make sense of biological systems. Before August of last year, Aclara was also devoting effort to commercializing a microfluidics platform (see p. 46), but now Klopack’s mandate is to show how eTags can work their magic on the capillary electrophoresis systems found on most conventional DNA sequencers. One of Klopack’s first tasks is to communicate with potential customers who may be confused by Aclara’s shift away from microfluidics. “We need to focus on getting the message out to potential customers about the power of the biology that Aclara has developed,” he says.
And Klopack, a Pittsburg native with a Harvard MBA, takes pains to emphasize his confidence in the company’s mission, despite its having undergone some retooling over the last six months. He certainly doesn’t think he’ll be just another face in the book of short-term Aclara CEOs. “If I thought there was a revolving door of management here I would have been a little hesitant about joining,” he says. “I saw what looked like a pretty standard transition plan that you see in a lot of companies.”
— John S. MacNeil