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Zusman Takes Model Org Savvy to Union Biometrica

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Studying model organisms has always appealed to new Union Biometrica VP Susan Zusman, who’s been working with them since her PhD days at Princeton. She began with Drosophila melanogaster, and then did postdoc work in cancer research at MIT before settling in as an associate biology prof at the University of Rochester. She stayed there for seven years but grew “interested in expanding my horizons” beyond the small genetics lab she was used to.

So Zusman went back to her model organism roots and became executive director of functional genomics at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, working specifically on comparisons between the organisms and their human corollaries to identify new discovery targets.

And now she’s broadened the horizons once more, taking on the role of vice president of R&D at Union Biometrica, a subsidiary of Harvard Bioscience. Zusman coordinates the engineering and technology aspects with Union’s biological side — particularly model organism studies. Ideally, this will result in faster automated systems that “can speed up functional genomics research,” she says.

Zusman also hopes “to bring to market products that both academic and [private-sector] institutions seem to have great need for,” she says. With her own background in academia and on the corporate side, she’s “in a unique position to understand what’s needed” from each sector.

There is certainly an element of risk in leaving a company the size of Novartis for the small Union, but Zusman was eager for the change. “Although it’s a fairly new company, there is some very exciting technology here.”

— Meredith Salisbury

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