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Microarray Veteran Now Studies Drug Discovery

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Arun Nataraj has worked through the early stages of the microarray industry.

He was a microarray field-marketing specialist for Sigma-Genosys in Houston, Texas, and then became a product manager for microarrays for glass giant Corning, which last year decided not to pursue its microarray efforts.

Today, he is a student in Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Business, an MBA candidate in the school’s fast-track program (1 year). He will graduate in the spring, adding a master’s to the PhD he holds in molecular biology. He is part of the 10 to 15 percent of his classmates who are interested in biotechnology. Last week, he organized the one-day Biotechnology Symposium on the school campus. The symposium drew students from the Cornell campus as well as 20 students who came from the William Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester.

When he graduates, Nataraj said he would like to work in the pharmaceutical industry, counting on his MBA to give him new workng tools and an edge.

“I was more of a PhD guy, marketing without a knowledge of business pricing, or product positioning,” he said. “Now I have skills that are suited for big pharma.”

He is hoping to earn a salary of $90,000 to $100,000 a year on graduation — “I’m hoping for a slight delta in terms of salary,” he said, demonstrating he has, at least, learned to appropriately apply the jargon of an MBA.

But, he said he has no plans of going back to microarrays.

“Microarrays are a tool,” he said. “My fascination [is] in making a drug that can cure diseases. I would be wasting myself if I went back into genomics.”

At some time in the future, he said he hopes to return to his native Madras, India, to start a biotechnology company.

There is one thing he is sure about.

“This is my last degree,” he said. “I promise.”

— MOK

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