At A Glance
- Peter Tolias
- Age — 43
- Vice president, Advanced Research and New Technology Worldwide, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics, Raritan, NJ.
- Formerly — director, Center for Applied Genomics, Public Health Research Institute.
- BSc — 1981, McGill University, Microbiology and Immunology
- PhD — 1987, McGill University, Microbiology and Immunology.
- Postdoctoral fellow — 1987-1991, Harvard University, Developmental Biology.
Peter Tolias, last seen in BioArray News in the June 28, 2002 edition, has joined Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics as vice president for advanced research and new technology, leaving his post as director at the New Jersey-based Center for Applied Genomics of the Public Health Research Institute, an entity he helped found in January 2000.
BioArray News caught up with Tolias recently and spoke with him about this change.
Is this a new position?
It is. They had an idea that they wanted to get somebody with experience in genomics, proteomics, and nanotechnology; someone with experience managing research and development, and leading large multidisciplinary groups. They were looking for a “hands-on” scientist to be a member of their global management team.
Why were they interested enough to create this position?
They have a large clinical diagnostic, blood screening and transfusion business and want to have a technologically focused competitive edge as the business moves forward.
What things are of interest to you now?
This is an evolving field with lots of technology that has interesting applications. We are looking for technology that is reliable and cheap, reduces the cost of assays, and can be multiplexed. The reality right now is that in this investment climate, with a lack of capital, there is a good opportunity for larger companies to have their pick of technologies to acquire or partner with. I'm looking at early-stage biomarker discovery companies: The earlier you find markers, the less you pay, but the more you have to do to validate them. New platform technologies for molecular diagnostics are also on our radar scope.
I want to keep an eye on what everyone is doing.
What kind of resources will you have to work with?
Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics is a Johnson & Johnson company. It has its own R&D budget, and there are also J&J corporate resources available.
What is your vision for what lies ahead?
The big shorter-term payoff in genomics and proteomics is not drug discovery, but diagnostics. Pharma will benefit in the second decade and nanotechnology will have a significant impact on both those fields. I'm not an expert in pharma, but in 10 years, there will be a major leap in how it does its screens. Genomics has increased the cost of discovery significantly, but we need a quantum leap to go forward such as miniaturized screening assays.
What improvements are needed, especially in protein arrays?
Protein arrays and mass spec in screening biological fluids are really the first step in biomarker discovery. The dynamic range in serum and body fluid is 10 to the 10th power, and we have looked at 4 logs at the top. But that is not where all the action is. We lack sensitivity and need another leap in advanced fractionation to get to the low end.