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People In The News: Feb 22, 2013

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Svante Pääbo has been chosen as winner of the 2013 Genetics Prize of the Gruber Foundation, an accolade that includes a $500,000 award.

Pääbo, who is director of the Department of Genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, won the award because of his pioneering efforts in the field of molecular paleontology, which uses genomics technologies and approaches to study prehistoric life.

In the 1980s, his research showed that DNA was preserved in the body of a 2,400 year-old mummy, and in the 1990s he sequenced mitochondria DNA from a Neandertal. Since then, he has led projects that harness genome sequencing and analysis technologies to study sequence nuclear DNA from a Neandertal, published a draft of that genomes, and showed that these obsolete hominids have contributed up to four percent of the genetic material in modern humans. He also has identified and studies genes that are important for human evolution, like the FOXP2 gene, generally associated with language, and has shown that Neandertals had the identical gene.

Before joining Max Planck, Pääbo worked at the University of Uppsala, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Munich.

CombiMatrix said this week that Chief Commercial Officer Mark McDonough will take over as CEO effective March 15. He succeeds Judd Jessup, who is retiring. McDonough joined CombiMatrix in August 2012 from Pathwork Diagnostics, where he was VP of sales, customer service, and training. He also has worked for US Labs, Dianon, Laboratory Corporation of America, EMC, and Ventana Medical Systems.

Bruker said this week that Mark Kastner, dean of the School of Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been elected to a seat on its board of directors. He is replacing Charles Wagner, who left the board last year to become Bruker's chief financial officer.

Kastner has been a physics professor at MIT since 1973, and he has served as director of the MIT Center for Materials Science and Engineering and as head of the MIT Department of Physics.

Stratos Genomics has tapped Tim Hunkapiller to serve on its scientific advisory board.

Hunkapiller was a co-inventor of four-color Sanger sequencing as a researcher at CalTech. He also has been involved in research melding genomics, bioinformatics, and other disciplines at the University of Washington, and he has served as a consultant for Discovery Biosciences.

Maureen Donovan has been named chief technology officer for Decade of Discovery, a collaboration headed by the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics that is focused on preventing and treating diabetes. In the position Donovan will implement a strategic plan, establish a scientific advisory board, develop corporate partnerships, and work with program directors and project teams.

She recently was VP of therapy R&D for Medtronic Corporate Ventures and New Therapies, and she spent more than 15 years in leadership roles at Medtronic.

Blue Stream Laboratories has hired Elaine Stephens to run its mass spectrometry lab in Cambridge, Mass., and Jing Li to work as a scientist for mass spec characterization. Stephens previously was a head of mass spec at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University, and Li has worked to develop glycan-based vaccines and therapeutics at MIT.

Genetic Analysis said this week that it has appointed Kari Stenerson to be its new CEO, taking over the post from Morten Isaksen, who will become the company's chief scientific officer and director of R&D. Rune Sørum, a former Board member and a partner in Norsk Innovasjonskapital, will become chairman of the board.

The Oslo, Norway-based firm is preparing to begin marketing its GA-map IBS test, which profiles the gut microbiota in patients with suspected irritable bowel syndrome to distinguish them from patients with other disorder.

Trinean has hired Yvan Sergeant to be its VP of commercial operations. Sergeant previously was director of genomic applications and next-generation sequencing in Europe for PerkinElmer, Ghent, Belgium-based Trinean said. He also previously served as managing director of Caliper Life Sciences' operations in the Benelux region and Nordic countries, and prior to that was managing sales and business development for Zymark, which was acquired by Caliper in 2003.

The new Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, sponsored by Genetech's Art Levinson, Google's Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki from 23andMe, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri Milner, the founder of Group, has been awarded to 11 scientists.

The winners, who each receive $3 million, include Rockefeller University's Cornelia Bargmann; David Botstein at Princeton University; Lewis Cantley from Weill Cornell Medical College; the Hubrecht Institute's Hans Clevers; Napoleone Ferrara at the University of California, San Diego; Titia de Lange, also at Rockefeller; the Broad Institute's Eric Lander; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Charles Sawyers; Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center; MIT's Robert Weinberg; and Shinya Yamanaka from Kyoto University.

Sara Will Crews Finley, a geneticist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has died, according to the school. She was 82. Finley and her husband, Wayne, founded the medical genetics program at UAB, the first in the southeast US. She joined the medical faculty in 1960 — the school was then called Medical College of Alabama — and co-directed UAB's medical genetics lab for 30 years.

Evogen has promoted Richard St.Clair to VP of commercialization from his previous post of director of marketing and business development. St. Clair will head efforts to commercialize the firm's Evogen and Sceptor products for the healthcare, biodefense, and industrial business segments, it said.

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