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People In The News: May 29, 2009

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Speculation that Former National Human Genome Research Institute Director Francis Collins is a frontrunner to become the next leader of the National Institutes of Health was spurred this week after Bloomberg News reported that an anonymous source said Collins is in the late stages of a screening process for the post. The news service cited "a person familiar with the process" as the source of the information.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health referred all inquiries about the search for a new NIH director to the White House, and would not offer comment about the prospect for Collins or other potential candidates. The White House did not return a request for comment and has not issued any statements about the process.

Collins oversaw a large expansion of NHGRI's budget and an increased emphasis across NIH in genome sciences during his directorial term, but it can be "very difficult to predict" how Collins' service as NIH director would play out, or how effective he may be as an ambassador for biomedical research, according to Misha Angrist, an assistant professor at Duke University's Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

"But Francis is bright and politically savvy. He is keenly attuned to the way NIH, Washington, and academic science work," Angrist told GenomeWeb Daily News in an e-mail this week.

Angrist also said that he hopes that if Collins gets the appointment, then genomics and personalized medicine will receive more attention in NIH's planning. "Secretary [Michael] Leavitt liked to talk and blog about personalized medicine and commission reports about it, and [former NIH Director Elias] Zerhouni seemed to have an attachment to the term 'translation,'" said Angrist. "My hope is that the next director, whoever it is, will be ready to actually wade into the trenches."

Human genetics research pioneer Alexander Bearn died this week at age 86, according to The New York Times. Bearn studied the genetic components involved in Wilson's disease, among other things, and over his career he worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Cornell University Medical College, and Merck.

Pacific Biosciences has hired Eric Schadt to be chief scientific officer. Schadt previously was executive scientific director of genetics at Rosetta Inpharmatics, a subsidiary of Merck, where he pursued the generation of large-scale sequence variation, molecular profiling of diseases.

Caris Diagnostics has appointed David Loesch to be director of oncology, clinical trials, and services. Loesch is an oncologist who has focused on breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and research, and he has served as co-chair of the Breast Cancer Committee for the US Oncology Network.

The Translational Genomics Research Institute has tapped Kostas Petritis to head its Center for Proteomics, which will work with the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, an alliance between TGen, Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute and Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Petritis recently was a senior research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a branch of the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy.

Strategic Diagnostics has hired Kevin Bratton to be the company's VP of finance and chief financial officer. Bratton previously was senior VP of business operations for EUSA Pharma, and he was senior VP and CFO of Cytogen before EUSA Pharma acquired it.

Transgenomic has appointed Antonius Schuh and Michael McNulty to serve on its board of directors. Schuh is the founding chairman and CEO of Sorrento Therapeutics. He was a founding CEO at AviaraDx, and he was CEO of Arcturus, and Sequenom.

McNulty is currently general manager of diagnostics at Agilent Technologies. He formerly was VP of lab operations and chief compliance officer at Berkeley Heartlabs.

Shannon Tahaney has been named senior VP of sales and marketing of GeneWize Life Sciences. She previously was senior VP of leadership development for both Tupperware US and Canada, she has authored several books on personal and financial management, and she has expertise in direct marketing.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has elected Thomas Lynch and Tyler Jacks to its board of directors. Lynch is CEO of Tyco Electronics, and he has worked as an executive at Motorola. He also served on the President George W. Bush's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. Jacks is the David H. Koch professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he is director of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

Cyntellect has appointed Gareth Jones to be European director of sales and operations for its life sciences research business. Jones previously was global market development director for GE Healthcare's advanced systems and cellular technologies divisions.

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