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Incoming Third Wave CEO Kevin Conroy on Company s Path Ahead


Name: Kevin Conroy

Position: Incoming CEO and director, Third Wave Technologies

Background: Vice president of legal affairs, vice president and general counsel, Third Wave Technologies, 2004-2006

Team manager, GE Healthcare, 2000-2004

Education: JD, University of Michigan

Just before the holiday season, Third Wave announced its CEO, John Puisis, would step down as part of the company's transition from a research-tools company to a pure-play molecular diagnostics firm.

Puisis' successor is Kevin Conroy, who previously played a major role in the firm's legal division, a segment that has seen its share of activity recently with the company's aggressive defense of intellectual property related to its flagship Invader platform line.

Pharmacogenomics Reporter spoke to Conroy last week to learn about his plans for the company and his experiences, as well as the company's stance on intellectual property issues in the near future.

Are you planning on making any fundamental changes in the way Third Wave does business?

No fundamental changes at all.

Then the company will continue on its present path?


What part of your managerial experience is going to help you most in leading Third Wave?

I don't think I can provide a single experience that's most relevant, but if you take a look at what I have done in my career, it's a combination of a lot of different, important skills for the leader of a business. We're in an industry that has significant intellectual property and regulatory issues that require somebody who is adept at strategic thinking. And also, as an emerging field, it requires companies that are able to rapidly execute.

I think that I would probably focus on my experience at GE as being particularly helpful — being part of a culture that rewards executional ability and the ability to deliver on commitment.

But was there a specific challenge from your career that you think helped to best prepare you for the CEO job?

I think the integration of Instrumentarium into GE was a huge accomplishment. That was a very significant acquisition for GE. It enhanced their clinical systems business and nearly doubled the division revenue. You had very different company cultures coming together, with a wonderful culture at Instrumentarium for innovation, and being very intimately connected with their customers.

Instrumentarium is a global manufacturer of anesthesia systems, which primarily go into surgery departments in hospitals, and surgery generates 50 percent of the revenue across the board for hospitals — at least in the US. [Insolmeda], which is the major division of Insturmentarium, was a world-class producer of these anesthesia systems, and clinical systems, which are patient monitors. So, that's some background on what that business does and why GE got into the business — [the company] wanted to be able to deliver integrated systems to its customers, particularly surgery functions within these customers. But to get into any of the details of that integration wouldn't be appropriate.

It was a company led in large part from Finland. Combining with a company the size of GE presented unique challenges, which I think we overcame through leadership skills. So, being part of that process was a real significant and rewarding experience.

My experience at GE helped me understand the importance of disciplined processes and the importance of people in achieving business goals. GE is an incredible learning and training ground for maximizing the ability of an organization to bring high-quality, innovative products to market. And in particular, my experience at GE Healthcare will enhance this company's ability to achieve success in delivering innovative products.

In your opinion, why is now the right time for [Third Wave] to make a change?

You know, I'd rather not comment on that, because those decisions are made by other people. I was offered this role, and really, really look forward to the challenge of increasing shareholder value.

How much overlap is there between the customers Third Wave has and those of [GE Healthcare division]?

Certainly customers like Mayo were major customers of GE. And other significant hospital research centers are [important] customers. The customer base in this industry is different, because you have [companies like] Quest and Lab Corp, which are high value customers in this industry.

There is some overlap between [the two groups].

What do you think is the right strategy for the firm to follow at this point in its development?

I think that the continued focus on the improvement of our Invader chemistry will yield incredible benefits for the molecular diagnostics industry, and value to shareholders.

Do you feel that there are companies that may be infringing on Invader patents?

I feel very comfortable that other companies will respect Third Wave's intellectual property in the future. We have had significant wins in keeping companies from infringing Third Wave technology, and I expect that other companies in the future will be very careful about our intellectual property.

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