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Anthony Shuker, President, Life Sciences Division, NuTec Sciences.

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AT A GLANCE: Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Bath. PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Nottingham. Prior to NuTec Sciences, worked as senior organic chemist and research scientist at Eli Lilly and Co. Involved in both academic and start-up biotechnology activities at Georgia Tech and Emory Universities. Lives in metro Atlanta with his wife, baby daughter, seven guitars, and three rabbits.

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two years? Five years?

AI believe that the bioinformatics field will expand tremendously in scope and influence. Currently, there is a tendency to associate bioinformatics with the genomics arena; however, as we see it, it can encompass so much more than that.

Within the two-year timeframe I expect to see bioinformatics yielding well-established tools in many aspects of disease diagnosis and being integral to all aspects of the drug discovery process. In five years, as we move towards “customized” or “personalized” medicine, bioinformatics could well be a mature discipline.

QWhat are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?

AIt seems that communication and focus are common challenges. There seem to be a myriad of definitions and semantics associated with this discipline and this can often be confusing to the scientific and investment communities alike. The successful informatics companies are doing an outstanding job of communicating their vision and value proposition.

QWhat do you see as the most important task for bioinformatics to address beyond genome sequencing?

AThere seems to be a tremendous opportunity in the area of drug discovery, especially in the target validation and lead generation areas. Bioinformatics has been pivotal in the diagnosis of disease states; we believe that it can be equally influential in the ultimate treatment of disease. We firmly believe that skilful use of informatics can accelerate the conversion of biological innovation into breakthrough medicine.

QWho are your current customers? Which additional customer group do you aim to capture?

AWe currently serve university medical research centers, big pharma, small- and large-cap biotech companies, and basic researchers. We are currently focusing on developing key, long-term strategic alliances in the pharmaceutical area.

QWhat non-existing technology is number one on your customers’ wish list?

APeople would love to see tools that can define a gene or gene product as “target-like” and similarly, a small-molecule as “drug-like.” Come to think of it, I’d like those tools too!

QDo you see yourself more as a software provider or as a consultant?

AI would say that we fall into the category of a solutions provider as our business model is focused on accommodating the customer’s specific needs. Thus we definitely are more like consultants than software providers.

QDo you expect to see more M&A activity in the bioinformatics sector?

AIt seems that vertical growth is a developing trend with bioinformatics companies becoming more involved in genomics and subsequently drug discovery. In light of this M&A is one way to move in that direction. In the current public marketplace, it seems that bioinformatics companies with a multi-layered offering are faring slightly better. It seems that in the venture capital space the fee-for-service or fee-for-subscription model is losing some momentum. Thus, I suspect that, in the current marketplace, the bioinformatics companies that have other integrated technologies that can generate internal value will survive as independent entities.

QWhat products do you have in the development pipeline?

AWe have a number of products related to small-molecule drug discovery, high-throughput screening, and target validation to complement our genomics offerings.

QWhat made you decide to become a bioinformaticist?

AAs a medicinal and synthetic chemist, when I become one I will let you know! Seriously, I see myself as a scientist first and foremost. Bioinformatics provides spectacular tools to accelerate discovery for all of us; that in itself is exciting.

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