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David Smoller, Senior Vice President, Incyte Genomics



BS in biology and PhD in molecular biology from Emory University.

An original founder of Genome Systems, which Incyte acquired in 1996. Currently heads up Incyte’s genomics database business in St. Louis.

Enjoys spending time with his wife, Karen, and their two children.

QWhere will bioinformatics be in two to five years?

AThe complexity and amount of data being produced by the technologies coming out of genomics are enormous. For example, a microarray experiment to examine 10 different tissues across 70,000 transcripts will produce 700,000 data points. With most comprehensive studies far exceeding this number of samples, the data points can reach the millions from this technology alone. Add on protein expression, localization or interaction data and the numbers get astronomical. The power of bioinformatics in the next two to five years is to digest and make sense of all this data. The key will be extracting knowledge from this raw data in the form of biological function.

QWhat are the biggest challenges the bioinformatics sector faces?

AWe must not ignore the fact that sequencing is still the key to understanding gene function. We need to ensure that we have all the gene loci and gene transcripts anchored to the genome correctly. We need to understand the gene structure and more importantly, identify the relevant gene transcripts from more than 250,000 gene transcripts. This is key to beginning the next steps into proteomics.

Beginning in 1992, Incyte chose to concentrate on gene transcript-based technologies. We use not only genomic DNA information, but more importantly, the power of cDNAs, or transcript information. Thus, we have captured not only the gene loci itself but all the alternative splices/isoforms that are produced by the gene. The next step is what we are doing at Incyte right now in our LifeSeq Foundation program. Using the power of our bioinformatics we are identifying and completing to full length all the pharmaceutically relevant drug targets. From there we are adding the first steps to understanding the function of these gene transcripts. We are hand editing and anchoring all our sequences to the genomic DNA backbone and then using the power of our microarray technology to add gene expression information to these transcripts. We also are adding in all the SNPs associated with these gene transcripts.

At the same time, we are not only using our bioinformatics algorithms to identify functional annotation to these genes, we are using the power of the printed literature to do the same. Through Incyte’s recent acquisition of Proteome, we are systematically reading and extracting all the relevant information about proteins from more than 400,000 papers published on human proteins and providing this to our full-length gene transcripts.

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

AClearly identifying and completing all the relevant drug targets to full length is number one. After that, function is key. Incyte is doing both right now.

QHow large is your bioinformatics staff?

AWe have dedicated a large part of our 1,500 people to creating and analyzing data. We continue to add to that.

QWhat is the company’s annual revenue?

ALast year we did approximately $194 million in revenue.

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

AWe have always acquired companies that complement and promise synergies with Incyte. We have acquired Synteni, Hexagen, Combion, and Genome Systems. We have also invested in and enjoy partnerships with Secant, IBM, Genicon, Odyssey, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and Roy Castle, among others.

QWhat made you decide to enter a career in bioinformatics?

AI am not a bioinformatics person. By training, I am a molecular biologist. As senior vice president of Incyte, it became clear that molecular biology and bioinformatics is an amazing combination.

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