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Incyte s Lincoln Jumps to InforMax to Take Product, Business Development Position

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Leading bioinformaticist Stephen Lincoln has left Incyte Genomics to become senior vice president of life sciences bioinformatics at InforMax. At his new post he will be involved in product and business development and strategic planning, a broader role than the one he had at Incyte, where he was vice president of bioinformatics research and development, Lincoln said.

He confirmed that part of his work will involve a new venture but declined to say more about it. Lincoln will report to COO Jim Bernstein.

At Incyte his responsibilities have been assumed by other employees, said Incyte CEO Roy Whitfield through a spokeswoman.

His InforMax position, which doesn’t officially begin until December 15, will span a large fraction of the company’s current and future group of products.

“The first thing they’re going to want me to do is help them take a look at the current plans for the product lines, the key partnerships, and technologies they need to bring in,” said Lincoln.

Lincoln added that even though InforMax already has a stable product portfolio on which to build, it will have to be continually re-evaluated to keep its position in the changing bioinformatics marketplace.

A portion of Lincoln’s five-year stint at Incyte involved assessing its products although much of his attention was devoted to projects related to the company’s sequence data products.

Lincoln decided to leave Incyte in part because he wanted a chance to work for a company that is at an earlier stage in its development. Besides being a promotion, the job also allows him to return to the East Coast, where his roots are.

The post will present different challenges to Lincoln because of the differences between InforMax and Incyte. Two primary distinctions are that Incyte is a content provider and it targets a small population of high-end users.

InforMax is strictly a software provider and does not have a wet lab. And, in addition to serving a number of big players, its traditional focus has been developing software that is relevant to a broad user base, said Lincoln.

Lincoln said that InforMax aims to provide its customers with new tools through a combination of in-house development and strategic partners. As scientists dig deeper into human genome data, they will need better user interfaces, analytical tools, and data integration and supercomputing capabilities.

InforMax CEO Alex Titomirov confirmed that Lincoln would direct his energies at strategy and product development. He declined to say whether Lincoln will continue working on data integration platform development, which was one of his last projects at Incyte. Lincoln had been closely involved with Incyte’s new Genomics Knowledge Platform. Titomirov said more details will be released when InforMax makes its official announcement of Lincoln’s post.

Lincoln’s connections in the industry are expected to be valuable for InforMax. One such tie is to MIT’s Whitehead Institute, where Lincoln studied under Eric Lander. The institute has just become an InforMax client and development partner for GenoMax (see related story).

Hiring Lincoln will certainly bring more Linux expertise on board at InforMax. The 36-year-old Lincoln, an early supporter of open source computing, helped Incyte build its Linux-based compute farm which has some 3,600 processors in more than 1,200 boxes that it uses for gene analysis. Incyte’s cluster is central to its production, mining, and quality control of data.

About Lincoln, Whitfield said: “Steve was a pioneer at Incyte and contributed a lot to the success of the company. We wish him well as he returns to the Washington, DC area.”

Incyte has lately been leveraging its compute farm knowledge, as it has teamed with SGI to install a similar cluster at Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Bristol-Myers is the first user for the Incyte-SGI system, which links Incyte’s Linux cluster with an SGI Origin 2000 server.

The pharma giant will use the system for DNA and protein sequence analysis, transcriptional profiling, and proteomics.

The system is designed to create more server space for larger applications that require intense threading or major chunks of memory, and to reduce the company’s administrative overhead in transferring data and calculations between computing platforms, making users more efficient.

—Matthew Dougherty

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