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New Genomica CEO Ayers to Manage Growth, Pitch MS Office for Biologists


BOULDER, Colo.--Since Teresa Ayers was named CEO of Genomica in July, not a week has gone by without an announcement from the pharmacogenomics software company as it signs new customers and joins alliances. Biognosis, Parke-Davis, University of Oxford, and the Wellcome Trust Centre have licensed the Discovery Manager product. In addition, the company, along with PE Biosystems and Oxagen, has signed a collaborative agreement to develop software for high-throughput genotyping. Ayers talked to BioInform about her experience, immediate goals at Genomica, and vision of the company's future.

BioInform: What did you do before joining Genomica?

Ayers: My background is financial; I'm not a scientist or a software technologist. I have a degree in accounting and I started work with Arthur Andersen in their audit division. When I left public accounting, I was the CFO of three publicly traded companies before coming to my most recent job before this, at BioStar. BioStar was a diagnostic start-up with 34 employees when I joined as CFO in 1992, after its first round of financing. Three years later, I became president and CEO and when I left that post, we had 190 employees and had gone from no revenues to about $25 million in revenues annualized. BioStar was really where I got the majority of my CEO, rapid-growth experience. We raised about $30 million, mostly from venture capital and traditional sources, and sold the company in November 1998.

BioInform: What are your plans for the development of Genomica?

Ayers: Genomica actually has a very well-constructed infrastructure in terms of key people, and they have begun the process of commercializing the very unique products that they have developed. They had their first sales in June, 1998. Genom-ica is in the process of converting from a development stage company to a commercially driven company. And that is going to mean significant growth, which is going to require funding. It's also going to require different types of experience. We have 45 people today and we'll have 60 by the first quarter 2000. My role is to provide the right medium for the growth. We've got to make sure that we control growth and it doesn't control us--which is the challenge.

BioInform: What are your first projects?

Ayers: One is evaluating the products that we're selling successfully today and determining what new products will complement those. The second is evaluating the landscape in our industry for the proper collaborations and partnerships that are going to help us grow successfully. Also, someone once told me the time to raise money is when you can. We don't need money right now but I'm determining what our longer term financial requirements will be and what some alternatives might be to meet those needs.

BioInform: What are Genomica's long-range goals?

Ayers: We want to develop and sell the premier products to support pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics is the business of developing drugs that are targeted at particular patients with particular diseases. Right now we believe that we have the best tools to facilitate gene discovery and drug development. We want to continue in that position by adding new products, meeting customer needs. It's likely that the way we'll develop over time is through a series of collaborations with pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, and certainly academic institutions, where we have a strong presence.

BioInform: Does the recent announcement concerning Genomica, Oxagen, and PE Biosystems fall under that goal?

Ayers: It does. Oxagen is a common customer of PE Biosystems and Genomica, and it is doing a full range of pharmacogenomic research--all the way from genotyping and phenotyping, or looking at the basic genetics of patients all the way through clinical trials and drug development. PE and Genomica are cooperating with Oxagen to create a whole system to control the huge amounts of data that come from that process, control it, and make it user friendly. Oxagen is also collaborating with academic institutions and other companies worldwide. And our software is particularly useful and easy to interface with for other companies. Our goal is to enable companies to collaborate on projects seamlessly and simply using our software. One of our investors tells us that he thinks of our software as the Microsoft Office suite for biologists.

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