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Seeing Growing Demand for Sequence Data, Geospiza Builds Business Development Team

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Despite all the talk of the “post-genomic” age, the best days for the sequence informatics market are yet to come, according to Seattle-based Geospiza. The company, which launched its Finch genome sequence data management suite in 1997, has never strayed too far from its roots — a strategy that has helped it build a good reputation in the scientific community, accompanied by a healthy and profitable business.

Now, according to founder and CEO Todd Smith, the company is ready to move into the next phase of its evolution. Until now, Smith handled most of the company’s business development and sales efforts on his own. But Smith has handed these responsibilities to the company’s newest hire, Rob Arnold, who recently joined the company as president and COO.

Arnold, who has more than a decade of management experience in the IT sector and worked at Enodar Biologic before joining Geospiza, will concentrate on expanding the company’s customer base beyond the core labs and sequencing centers that have made up the bulk of its business to date.

Arnold said that as pharmaceutical and biotech companies turn from “discovery” sequencing to “production” sequencing — in which sequencing is embedded in the therapeutic development process — the demand for better data management tools is certain to grow. “There’s a fundamental switch going on,” he said. “Customers are telling us that it’s not about the new technology, but it’s about making the technology they already understand work more efficiently.”

Arnold’s hire follows the first step of Geospiza’s plan to ramp up its sales and marketing efforts last fall, when it hired Kevin Banks as vice president of business development. Since then, the company has announced new or expanded licensing deals with Wyeth, Trubion, Johns Hopkins, and Syngenta.

Smith and Arnold said that business has already picked up at the company, but it isn’t setting its goals too high for the year ahead. Arnold deemed 2004 “an infrastructure year” for Geospiza, in which it will conduct “modest hiring” and build its partner base among hardware, software, and instrumentation vendors. Integration with third-party systems will be a key part of the company’s product development strategy going forward, Smith said.

“Growth for us will be intentional and planned,” said Arnold, with stronger growth expected in 2005. “This industry is still in its infancy,” he said, “and moving from research to production sequencing is an enormous step. We see growth potential in that transition, and we feel we have a lot to add to that maturation.”

— BT

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