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John Stults, Genentech Senior Protein Scientist, Joins Stealth Startup Biospect

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What does John Stults know? He’s not saying much, but confirms that he has ended a 15-year career at Genentech to jump to a proteomics startup.

Stults, the 44-year-old former senior scientist for protein chemistry at Genentech, told ProteoMonitor last week that he has joined Biospect, a San Francisco firm.

The company, incorporated in June, is operating in stealth mode. According to information listed on its investors’ websites, Biospect plans to become "the world leader in complex mixture analysis to improve drug discovery and inform the diagnosis and treatment of human disease."

For Stults, the attraction is the scientific challenge. “The things that got me most interested were the idea of using mass spectrometry in disease diagnoses,“ Stults said. He declined to provide more detail about the company’s business.

Clearly, a highly-trained scientist like Stults, who holds a PhD in analytical chemistry from Michigan State, would not make a career leap like this without having a certain amount of confidence in the firm’s chances for success.

For one thing, he won’t have to commute much farther than he already does. His new employer is located in South San Francisco, not far from Genentech’s campus at 1 DNA Way.

The venture capital firms, Venrock Associates, Prospect Venture Partners and Versant Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif., list Biospect as a portfolio company although none have released information on the investment. Prospect and Versant manage separate life-sciences funds created in 2001 that total $1 billion.

James Tananbaum, managing partner of Prospect Venture Partners, which is overseeing an investment fund of $600 million, is listed on the Biospect documents of incorporation on file with the state of California. Tananbaum served as the founding CEO of Teravance (formerly Advanced Medicine) of San Francisco and has helped launch GelTex Pharmaceuticals, Intensive HealthCare, and NovaMed EyeCare Management. He was not available for comment.

In addition to Stults and Tananbaum, the company has hired Carol Dahl, former director of the Office of Technology and Industrial Relations at the National Cancer Institute, as vice president for strategic marketing. Dahl has overseen NCI initiatives such as the Innovative Technologies for the Molecular Analysis of Cancer program and the Unconventional Innovations program, and has previously served as program director of the sequencing technology branch at the National Center for Human Genome Research.

Dahl has spoken recently on behalf of Biospect at industry conferences, on such topics as “Innovative technologies for the molecular analysis of cancer“ and “oncological nanotechnology.”

Camille Samuels Pearson, managing director of Versant, told ProteoMonitor that her firm has made a sizeable investment in Biospect and expects the firm, which has less than a dozen employees, to exit stealth mode operations in six to nine months. She said she could not provide more detail.

“What I can tell you is that we are creating an amazing team for a market area that is underserved,“ she said. “We should have a beta form [product] early next year.“

Meantime, while his office may not be as large as what he had at Genentech, Stults said working at a startup is exciting.

“I’m having a lot of fun,“ he said.

– MOK

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