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PacBio Names Michael Hunkapiller New CEO

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Pacific Biosciences has named Michael Hunkapiller the company's new president and CEO, replacing Hugh Martin, who will remain on the board of directors through the company's next annual shareholders' meeting.

Hunkapiller has served on PacBio's board since 2005 and was named executive chairman in October.

Bill Ericson, PacBio's lead independent board member, said in a statement that Hunkapiller would help "lead the company through its next stage of growth."

Martin also expressed his support for the decision. "Developing a technology as advanced as single-molecule sequencing was a tremendous achievement for PacBio," he said, adding that Hunkapiller is the "ideal person to drive the broader adoption of PacBio's products."

The company has struggled with instrument placement since it commercially launched its single-molecule sequencer in August (IS 8/9/2011), and in September was forced to lay off 28 percent of its workforce (IS 9/20/2011).

The firm is also facing scrutiny from shareholders in light of its declining stock price. Four shareholders have so far filed suit against the company, alleging that executives breached their fiduciary duties by withholding material information about the PacBio RS system prior to the firm's initial public offering in 2010 (IS 1/3/2012).

Nevertheless, Hunkapiller expressed in the statement that he is optimistic about the company's future, stating that PacBio has the "people, products, and cash to drive the adoption of its disruptive technology."

Hunkapiller is a general partner at PacBio investor Alloy Ventures and will continue to represent the VC firm as a director of NuGEN, Verinata Health, and RainDance Technologies.

A co-founder of Applied Biosystems (now part of Life Technologies), Hunkapiller was president and general manager of that firm from 1995 to 2004. He was also a founder of Celera Genomics and senior vice president of Applera.

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