Editor’s note: Executive Q&A is a regular feature on Tuesdays in Local Tech Wire.True to his entrepreneurial spirit, Robert Dishman, founding president and chief executive of Serenex is already looking for another company at the starting gate.

Serenex hired former GlaxoSmithKline executive and Ardent CEO Richard Kent in November to take it to the next stage in its development, which is likely to include drug discovery efforts of its own in addition to helping larger pharmaceutical firms speed theirs.

Serenex closed a $15 million second round in August to continue development of its proteome mining technology, which it says will accelerate the long, slow slog to drug discovery.

Both executives spoke to Local Tech Wire about why they think Serenex can compete in the crowded bioinformatics field and move into its own drug discovery program. This is part one, our talk with former Serenex CEO Robert Dishman.

Now that you’re leaving Serenex, are you looking for another start-up to shepherd?

That’s what I’ve done the last three or four times. I think the part that’s the most fun is matching technology opportunities with the appropriate technology, putting together a business, getting it off the ground and financially well enough off to be a growing concern. That’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years.

Are any of the start-ups your favorites?

Serenex has the opportunity to be the best of them all. I think this company is a real winner.

How will Serenex differentiate itself from all the other proteomics and bioinformatics companies out there?

Two years ago, when I first got involved in this on a helping a friend basis, the word proteomics meant something. Now everyone and his grandmother has proteomics companies. Our approach from the beginning was to simplify getting drug discovery information rather than collecting masses and masses of data. That’s what I think differentiates the company’s approach.

The chairman of the board of Serenex recently told Local Tech Wire that one advantage Serenex has is that its technology is based on one familiar to most biotech researchers. Does that help get it adopted sooner?

That’s true. Other technologies like protein array chips require more invention. Drug design using computers hasn’t reduced the time and cost of drug design as hoped. None of the high throughput screening systems so far have reduced the cost or time needed to develop drugs, although there’s certainly been a lot of money spent on them.

The most useful information has to do with what actually happens with the proteins genes make. Serenex has some unique capabilities there which are quite simple. We’ll get lots of data, but we’re not counting on mining that data unless it passes a stringent test of how likely it is to lead to useful information.

I understand Serenex can look at thousands more gene protein interactions than other methods available now.

You can simultaneously discover potential targets and their lead molecule and determine how clean an interaction it is. If it’s dirty and interacts with too many genes it’s not as good a candidate for development.

We’re developing equipment to do 3,000 compounds a day against 4,000 targets – that’s 12 million experiments – per workstation per day. Then what you do is only look at the interesting ones.

You’re leaving just as Serenex is talking about doing its own drug discovery.

That’s right, the platform is up and running. But there have been a number of interesting therapeutic indications we can look at to decide which are most promising and work up the value chain.

If we take these very interesting things which were completely unexpected, we can screen them to see which ones are biologically active against the sub-proteome we’ve isolated.

You can very quickly find a Bluebird (a unique and unexpected interaction between compound and protein). The name Serenex comes from serendipity. Most of the drugs out there were serendipitously discovered. My favorite example is Viagra. They were testing for one thing and found out it had a very interesting side effect, which was at the time completely unpredictable.

Just doing the work we do for pharmaceutical companies there’s an awfully lot of intellectual property we can get just doing what we do normally. If we find a Bluebird, we get joint ownership of that, and then we have to figure out what we want to do with it. Barter it to another firm, or we develop in house or they develop it.

We’ve already shown you come up with completely unexpected results that could lead to a new compound.

What’s your next step personally?

I’m looking at a couple of things. There are some very interesting areas where I’d like to get involved. It can’t be anything directly competitive with Serenex and I can’t be too specific because I signed confidentiality agreements. But this whole area of understanding the protein interactions will be very important for predictive medicine. Many drugs are only effective in 30 percent of the cases. Think of the value of knowing how to fix it so it works 70 percent of the time. Things like that, with big ramifications in drug discovery, interest me.

Serenex: www.serenex.com