Local Tech Wire

MORRISVILLE, N.C. – Rick Williams, chief business officer with over the past three years, is taking over the chief executive officer reins at

Venture capital-backed Gentris is focused on pharmacogenomics – developing personalized medicine technology based on genomics.

The appointment is to be formally announced on Monday.

“Although I had a wonderful time working with Drs. Charles Hamner and Bill Greenlee [CEO of The Hamner] to launch The Hamner Institutes during the past three years, I have now decided to help some of my friends at Gentris, a small pharmacogenomics company in RTP,” Williams wrote in an e-mail.

“Since I helped to start Genentech, which later launched the first major pharmacogenomics innovation (Herceptin for breast cancer), I’ve always been interested in this field,” he added. “It was during my collaborations with Dr. Paul Watkins to set up the Hamner-UNC Institute for Drug Safety Sciences, however, that I got a better sense of how pharmacogenomics might be about ready to reach its tipping point.

“In discussions with leading bio/pharma companies, academic experts, and FDA officials, we continually heard about the emerging importance of biomarkers and individualized medicine,” Williams explained. “I hope to do my small part to make sure that our area becomes a leader in this next stage of growth for pharmacogenomics.”

According to Williams, Gentris is profitable.

Gentris sees the hiring of Williams as part of a growth strategy.

“As genomics, expression studies, and other clinical protocols are further integrated into drug development and medical practice, Gentris plans to expand its capabilities to meet the growing worldwide needs of clients and partners,” the company said.
Williams has also worked for Merck, Amerisource Bergen and CelzDirect-Invitrogen as well as the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

“It is a testament to his background, and to the organizations and individuals he has worked with previously, that Rick brings a world class set of values and capabilities to the company,” said Gentris Chairman Sam Tetlow.

Williams also will become a member of the Gentris board.

At The Hamner, Williams was involved in numerous projects, including the establishment of a business accelerator, the Hamner-China Biosciences Center and the Hamner-UNC Chapel Hill Institute for Drug Safety Sciences. He also helped launch the Drug Discovery Center of Innovation.

Gentris was founded in 2001.

In 2007, the company split.

Gentris sold one of its two business units to a San Diego entrepreneur.

The Gentris medical diagnostics product unit, formerly called Gentris Diagnostics, launched under the name ParagonDx.

Michael Murphy, who launched Gentris, left to run ParagonDx as its chief executive officer.

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