Durham-based GeneCentric Therapeutics has a new C-suite hire.

The company recently announced that Dr. Michael V. Milburn is taking over as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO). He replaces Dr. Hawazin Faruk, who left the company in April.

For the early-stage biotech company, his appointment offered a rare chance to fill its executive with someone with firm ties to both the diagnostic and pharmaceutical worlds.

GeneCentric’s new Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Michael Milburn.

For last 13 years, Dr. Milburn has served as CSO of RTP-based Metabolon. Before that, he worked in senior positions for companies like Plexxikon and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals.

“It’s quite unique to have had senior roles in both types of companies,” Dr. Myla Lai-Goldman, CEO and co-founder of GeneCentric, told WRAL TechWire. “[He] is somebody who has contacts in big pharma, but understands what it means to work in a startup.”

“GeneCentric is an exciting opportunity for me to get back to an earlier stage biotechnology company,” Dr. Milburn added. “I’m thrilled to help develop an important technology that can have a significant impact on better, more individualized cancer therapies for treating patients.”

Early-growth company ready to commercialize

Back in 2005, when Dr. Milburn joined Metabolon, now a global leader in metabolomics, the company was in its infancy. As one of its first scientists, he led the development of its core metabolomics technology. He also played an integral role in establishing commercial partnerships.

Now GeneCentric is hoping he can do the same for them.

Founded in 2011, the company has created a proprietary Cancer Subtype Platform, which identifies biomarkers — or set of genes – and subtypes of cancer. That technology, in turn, enables pharmaceutical companies to develop precision cancer drugs and therapies.

Dr. Myla Lai-Goldman, CEO and president of her own company, GeneCentric Therapeutics.

After receiving a cash infusion from Bristol-Myers Squibb last year, the company is ramping up its effort to expand its portfolio of cancer profilers and partnerships with pharmaceuticals.

“He’s done this before,” said Lai-Goldman. “Thirteen years ago, Metabolon was a lot like GeneCentric is today, with extremely promising technology and a view of trying to integrate into drug development.”

While the technology is different and the companies are not competitors, “if anything, there might be opportunities for collaborations in the future”, said Lai-Goldman.

To date, GeneCentrics has profilers active in lung cancer, head and neck, bladder and soon-to-be multiple myeloma.

“Nobody is quite doing it the same way we are,” she added. “Since Dr. Milburn has worked both on the diagnostic side and for small pharmaceutical companies, he will know best how to design those studies to best integrate our work into drug development.”

In addition to Bristol-Myers Squibb, GeneCentric’s investors include Hatteras Venture Partners and Laboratory Corporation of American.

To date, it has raised $11.6 million in capital and has 10 employees working out of its office space and operating lab at 4401 Research Commons in RTP.

It is unclear if Metabolon plans to immediately replace Dr. Milburn. WRAL TechWire reached out for comment, but has not yet heard back.