Three years after co-founding Human Longevity Inc., J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., will step down as CEO, but will remain executive chairman of the company he helped form to develop and apply large-scale computing and machine learning to discoveries aimed at revolutionizing medical practice.
Succeeding Dr. Venter as CEO will be Cynthia Collins, who most recently served as GE Healthcare’s CEO/general manager for that company’s cell therapy and purification and analysis businesses. Previously, she served as CEO of GE’s Clarient Diagnostics, an in vitro diagnostics business.
During her three years with GE, Collins restructured and refocused teams and investments for multiple strategic businesses and oversaw several strategic investments in cell therapy. Collins joins HLI as the company broadens its focus from R&D to include commercial activity.
“2017 will be a key year for HLI with the launch and expansion of many of our products including oncology, whole genome, HLI Knowledgebase™, HLI Search™, and the HLI Health Nucleus™,” Dr. Venter said in a statement.
Health Nucleus is HLI’s genomic-enhanced, research-based health center designed to combine genetic analysis with a comprehensive, full-day examination of a patient’s health status at the company’s flagship facility in La Jolla, CA.
HLI moved to fund its planned product expansions in April, when it won “in excess of” $220 million in Series B financing—placing the company fourth on GEN’s list of Top 10 Young Companies in the Money of 2016.
HLI Knowledgebase is a comprehensive genome and phenotype database curated with proprietary computational tools—the company says it sequences complete genomes to 30x coverage—and containing more than 20,000 complete genomes coupled with phenotype data. HLI plans to expand that database to 1 million integrated health records by 2020.
As executive chairman, Dr. Venter will continue to head HLI’s board, and “will remain in a daily role leading the scientific strategy and direction of HLI,” according to the company.
“Cindy’s combination of innovative business leadership, coupled with commercialization and operations acumen in a variety of life science arenas, is the perfect skill set to bring our vision of high-quality, genomic-powered products to the global marketplace,” Dr. Venter said.
Before GE Healthcare, Collins was recruited by the board of directors of Genvec to be president and CEO. Under Collins, the publicly traded developer of therapeutics and vaccines using adenovector technologies advanced the first gene therapy product into clinical trial, advanced four major vaccine products for partnering, and received the first U.S. approval for a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease in cattle.
Earlier, Collins was group vp of Beckman Coulter’s Cellular Analysis Business Group, President and CEO of Sequoia Pharmaceuticals, and president of Clinical Microsensors. She also held positions at Baxter Healthcare, which she joined when Baxter acquired Pandex Laboratories, and Abbott Laboratories. Collins received her MBA from The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business, and a B.Sc. in microbiology from the University of Illinois.
“HLI represents a tremendous opportunity to change healthcare and improve patient outcomes,” Collins stated. “I cannot imagine a more perfect union of my combined experience in diagnostics, therapeutics, and life sciences and in leading organizations through multiple phases of their life cycles to create value.”