Novartis-backed Genomics Institute Names Martin Seidel as New Director, Replacing Peter Schultz

Xconomy San Diego — 

One of San Diego’s top biomedical research centers has a new boss. H. Martin Seidel, the longtime No. 2 official at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF), has been hired as the permanent replacement for founding director Peter Schultz.

Seidel, who has served as interim director of GNF since Schultz stepped down in March, was introduced internally as the permanent director last Thursday, according to Novartis spokesman Jeff Lockwood. Seidel, a Harvard-trained chemist, has been at GNF as the associate director since 2003 after previous stints in industry at DuPont and San Diego-based Ligand Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: LGND).

Mark Fishman, the president of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, and the GNF board reviewed about a dozen other candidates for the job and ultimately settled on Seidel after seeing his performance following Schultz’s departure, Lockwood said. The Novartis-funded institute is one of the major scientific players on the Torrey Pines Mesa research cluster, with 560 employees working in a 260,000 square foot facility. No major changes to the operation have taken place in connection with the leadership switch, Lockwood says.

“He (Seidel) brought to the job what the board was looking for, in terms of his leadership, and his experience in biotech and pharma and at GNF,” Lockwood says. “He showed he was ready for the position.”

Neither Novartis, nor Schultz, has commented publicly on the reason for his departure from GNF since Xconomy first reported on the move back in July. Schultz retains a faculty post at The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego.

Schultz’s departure from GNF was significant, as I pointed out in the original story in July, because he is one of the best-known chemists in the world. He left UC Berkeley to come to San Diego in 1999, when he joined the faculty at Scripps and founded GNF. Schultz, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, has also been a prolific entrepreneur, having co-founded eight biotech companies. The list includes Affymax Research Institute; Syrrx (which was sold to Takeda Pharmaceuticals in 2005 for $270 million); Kalypsys; Phenomix; Symyx Therapeutics, Ilypsa (acquired by Amgen in 2007 for $420 million); Wildcat Technologies; and Ambrx.

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