Lee Hood’s Startup for Personalized Medicine, Integrated Diagnostics, Hires First CEO

Integrated Diagnostics, the Seattle-based company seeking to carry out biotech pioneer Leroy Hood’s vision for personalized medicine, has hired its first CEO.

The company’s new leader is Albert Luderer, a veteran diagnostics executive who ran Woburn, MA-based BioTrove until that company was acquired last November by Carlsbad, CA-based Life Technologies (NASDAQ: LIFE) for an undisclosed sum. Luderer’s name may be familiar to some Seattle biotechies from his stint running Bellevue, WA-based Light Sciences earlier in the 2000s.

This is a critical hire for a fledgling company like Integrated Diagnostics, known as InDi. The company, founded by Hood and David Galas at the Institute for Systems Biology and their Caltech colleague Jim Heath, took its first big step as a company in October. That’s when it secured the first $7.5 million out of a $30 million founding venture capital round from InterWest Partners, the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust, and Germany-based dievini Hopp Biotech holding, part of a collaboration with the government of Luxembourg. The company, one of the boldest visions of Hood’s long career, aspires to create a new wave of diagnostic tests that can spot signature proteins in a pinprick of blood that are associated with certain cancers, or Alzheimer’s disease.

This work has the potential to shake up the healthcare system in three big ways, Hood has said. It will make it possible for doctors to detect diseases much earlier; it will pave the way for more individually tailored therapies that are more likely to pass clinical trials; and it will allow doctors to follow up with patients to see if treatments they prescribe are really working at the molecular level. While diagnostics have traditionally been low-price, low-margin commodities that take a backseat to drugs, this new wave of truly predictive diagnostics could become more valuable to the healthcare system than today’s one-size-fits-all drugs.

Albert Luderer

Albert Luderer

InDi (pronounced like “Indy”) considered some CEO candidates from outside the Seattle area to carry out this vision. But Luderer has agreed to move back from Massachusetts to Seattle to build the company here in the Northwest.

“Lee knew my background when we met, and he said he was looking for someone who could crystallize the vision and turn the science into a commercial vehicle. That’s what I do,” Luderer says.

BioTrove, which makes a “universal test tube” to speed up the efficiency of genetic analysis, ended up as a success, even though it wasn’t able to follow through with an IPO in 2008 when the capital markets crashed. The death of the IPO meant that Luderer didn’t have enough cash there to take BioTrove’s successful life sciences tool business into a potentially broader market like diagnostics, as he intended.

But Luderer has a lot of experience in diagnostics over the course of his 30-year career. He held senior positions at Dianon Systems (now part of Lab Corp of America); and Boehringer Mannheim (now owned by Roche), as well as Corning. He helped create Siemens Diagnostics through a joint venture with Ciba Corning. Luderer also knows how to speak the language of science, with a doctorate in immunogenetics from Rutgers.

Why did he take this job? Money was important, and not in the sense you might think at first blush. He has been working for the past decade in venture-backed companies, spending most … Next Page »

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