NanoString Makes IPO Prep Move, Adds Finance Vet to Board

NanoString Technologies just enlisted the kind of person that it will need if it’s ever going to grow up into a public company.

The Seattle-based genetic instrument and diagnostic company said today it has added Greg Norden, the former chief financial officer of Wyeth, to its board of directors. Norden spent 21 years at Wyeth, which was acquired by Pfizer in a $68 billion mega-merger in 2009. Norden will now be the chairman of NanoString’s audit committee. He also adds an independent voice to a seven-member board that is dominated by dominated by the company’s venture capitalists—Clarus Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and OVP Venture Partners.

NanoString CEO Brad Gray

NanoString, a spinout from the Institute for Systems Biology, has grown the past couple years, selling an instrument that provides a digital readout for how many different genes are expressed in biological samples. The company saw its revenues grow 50 percent to $18 million last year on selling its system to researchers. It is looking to expand this year by marketing to Big Pharma companies, and by developing the instrument into a cancer diagnostic tool. When I spoke to NanoString CEO Brad Gray this morning about the change to the NanoString board, and asked him whether this is part of an IPO strategy, he didn’t try to downplay the notion.

“It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re laying the groundwork for an IPO. But it’s a good thing to do anytime,” Gray says. “Boards need bright people with diverse backgrounds. One of most important is to have someone with deep financial experience on your board. It’s important to have as a private company, and it’s a must-have as a public company.”

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