For this issue, we asked several of our members who work in industry to answer some questions about themselves and their research.
Charles R. Cantor
Chief scientific officer
San Diego, Calif.
How long have you been an ASBMB member?
Seems like I’ve been a member of ASBMB forever – I think I was a member of the American Society for Biological Chemists before the “Molecular Biology” was added. (Editor’s note: Cantor joined ASBMB in 1969).
What is the focus of your company?
I have three active companies. Sequenom, the company I actually work for, has two focus areas: We are a technology provider of automated nucleic acid mass spectrometers used in a variety of applications from plant and animal genetics to somatic mutation analysis in tumor biopsies. We also are a diagnostic service provider focused on noninvasive prenatal diagnostics and ophthalmology using nucleic acid biomarkers. For diagnostic services we are technology agnostic.
My second company, DiThera, is developing both therapeutic and diagnostic applications of nucleic acid-mediated protein complementation, a method of detecting specific RNA sequences in living cells or manipulating the properties of cells that express these sequences.
And finally, Retrotope concentrates on novel ways to combat oxidative stress in a variety of disease indications. Instead of using antioxidants or other scavengers, we use essential nutrients reinforced by heavy isotopes at key positions to strengthen these potential substrates against oxidative attack.
What is the focus of your research?
I don’t do much research myself anymore, but I am still interested in developing new methodologies. Mostly, I make suggestions that are sometimes followed by one of the three companies.
Why did you go into industry?
I found that it was easier to raise money to support risky but potentially high-impact innovative projects in industry than it was in academia.
Where do you see research in industry going in five to 10 years?
We have a plethora of new tools that affect both diagnostics and therapeutics, but as always, the key obstacle is finding killer commercial applications for these tools.
With the economy improving, are you seeing any changes in your job or company?
Because diagnostics and therapeutics are highly regulated industries, I think they are subject more to fluctuations in the regulatory climate than in the economic climate.