Genentech begins search for bioinformatics chief after Gentleman leaves for 23andMe

23andMe Vice President Robert Gentleman

The fight for top bioinformatics talent is heating up. With 23andMe poaching Robert Gentleman from Genentech, the Roche ($RHHBY)-owned Big Biotech now finds itself competing with the likes of Google's ($GOOG) Calico in its hunt for a replacement.

23andMe broke the news of its latest coup on April 2, by which time Genentech had already been advertising for a replacement for one week. Genentech is searching for someone with at least a 15-year track record in bioinformatics, experience of large-scale scientific software projects and a strong history of developing computational analyses. The stringent requirements leave Genentech picking from a fairly small and hotly contested pool of candidates. 

Calico is sifting through the same pool. The head of bioinformatics position it began advertising for in December is still open, as is a more recent listing for a lower-level post in the field. Competition is particularly fierce in 23andMe, Calico and Genentech's home state of California. Amgen ($AMGN), Gilead ($GILD), Google and Pfizer ($PFE) are among the companies looking to take on bioinformatics talent at sites in the state.

Hiring Gentlemen to work alongside former Genentech R&D star Richard Scheller means 23andMe can watch the scramble for the very top talent from the sidelines, but its hiring burst is far from over. The personal genetics pioneer is advertising for at least 5 posts related to bioinformatics and number crunching--including a director of health data and senior statistical geneticist--as it seeks to turn its trove of genotypic and phenotypic information into a drug discovery pipeline.

In its attempts to persuade people to join it over more established R&D shops, 23andMe is talking up the scale of the database and community it has built. Few traditional drug discovery outfits can boast such a significant data toybox, a factor Scheller mentioned when discussing his reasons for joining the company.

- read the 23andMe release
- check out Genentech's advert
- and FierceBiotech's take

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