Monday, December 20, 2010

ID Check: Novartis Moving Infectious Disease Group to California

Novartis is moving its infectious disease research group across the country to the San Francisco Bay Area and hiring as its new chief Donald Ganem, a high-profile University of California, San Francisco professor with a taste for virus hunting.

Novartis will start shifting some of its 120 current staffers from Cambridge, Mass. by mid-2011. The group's new HQ will be the old Chiron campus, part of the package when Novartis bought vaccine specialists Chiron in 2006 for more than $5 billion. Ganem is co-inventor of the "ViroChip" assay that identifies and diagnoses viral infection. He and research partner Joseph DeRisi, also a UCSF professor, characterized the coronavirus behind the SARS epidemic in 2003; they also have worked on the "colony collapse" mystery that has afflicted honey bees. Ganem should have plenty to discuss with his new neighbors. The Emeryville campus also houses Novartis' vaccine and diagnostics groups.

Novartis has been aggressive in pursuing hepatitis C and vaccines, often through licensing and acquisition. But Novartis spokesman Jeffrey Lockwood declined to comment on Ganem's research priorities at Novartis. "When Don gets in he'll look at the portfolio," said Lockwood.

According to its Web site, the Ganem Lab at UCSF has focused of late on the herpes virus that causes Kaposi's sarcoma, an opportunistic infection often related to HIV infection; and on the search for novel viral agents in diseases that are suspected to be caused by infection.

For a full version of this story, read tomorrow's "Pink Sheet" DAILY. Photo courtesy of flickr user PhillipC.

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