FOSTER CITY, Calif.—Charged with setting the scientific and technological strategy across the company, Dennis Gilbert, Ph.D., recently took on the newly created role of chief scientific officer for Applied Biosystems Group, based here.
Gilbert, who also holds the title of vice president of research for Applied Biosystems and vice president for parent company, Applera Corp., said as the company migrates from a general technology focus to a more scientific one, there was a need for a single person to manage and oversee the specific needs of customers across the company's various divisions. "We have to be concerned with not having a myopic view," says Gilbert, referring to the cross-divisional perspective.
"It's important to know the science behind what our customers are doing," Gilbert continues. "We are a technology company and we are trying to ensure we have a link to the science. (By doing this) we are building a strong scientific foundation for our company."
Applied Biosystems makes a variety of tools used in drug discovery, including those designed for analysis of DNA and RNA, small molecules and proteins.
Gilbert's new role will be to direct the newly-formed Scientific Advisory Board, which will be composed of up to eight individuals from outside the company.
The board, explains Gilbert, "will give us advice on our strategic direction," making sure long-term projects are on track. The SAB will be reflective of the scientific areas with which Applied Biosystem is involved. An announcement of the first four or five SAB members is expected in early 2005, he said.
Gilbert points out that other companies have different versions of the SAB, such as having scientists on the board of directors for publicly traded entities. "As you make the transition from small company to big company, you make this (advisory process) more formal," he says.
Also new under Gilbert's leadership is the internal Technology Board, consisting of "a collection of internal technology leaders" at the senior director level or above. This group's purpose is to "look at the scientific needs and use these people as a translating body to turn it into technology," he says.
The Technology Board meets every two weeks, to examine developments both inside and outside the company. "The Technology Board is single-stop shopping for the top tech people in the company," he says.
The Technology Board will interact with the SAB, he says, by getting the external scientists to weigh in on questions the board has as well as to provide their expertise.
A third group within Applied Biosystems that Gilbert leads is the Scientific Advisory Council, which will "foster scientific excellence within the company." SAC is focused on key areas ranging from cancer research to genetics to cell biology. Via speakers, meetings and literature, employees who work with technology are brought up to speed on the latest scientific developments.
"Even though we are a technology company, if our internal employees don't understand the science then they don't have a good sense of what is going on," he says.