Darwin Molecular Group's President and CEO Mark Pearson hasresigned over what the Bothell, Wash.-based company called strategicdifferences in guiding the development of the two-year-oldbiopharmaceutical company.David Galas, vice president for research and development, is theinterim CEO. He declined to discuss details about the decision ofDarwin Molecular's board of directors to seek a new chief executive.Galas said Pearson's resignation was effective Thursday and the searchfor a replacement is under way."The company's direction in terms of science and vision and itstechnical development have not changed from when it was foundedand they are fully endorsed by the board," Galas said. "We arecontinuing to focus on two areas, gene discovery and molecularevolution, to transfer information from the human genome intotherapeutics."Among the members of Darwin Molecular's board are Microsoft Corp.co-founders, William Gates and Paul Allen. In May, the two purchaseda $10 million stake in the privately-held company in the first phase ofa larger fund raising program, which is to be announced later this year.Galas said Gates and Allen have been involved with the board and havesupported its decisions.Pearson was executive director of cancer and inflammatory diseaseresearch for DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. before joining DarwinMolecular in 1992.Galas, who came to the company from the U.S. Department ofEnergy's Human Genome Project, said the company has not yetdeveloped any specific drug candidates."We're keyed in on the areas of autoimmune diseases and cancer," hesaid, "and we have a specifically targeted project in AIDS therapy."Unlike other broad-scale gene sequencing companies, Galas saidDarwin Molecular has focused on particular gene families fordiscovering drugs.The company is attempting to use molecular evolution as a means of"synthesizing, selecting and evolving" small molecule drug compoundsin test tubes.Galas said bioinformatics, which employs computers to rapidly analyzeand compare the growing database of gene sequencing information,also is an essential element of Darwin's drug discovery program."You could look on bioinformatics as a fundamental communicationand analysis infrastructure," he said. "We're building bioinformatics asthe glue to hold everything together." n

-- Charles Craig

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