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Cornucopian Realm of Bioscience

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Cornucopian Realm of Bioscience

Perhaps the most interesting man I met in Israel on my recent trip was Martin Gerstel. Alone on the cover of Business Week when he graduated from Stanford Business School in 1968 (as the nation’s most promising MBA student), he founded Alza Corp. with Alex Zaffaroni and built it into a major pharmaceutical devices company. It was sold in 2000 to Johnson & Johnson for $14B.
In 1993, he moved to Israel, the home of his wife, and discovered a cornucopian realm of new technologies, leavened by the arrival of a million highly educated people from the former Soviet Union. He resolved on Compugen (CGEN) as the most promising. It came public as CGEN in 2000 with a valuation of close to $400M.
At the first of the year, with the valuation down to $14M, he returned to the company to become its CEO. This guy is for real. He is convinced that CGEN has technologies that are unique over the entire span of the biosciences–that most of the rest of the industry is working with erroneous models. CGEN has created unique in silico computer models of the
genome, the transcriptome, the proteome and what they call the peptidome (peptides or protein fragments that are critical for modulating what are called the GPCR receptors in the body).
Rather than discover through experiment the peptides that modulate these receptors as the rest of the industry does, Compugen’s algorithms predict and select them. Half of all drugs operate by impacting GPCRs. The issue is sorting out the peptides that modulate GPCR receptors in the body. The CGEN algorithm working on the model of all the peptides in the peptidome found some 30 that according to the model would address the body’s
receptors. Gerstel reports that the results are in and that of the 30 peptides found by the model 8 were validated.
Gerstel told me: “The average in the entire industry is two a year. We found 8” in one processing of the peptidome through the algorithm.