Featured Alum: Gary Latham (1991)

Gary and his wife, Anita

I received a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Toxicology from Vanderbilt in 1995, did an American Cancer Society postdoc in DNA replication enzymology at the University of Oregon, a quick stint at a diagnostics company, and then settled at a biotech outfit called Ambion in Austin, TX. Ambion sells molecular biology reagents and kits for the isolation, manipulation, and analysis of nucleic acids, particularly RNA. I was the founding member of their protein engineering division, and went on to run one of the company’s three major divisions (Sample Preparation Technologies). Ambion was sold to another life science company last year to raise money for a spin-off a molecular diagnostics company called Asuragen, which is my current employ. At Asuragen, I am a group leader in the Discovery division; we develop enabling technologies for the sensitive and specific detection of small RNA from clinical samples such as blood, fixed tissue biopsies, etc. in pursuit of molecular “signatures” that provide prognostic and diagnostic value for the early detection and stratification of various cancers. Our specialty is RNA interference and microRNA, which has been a very hot topic over the past few years. We are well funded, thanks to the lucrative Ambion sale, but we are also good grant writers and bring in money from the NIH. I have $2M in NIH grants, and our group as a whole has some $6M in government funding. My first US patent just issued, and I have 7 more in the queue. The work keeps me thinking all the time (which increases my hopes that I’ll stave off Alzheimers in my old age); for me, there is no substitute for being on the cutting edge.

Being in Austin is terrific as well. We have a great live music scene here, and I play in a semipro band (I had a partial music scholarship at CBU until they shut down the band program, tsk, tsk…no matter I picked my trumpet back up after 15 years and am having a fabulous time playing around town). My wife, Anita, teaches biology and genetics at the University of Texas, and we have two children, Alex (age 9) and Jax (10 mos). We stay busy, engaged, and on the move.