As is generally the case with new discovery platforms, genomics has sprouted a plethora of companies, each of which is tackling the problem of translating genetic information into useful drug candidates from a slightly different angle.

The emphasis of these companies ranges from high throughput sequencing, to the use of large patient populations to hunt for disease markers in polygenic diseases, to the use of differential display to look at gene expression in diseased and healthy tissue.

Although all the genomics companies are looking at the function of genes, Exelixis Pharmaceuticals Inc. believes the key question is what level of function researchers need to understand in order to choose optimal drug discovery targets.

Living model systems

"To do that, you need to put genes in a living model system," said Sherry Reynolds, a founder and acting president and COO. "Understanding function in terms of gene expression is different than understanding how the molecule behaves in a biochemical or genetic pathway. If the end game is getting products, you want to focus your energies as soon as possible on optimal