By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawaii Biotechnology Group Inc. has hired local biotech veteran David Watumull as president to help raise venture capital, expand operations and commercialize several patented developments.
Watumull, former executive vice president of Kailua-Kona microalgae research company Aquasearch Inc., brings more than 17 years of experience in the industry to Hawaii Biotechnology, a 20-employee company in Aiea.
Watumull said he will help the company bring some of its products, including a potential vaccine for Dengue fever now in preclinical trials, to commercial markets.
"The company has survived quite well on government grants," he said. "That fueled the basic research. But now were ready to move to another stage."
With money and help from the U.S. Army, the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies, Hawaii Biotechnology has used insect cells to produce and purify genetically modified protein compounds before testing them on several diseases.
Watumulls job is to help Hawaii Biotechnology attract investors and strategic partners, advance the clinical trials and create a business plan.
He will eventually become chief executive officer, said Tom Humphreys, the companys chairman and current CEO. Humphreys, along with eight other scientists and business professors from the University of Hawaii, founded Hawaii Biotechnology in 1982. The company has received more than $28 million in research grants, many aimed at genetic engineering.