Chris Gardner has been named the acting CEO of St. John’s-based Sequence Bio, taking over from the company’s first CEO, Tyler Wish.

The company released a statement Wednesday saying that Gardner had assumed the position, and spokeswoman Karen Moores said that Wish is still an employee of the company. The two co-founders formed the company in 2013, carrying on the next step of genetic research that Wish had been working on for years.

Sequence and its partners analyze vast sets of data from gene pools to get a deeper understanding of human biology and use the information to improve the development of drugs. Newfoundland has a rare — possibly unique — genetic grouping of families that have lived on the island for generations and who have distinct genetic markers. Sequence has signed an agreement with Memorial University to use the university’s genetic databank. The company recently announced a US$3 million venture capital round led by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Data Collective.

“Sequence Bio is emerging as a rapidly growing biotechnology company that is going to transform the Newfoundland and Labrador economy and innovate healthcare,” said Killick Capital President Mark Dobbin, an investor and director in the company. “I welcome Chris to this role and wish him every success as he provides leadership in this new stage of growth for the company. Myself, the Board of Directors, and all investors have full confidence in Chris Gardner and the Sequence Bio team and that they will fulfill their commitment to prioritizing the benefits to the people of this province.”

Though the company is referring to Gardner as “acting” CEO, Moores said it has yet to determine if there will be a seach for someone to lead the company in the future. The press release noted that Gardner has played an essential role in growing the staff from two to 18 people, and in securing the recent venture capital funding.

Wish has a PhD in genetic research and previously ran a company called Research Avenue, which was also involved in using genetic data in medical treatment. He recently spoke at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, arguing convincingly that the new best practice in drug discovery is the application of genetic data to develop the best compounds possible.  

In response to emailed questions, Moores said Wish has been instrumental in bringing the company to its present position.

“This was a business decision and a change that our Board felt was necessary to position the company for success and evolve from startup to a key player in the Newfoundland and Labrador economy,” she said We continue to have full Board and Investor confidence in our team, our company and our ability to execute on our mission.”

She stressed that Sequence Bio “has always been bigger than any one person” and noted the strength of the team the company has recruited.

Said Gardner in the press release:  “I am excited to lead Sequence Bio through this next stage as we strive to meet our goal of improving drug discovery and delivering benefits back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”