Genome sequencing equipment company 10x Genomics Inc. has hired Eric Whitaker as general counsel.
Whittaker, a former GC and CLO at Tesla Motors Inc. and SanDisk Corp., respectively, joins the biotech venture firm from cloud computing software company Nutanix Inc., where he was chief legal officer since 2014.
Whitaker is excited to join a company that he said is at the forefront of changing lives.
"When I met CEO Serge Saxonov and the rest of the team, I was really taken in by their vision on what next-generation sequencing could do," Whitaker said. "Particularly, if you're someone, like a lot of us, who have immediate family members who are dealing with life-threatening diseases, the possibility of this technology to unlock what's previously been inaccessible was compelling."
10x Genomics, founded in 2012, makes multiple products that aid in genome sequencing—the process of figuring out the order of an organism's DNA bases. The process helps researchers understand how certain genetic markers might react to diseases and illnesses.
Whitaker said that, like with any life sciences company, his work will be "intellectual property intensive," with a lot of litigation and licensing issues. He said he is also helping the company look at potential strategic acquisitions to accelerate company growth, along with international expansion. 10x Genomics has California offices in Pleasanton and San Francisco, with several other offices spread across the U.K., France, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium.
Whitaker said the company currently has a four-person legal department, including two in-house counsel, one contracts manager and one paralegal. He said 10x Genomics reached out to him about the job through a legal head hunter.
Whitaker is well-known in the Silicon Valley in-house legal market, having worked at several popular area companies. From 2010 to 2012, Whitaker was GC at electric car company Tesla, reporting directly to CEO Elon Musk. Keeping a GC for more than two years was a headache for Musk at the time, who, immediately before hiring Whitaker, lost a former GC after just four months. Eventually, the multicompany founder just brought in someone he trusted to lead Tesla's legal department—his personal divorce lawyer.
From 2012 to 2014, Whitaker was chief legal officer at flash storage company SanDisk, which was sold to Western Digital in 2016 for roughly $16 billion.
Whitaker attended Stanford Law School and he spent four years at Latham & Watkins working on intellectual property and antitrust litigation, along with issues of securities, licensing employment and business disputes.
At Nutanix, Whitaker, the company's first in-house lawyer, built a legal department of 15 people. He said he hopes one of his deputies, all of whom are "certainly qualified," will be promoted into the empty CLO role.
According to a LinkedIn search, Whitaker is replacing former 10x Genomics GC Matthew Murphy, who left the company in July 2016. Archived snapshots of the company's leadership webpage from February and April show no trace of Murphy, who still appears in an April 2016 archive. He had served as GC for two and a half years.
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