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George Hobbs doesn’t like to play it safe with his career. When a company he works for becomes too big and established, the attorney moves on. That may not be the quickest route to a big salary or corporate perks, but Hobbs and a small band of pioneering lawyers seek another reward: the thrill of working on medicine’s frontier. Hobbs, who studied molecular biology in college, started down his unconventional path in 1987. He left the legal department of chemical giant E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company in search of a small company with a laboratory just down the hall. His quest panned out, some would say. The startup he joined, Centocor Inc., in Malvern, Pa., eventually grew into an established pharmaceutical company with two major products and 1,800 staffers. Johnson & Johnson bought it in 1999. And Hobbs? No Fortune 500 paycheck for him. He went in search of a new laboratory in need of legal assistance. He found it just around the corner, literally. The stem-cell startup Neuronyx Inc., then had 10 people, including Hobbs’ old boss from Centocor. The lawyer signed on as general counsel and head of business development in 2000. He focuses on forging joint research alliances and securing potential patents. Next year Hobbs hopes to talk to the Food and Drug Administration about what Neuroynx claims is a breakthrough stem cell treatment for spinal cord injuries. Given the difficulties and rudimentary state of stem cell commerce, Hobbs may have to wait quite some time before the company sees financial success. He’s prepared, but optimistic, despite Neuronyx’s lack of revenues. “There are always going to be investors for great science,” he says. It’s up to the patent lawyer turned would-be scientist to find them. And give them a tour of the lab down the hall.

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