“The punchline,” says Michelle Miller, Director of Global Portfolio Marketing for Genomics at Neogen, “is that if Graham Plastow and the folks at Gentec hadn’t created Delta Genomics, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.”
It all started at Gentec where Michelle had a technical role. As it became clear that Delta was in the works and that she would follow, Colin Coros, Delta’s first CEO, encouraged her to do a part-time MBA in the evenings. By the time Delta was spun out in 2014, Michelle was ready to take on the role of Director of Operations, in charge of running the labs instead of doing the lab tasks.
“I was happy to let the science part go in favour of management,” says Michelle. “There are only so many steps up in a technical role. The MBA opened the doors to keep the career ladder going upwards.”
Letting go of the science meant letting go of the processes, procedures and SOPs. Consistency was out. Figuring out what motivates each individual to be a productive employee was in. So was growing Delta to the point where Neogen might be interested. This took several approaches.
One was improving the awareness of genomics testing in the livestock sector, especially beef, then increasing adoption of tools. Still today, the biggest competitor for genomics are the “laggards” who don’t use genomics. Picking away at them took education, then putting together an ordering system that is easy to use so customers don’t get put off.
Delta had started with the beef breed associations. To grow, the commercial producers needed to be involved, again through education and good customer service. So this was another approach. However, that also meant a sub-approach of introducing operational efficiencies, running like a commercial lab and making sure the IT was in place to support the growth. All in all, the whole process was a significant interdisciplinary project over a couple of years. It resulted in doubling the number of samples processed.
“We needed valuable products to support the expansion,” says Michelle. “With John Basarab’s research at Gentec, we brought EnVigour HX™ to market. It’s a foundational tool for commercial beef producers, and includes a hybrid vigour score (longevity and fertility) which is how the producer makes money. It was one of the products that Neogen liked during the acquisition.”
In 2018, Delta’s board received a letter of intent from Neogen about buying Delta’s assets. Delta started the due diligence and putting together the asset deal. Again, Michelle’s MBA proved its worth. While a generalist degree, it provides enough spectrum so you know where to start. In January 2019, Michelle, 5 employees and Delta’s assets were transferred to Neogen.
“As GM, I was now responsible for a sales team, recruiting, finance, budgeting and overseeing the company,” she says. “Instead of worrying about cash flow I became more concerned about budgets, efficiencies, and communication across the network of Neogen genomics labs.”
In June 2023, Michelle became Director of Global Portfolio Marketing for Genomics. She’s still in Edmonton but responsible for the products sold in all 7 Neogen genomics labs, and has a team of product owners who help her manage the product lifecycle.
“Gentec is well funded, well connected to partners in the industry, which is key because you need to understand the issues so you can solve them through research,” says Michelle. “In fact, Neogen will want to be part of that continuum. I see it as a synergistic opportunity for Gentec to drive innovation and for us to make it real. As we did with EnVigourHX™.”