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Could Gene Logic Go the Way of Rosetta?

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Make no bones about it, Gene Logic wants your attention. CEO Mark Gessler, 39, will do just about whatever it takes. In 1999, that meant playing on one of his personal hobbies: professional racing. He put Gene Logic’s name on the side of his car and, aside from racing it at 170 or 180 miles per hour, used it as a prop at an industry conference. Hey, it got more attention than the “standard beige box on a table,” he laughs.

These days, Gessler doesn’t need the props. Since Merck acquired Rosetta, all eyes have been on five-year-old Gene Logic as a potential acquisition target.

It’s certainly a valuable company, says Gessler. “We’re at the heart of the information business in the genomics sector,” he says. “As near as I can figure, there aren’t any competitors in our area.”

No doubt competitors are lining up to say he’s wrong. But they don’t offer the unique package or content Gene Logic has, Gessler says. The company’s strength is gene expression data and sequence and annotation information — its product, databases. Subscribers include AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Genentech.

Gene Logic’s selling point, Gessler explains, is the breadth of its data. “We take tissue samples from operating rooms in the US and in Europe,” he says. The samples are gathered under specific protocols and brought to the Gaithersburg, Md., headquarters, where scientists do a full pathology using Affy’s gene chips. The data is stored alongside clinical information for the patients. Gene Logic handles patient consent, anonymizes the data, and obtains IRB approval for all procedures.

The company focuses on oncology, cardiology, and CNS and metabolic diseases. With so many sources for tissue samples, its data collection covers entire stages of those diseases. “We’re talking about every stage of breast cancer and prostate cancer,” Gessler says. “[The idea is] to understand everything about those genes in every stage of cancer.”

It’s an idea people buy. Pharmaceutical companies subscribe to the company’s databases at a current rate of between $14 million and $16 million for three years.

No matter how much Gessler talks about the company, he’s noncommittal about the acquisition buzz. “Here’s a pharmaceutical company that’s made a very significant investment to get expression data,” he says. “We have those elements in addition to the content that we’ve developed.”

He covers his bases by saying that being acquired is always possible, but so is acquiring someone else. “If it makes sense for our shareholders, we’ll certainly consider it,” Gessler says.

— Meredith Salisbury

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