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Gene Expression: At EA, Affy Users Turn Expertise into Biz Plan

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When Steve Casey decided to name his company Expression Analysis, he wasn’t looking for free advertising every time the phrase was mentioned. “It just came to my head that it would be a name that people would instantly recognize — there would be no confusion as to what the services were that we provided,” Casey says.

And he’s betting that those services will keep EA from getting lost in the shuffle. His company is one of the few US-based authorized service providers for Affymetrix. Also, by working with its clients on cRNA development, hybridization, and data analysis, EA looks to optimize results and minimize unwanted information.

“The others may have this over-the-wall mentality where you toss your RNA over the wall and they toss a CD-ROM with your resulting data back,” Casey says.

Part of EA’s advantage comes from its experience. Although the company is only six months old, it has its roots in three years of Duke University research using Affymetrix microarrays. Casey, a former Howard Hughes Medical Institute administrator, originally had the idea to privatize Duke’s expression analysis facility.

“[Duke] saw this as a way to reduce its overhead, recover space, and generate a private-sector company that would provide the same services to its investigators,” says CEO Donald Holzworth, who is also the founder and CEO of Analytical Sciences, EA’s incubator.

Other companies see an advantage in working with EA as well. In its first three months of operation, EA signed more than 20 clients, including big pharma and the NIH. “The companies that are utilizing this technology in-house are also coming to us for assistance. Either they have an overload of work they can’t perform or they’re coming to us for insight into some of their experimental design and analysis problems,” Holzworth says.

— Diana Jong

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