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GSAC Reporter s Notebook: Tallying Traffic, Tchotkes, T-Shirts and Chocolate GeneChips

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For three days, high science mingled with commerce within the enclosed environs of the Boston Sheraton and the Hynes Convention Center at TIGR’s 14th annual Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference. In between addresses given by industry giants, panels, and concurrent symposia, vendors pitched products in the exhibition hall in hopes of selling services, laboratory robots, microarrayers, databases, or $100,000 supercomputers.

Putting the QC in Oligos

Combisep of Ames, Iowa, offers a quality control service for oligonucleotides and serves the oligo manufacturers and large laboratories. Dennis Tallman, sales and marketing manger for the company, told BioArray News that he believes standardization of oligo purity may be on the horizon. “There really are no standards,” he said. “I have not found anybody who says this oligo has to be this pure before they put it on there. I think it’s something that the FDA will begin to look at.”

Microarrays are starting to drive the oligo business, he said: “We are getting a lot of interest from customers who are spotting their own arrays, it’s really in its infancy.”

Geospiza EYEs Microarray

Seattle-based Geospiza came out of Lee Hood’s laboratory at the University of Washington five years ago. The company creates software systems for data management and analysis for molecular biology. The 16-employee company is hearing more and more customers looking for software to help manage microarray data, said Nilah Mazzah, sales and marketing manager. The company doesn’t have a product targeting this growing niche, yet.

“The buzz we hear about microarrays has been of interest to us,” she said. “A lot of people come by and ask: ‘Do you do microarray management?’”

Given the right customer, Mazzah thinks the company could create a custom system, specifically for microarray data management, within a year.

“Most systems for microarrays are like any customer-relations database, they aren’t solving any particular issues,” she said. “We have engineers who know the biology behind it. We are looking for the right group of people who want some sort of unique management system that they are willing to collaborate on. We would go forward with that.”

On the Floor, Slow Traffic

More than one vendor complained about a lack of traffic to the booths at the tradeshow. The morning sessions, held in a large auditorium, were packed each day of the conference and attendance was good at the other seminar sessions in smaller rooms in the cavernous convention center. But, on the trade floor, there were consistently more vendors than vendees. To be fair, vendors are never satisfied unless a trade show generates great numbers of sales leads and follow-ups that generate sales.

Boxing the Product

Wendy Lauber’s job is to supervise the initial setup of the products that her company, Tecan, sells. At GSAC, she hovered over a robot arm that was working like a windshield wiper, “cherry picking,” liquid samples.

The Swiss made equipment took some eight hours to become operable, a little bit faster than the usual two-day process required for non-trade-show installation, Lauber said.

The equipment is usually shipped to the customer and arrives in a wooden crate hammered together by carpenters at the company’s Research Triangle Park headquarters. Lauber supervises setups, either at customer’s labs or, last week, at the trade show. It worked like it was supposed to, she was glad to say.

— MOK

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