Expression Analysis, a six-month old start-up incubated at Durham-based Analytical Analysis Inc., has added Duke University to its already impressive client list for processing information from gene-chip microarrays.

Founded in September, EA expects to close a $1 million first round from private investors by the end of March, says Chief Executive Officer Donald A. Holzworth, who is also founder and CEO of Analytical Sciences.

The company will probably seek a second round by year’s end, “but this is a strong cash flow business. We’re not like a lot of biotechs doing drug development. We don’t need the millions they do to make it go,” Holzworth tells LocalTechWire.

EA expects $3 million in revenue this year

EA is on target to make $3 million in revenue this year, Holzworth says.

“We have 20 customers spanning academia, pharmaceutical, biotech, and chemical companies and government, the whole sector.”

Those clients include the National Institute of Health, several educational institutions, and commercial biotech companies.

EA is the primary service provider for Affymetrix GeneChips.

Microarray gene chips apply the principles of semiconductor technology to the life sciences, making complicated genetic tests quicker to conduct and results more reliable. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Affymetrix is the leading provider of microarray gene chips.

The chips, which are about the size of a postage stamp, allow researchers to see how as many as 30,000 genes react to a certain stimulus. While this vastly speeds the previous tedious process of looking at one gene at a time, it also generates huge amounts of data requiring interpretation.

EA runs the samples for clients such as Duke researchers and analyzes the data, freeing the scientists to focus on results. The company was started after about a year of discussions with Duke researchers, Holzworth says.

Sole focus is advantage

Steve Casey, EA’s chief operating officer, says more firms are deciding to outsource such procedures.

“Microarray technology is rapidly growing in use by pharmaceuticals, health companies, and food and nutrition companies,” Casey explains. “As companies look to the bottom line, they recognize the advantage of outsourcing their microarray laboratory and statistical analysis work to specialty companies such as Expression Analysis. Duke is among the first to recognize and take advantage of this opportunity.”

EA will provide processing of Duke-supplied RNA samples and Affymetrix products through the EA Institute, LLC, a division of EA set up exclusively for Duke. Holly Dressman, Ph.D., director of the Microarray Facility at Duke University Medical Center, is overseeing the collaboration between Duke and the EA Institute.

One of EA’s primary advantages it that it is solely focused on providing experimental design, running, and processing data from the Affymetrix chips. “We’re a full service niche player, singularly focused, while others do it as an offshoot of their main business,” Holzworth notes.

He says some academic core facilities do the same gene chip processing work but are not set up to handle commercial jobs.

“We believe that EA will rapidly emerge as the primary source for academic, commercial and government investigators world-wide, who are taking advantage of this technology,” says Holzworth.

Duke researchers, while not required to use EA’s services, are already doing so, Holzworth says.

EA recently expanded from “the kitchen” at Analytical Sciences’ 30,000 square foot facility off Meridian Drive to 2,700 square feet of space in the same building.

CEO, technicians sought

Holzworh says the company is informally looking for a CEO now and has an immediate opening for a Ph.D. in microarray data analysis. It will seek other technicians as it expands this year.

Incubating the company at the Analytical Sciences facility, Holzworth says, “was a very cost effective way to get the new venture going.”

He founded Analytical in 1983. The contract research organization conducts research and provides technical and professional services to government and industry clients.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta is the company’s largest client and it is currently helping the CDC develop contingency plans to deal with bio-terrorist threats.

Other customers include NASA and the National Institute of Health.

With EA’s successful launch, Holzworth says Analytical has “a number of other interesting ideas cooking,” so this may be only the first company incubated there.

Affymetrix Web site:
http://www.affymetrix.com

Analytical Sciences Inc. Web site:

http://www.asciences.com

Expression Analysis Web site:


http://www.expressionanalysis.com