Corning Microarray Technologies Case Study

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  • Topic: Microarrays, DNA, DNA microarray
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  • Published : February 14, 2011
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no. 2-0020

Corning Microarray Technologies
Greg Brown, general manager of Corning Microarray Technologies (CMT), finished delivering the bad news to his team. Through the first half of 2001, demand had plunged in the telecommunications sector, which accounted for 73% of Corning’s revenue. As a result, Corning could not sustain funding for the nascent CMT venture. He instructed the group that they would have to identify options for keeping the program alive with half or less of its current budget. Mr. Brown knew that few situations strained the cohesiveness of a management team like formulating plans for severe budget cuts. Still, the team had strengthened dramatically since he had inherited the venture, rife with conflict, in November 1999. Because he had commitments to travel for the following two weeks, he left them to work on their own, expecting detailed proposals upon his return.

Opportunity: Meeting the Needs of Genetic Researchers
In June 2000, the scientific community reached a momentous milestone, the complete mapping of the human genome. But even before this breakthrough, molecular biologists conducted new genetic experiments. They started with organisms with simpler genetic codes, such as yeast, and worked towards more complex genomes and partial strands of human DNA. Once scientists had completely mapped the human genome, literally millions of new tests were possible. There was no scientific field ready to grow as explosively as genomics. Researchers sought new knowledge about the genetic basis of life, and in particular, genetic markers for diseases. They anticipated advancing to experiments with specific subsets of genes known to be related to a particular disease. They foresaw a revolution in medical therapies. Genetic experiments involved measuring the magnitude of DNA interactions. Measurements were always comparative, between an experimental sample and a control sample. Due to the complexity of genetics and the imperfect nature of the laboratory apparatus, experiments were run multiple times, and conclusions drawn on statistical inference. The high standards of proof expected in the physical sciences

This case was written by Professor Chris Trimble and Gautam Bellur (T’03) of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. This research was sponsored by the William F. Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership. It was written for class discussion and not to illustrate effective or ineffective management practices. Version: 4/11/03. © 2003 Trustees of Dartmouth College. All rights reserved. To order additional copies please call: 603-646-0898.

Corning Microarray Technologies

no. 2-0020

were not possible in genetic research. Experimentation generated tremendous volumes of data, and was computationally intensive. To increase the speed and efficiency of genetic experimentation, researchers used equipment that facilitated batch testing. One such piece of equipment was the DNA microarray, a glass slide that contained thousands of microscopic DNA samples. An entire genomics system included robots for “printing” DNA onto the microarrays, optical scanners, which measured light emitted from reactions, and specialized computers. As of the late 1990s, much of the technology was still new and not completely reliable. Affymetrix, a startup launched in 1992, supplied complete systems, including the microarrays, and was the market leader. Affymetrix’ sold closed systems (you bought all or nothing) which were not necessarily interoperable with other equipment on the market. There was no other company selling complete, closed systems. Many laboratories chose to “self-print,” that is, to assemble their own systems by buying components from other suppliers. They cited the high price of Affymetrix’ products, mentioned that their in-house approach was at least as reliable, and complained that because some of the inner workings of the Affymetrix system were not disclosed, they did not have the flexibility and control...
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