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 Proteome cowboy: Randall Nelson, president and CEO of Arizona-based Intrinsic Bioprobes, lets the work in proteomics speak for itself. 
December 15, 2003 | Randall Nelson, president and CEO of Intrinsic Bioprobes in Tempe, Ariz., has only six employees but says he's running the only profitable proteomics company in the world. Nelson himself did graduate work at Arizona State University and built the world's first MALDI-TOF machine, later sold to Applied Biosystems.

In simple terms, the company does protein identification and characterization work for the U.S. government and pharma. He can't name most customers but is helping Bayer sift through large quantities of biological samples to precisely characterize the proteins therein. Wearing an earring, jeans, cowboy boots, and a shirt open to his sternum, Nelson says with a relaxed drawl: "I'm as confused as anyone about what proteomics is, and I've been doing it for 12 years. You tell me a protein you want to see, we'll just do it."

In more formal language, as the company Web site explains, "spectrometry is used as a multi-analyte detector with custom-designed software used in data reduction." Nelson is not a talker; the company is 19th on a list of all National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant recipients and has a growing business with pharma. Nor is he into boasting or advertising. But he will say the company routinely plans single assays that find proteins, genes, and post-translational modifications. Pointing to his contracts with the NIH, he prefers to let the work speak for itself. "People are selling air," he says. "People are eating their words from two years ago."

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