New Oro Valley biotech firm working on two focal points
Al Petrillo/Special to The Explorer, Earl White, owner of MDx, operates an Agilent 5973N Gas Chromatograph-Mass Spectrometer system.

Oro Valley's growing reputation as a hotbed of biotechnological innovation has been enhanced with the establishment of a new biotech company — MDx BioAnalytical Laboratory Inc.

MDx BioAnalytical is built around the strength of the skills and experience of Earl White, Ph.D, who serves as president and CEO, and his wife, Dorothy, who is managing director.

Located in Mountain View Plaza on East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, MDx has two chief focuses — providing analytical research and services to pharmaceutical companies, including start-ups and virtual firms; and employing algorithms for identifying biomarkers in diseases.

"We do almost everything that has to do with a pharmaceutical company getting its drug to market," Earl White said, "such as pre-clinical work, characterizing the molecule and stabilities studies to determine how long a drug will last."

White said that MDx also performs pharmacokinetic studies, which examine how a drug behaves in the human body.

"We use a contract research organization that does animal studies on the drug, generally using mice and rats, and then collects tissue samples that we analyze," White noted.

In addition, MDx sets up release assays for pharmaceutical companies in which a drug has already been formulated and is ready for patient use.

"In such a case there might be a clinical trial where we perform assays to determine the identity, purity and concentration of the drug to make sure it meets specifications," White said.

White sees the company's second main focus as the one that has the potential to put MDx on the biotechnological map.

"I helped develop an algorithm to search for biomarkers while I was with a company in California prior to coming to Tucson," White said. "We're in the process of getting access to that algorithm."

Once MDx has that access, White said he can use it to find biomarkers that characterize a patient as diseased or non-diseased.

"We also will be able to project how well a specific treatment might work," he added. "We've submitted for a National Institutes of Health Challenge grant and have formed consortiums with Arizona State University's Biomedical Infomatics Department and the Tufts University dental school in Boston."

White said the algorithm can search biomarkers for any disease, including autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren's Syndrome and Alzheimer's disease.

"It's also been used on multiple sclerosis, ovarian cancer in a study at UCLA, and for prostate and breast cancers," he said.

Before starting MDx BioAnalytical, White served as vice president of analytical and pharmaceutical sciences at Integrated Biomolecule Corporation in Oro Valley. Integrated Biomolecule's lab space off Innovation Park Drive was purchased last November by Ventana Medical Systems, the Roche Holdings-owned diagnostics firm that stands directly across the street. IBC now operates out of other venues, while Ventana uses the lab for its own purposes.

Prior to that, White was vice president of advanced analytical sciences for Large Scale Biology Corp., and its subsidiary, Predictive Diagnostics Inc. Before joining LSBC, he was senior staff scientist and head of the mass spectrometry group in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's research and development department. He began his career as a forensic toxicologist with the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory.

White holds bachelor of science and master of science degrees in chemistry from Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., and a Ph.D in analytical chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dorothy White formerly served as transportation coordinator for Sara Lee Knitting Products, where she coordinated freight shipping from its headquarter branches in Winston-Salem, N.C., to all parts of the country.

MDx BioAnalytical provides research, services to pharmaceutical companies, and uses algorithms to identify disease biomarkers.

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