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ABI Scuttles 1700 Array Platform for SOLiD Sequencer; Irks Partners, Customers

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) - Applied Biosystems will discontinue its 1700 Chemiluminescent Expression Analysis System in favor of its newly launched SOLiD next-generation sequencing platform for expression analysis, a GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication reported this week.
Company spokesperson Lauren Lum confirmed with BioArray News that ABI has stopped selling the 1700 instrument “immediately” and plans to phase out the arrays over the next two years while seeking to fulfill its customers’ expression-analysis needs with the SOLiD System. ABI launched the platform last week and claims it is a better tool for expression studies.

Lum added that ABI will continue to offer “human, mouse, and rat microarrays and associated labeling and hybridization reagents” through 2008 and will “make every reasonable commercial effort to provide current system users with maintenance and repair service and technical and application support through 2009.”

ABI’s decision to scuttle the product line is a reversal in strategy. Last June a company official said that “opportunities for expression applications for sequencing technologies are in areas where there are no microarrays developed. That's where we are going to position this technology.”
The about-face surprised and angered some users. Shawn Levy, director of the Vanderbilt University Shared Microarray Resources and an ABI service provider, told BioArray News that the decision is “very disappointing” because of the extent to which Vanderbilt has invested in the system.
Levy said ABI did not give him “a firm reason why it was dumped but it was clearly not a profitable platform for them.” He said VMSR will offer customers Affymetrix exon- and gene-level arrays and plans to expand its Agilent offerings.
Levy suggested that the phase-out sets a precedent that could slow adoption of ABI’s SOLiD sequencer.  
“Their promises are clearly not valuable in respect to instrument longevity,” he added, noting that the SOLiD’s $600,000 price tag is a significant investment for most research labs — especially when there is no guarantee of long-term support.
”The 1700 decision may very well impact the uptake of the SOLiD depending on how the news of the 1700 platform is taken by the academic and industry researchers,” he said.
ABI launched the 1700 platform in 2003 and now sells whole-genome arrays for expression studies for human, mouse, and rat. While the company never had an installed base to rival larger players like Affymetrix and Agilent Technologies, it maintained a loyal customer base and in 2006 certified 11 labs and companies as service providers.
ABI’s decision follows Nanogen, which announced last month said it will evaluate its array business. Also, last year GE Healthcare decided pull its CodeLink arrays from the market. Over the past 12 months CombiMatrix also decided to ditch the research market for chips, and began focusing solely on growing a diagnostics business.

The complete version of this article appears in the current BioArray News, a GenomeWeb Daily News sister publication.

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