Its founding in 1989 makes Keygene a virtual dinosaur in genomics, but the 100-person-strong Netherlands company led by CEO Hans Dons is just starting to gear up and get attention. One victory came last year when Los Alamos National Laboratory identified the anthrax bacteria using Keygene’s AFLP technology.
AFLP, which is a selective amplification method using restriction enzyme fragments, is a PCR-based technology that can be used for gene discovery, gene expression, polymorphism identification, and DNA fingerprinting without having a sequence in hand. “At the moment there is no separation device that is able to separate 104 or 105 DNA fragments in just one lane,” explains business manager Guus Simons. With AFLP, you ligate adaptors to the samples and selectively amplify about 100 DNA fragments out of a pool that large, and repeat the test until all the fragments are amplified. “You will get a complete view of the genome,” Simons says. Subsequent sample comparisons will show which fragments are upregulated or downregulated for expression studies, or the amplification can be used to discriminate one strain of DNA from another.
Because AFLP is very precise, says Simons, “[it] is able to distinguish genes that are susceptible to cross-hybridization on microarrays” — making it particularly useful when studying genes in the same gene family. The AFLP technology also comes in a cDNA form.
So far, Keygene’s major customers are European breeding companies, though it’s also doing contract research for people trying to avoid the pitfalls of microarrays.
— Meredith Salisbury