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Asuragen Looks to Lure Pharma with miRNA Service

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Betting that informatics know-how and novel content will distinguish it from rivals in the microRNA array space, Asuragen launched its DiscovArray miRNA Expression Services, which use an Affymetrix-manufactured array to screen all validated miRNAs from the Sanger Center’s miRBase repository as well as 12,000 exploratory human miRNAs.

The company hopes that it can attract customers that would rather outsource miRNA expression profiling projects than buy a catalog array from firms like Exiqon and Agilent Technologies.

Asuragen’s market debut comes amid a flurry of miRNA product launches. In July, Applied Biosystems began selling its Taqman Array Human miRNA Panel, while German biotech Febit began offering its Geniom miRNA Biochip in May, and Agilent debuted its Human 1.0 miRNA Microarray in April.

According to Scott Hunicke-Smith, vice president and general manager of Asuragen services, his firm is seeking to set itself apart from rivals in the market by offering a service for pharma customers that are unlikely to bring a miRNA array platform in house.

“As a service provider, our job is always to provide the best data quality possible to our customers, so we use our expertise to pick the best platforms suited to the specific customer need,” according to Hunicke-Smith.

“It’s also a strategy decision — our service is oriented toward pharmaceutical research and clinical research, which is more often outsourced,” Hunicke-Smith adds. “We also want to help people succeed with their data, which is why we’ve invested so much in informatics support — to do real hypothesis testing, biomarker development, or pathway analysis with array results.”

Asuragen was founded last year when Ambion sold its research products division to Applied Biosystems. Since then it has been tweaking the DiscovArray platform for an eventual launch. The array itself is owned by Ambion, although Asuragen has the rights to use it in a service.

Justin Petrone

Short Reads

Illumina and 23andMe have entered into a collaboration to deliver personal genetic testing services to the consumer genotyping market, which Illumina sees as an opportunity for growth in the future.

Almac Diagnostics, a Craigavon, UK-based diagnostic developer, has partnered with Cancer Research UK to develop a gene expression signature that the company hopes will aid clinicians in treating patients with early-stage breast cancer.

BioMicro Systems will distribute Amsterdam-based Kreatech Biotechnologies’ Universal Linkage System for microarray labeling to customers in the US and Canada.

Ongoing patent litigation between Illumina and Affymetrix, following a jury’s finding earlier this year that Illumina’s products infringe on five Affymetrix patents, has been delayed due to scheduling conflicts. The parties have agreed to move the next phase of the trial to January or February of next year.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will use Affymetrix’s Genome-Wide Human SNP Array 6.0 in whole-genome studies to identify genes responsible for cardiovascular, metabolic, and central nervous system disorders.

Nanogen posted a 63 percent rise in second-quarter revenues, while increased R&D costs and expenses related to internal restructuring caused the firm’s net loss to widen by 3 percent.

Patents

US Patent 7,251,642. Analysis engine and work space manager for use with gene expression data. Inventors: Ernest Szeto. Assignee: Gene Logic. Issued: July 31, 2007.

The patent describes a platform for managing, integrating, and analyzing gene expression data. According to the patent’s abstract, the platform includes a run-time engine that provides more direct, quicker, and more efficient access to gene expression data through the use of memory mapped files.

US Patent 7,252,938. Methods and devices for producing a polymer at a location of a substrate. Inventors: Eric Leproust and Douglas Amorese. Assignee: Agilent Technologies. Issued: August 7, 2007.

The patent claims methods and devices for producing a polymer on a substrate. In the methods, a fluid droplet containing a first monomer labeled with a first detectable label is deposited from a fluid deposition device onto a substrate surface coated with a second monomer labeled with a second detectable label. The patent also covers arrays produced according to the methods and kits that include those arrays.

Data Point

8.27 million
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Perlegen Sciences published results from mouse genome-resequencing and genomic-analysis studies. Scientists at Perlegen used Affymetrix oligo arrays to resequence four wild-type and 11 classical mouse strains, and identified 8.27 million SNPs across the 15 strains.

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