Amersham Biosciences’ announcement, made during last fall’s Chips to Hits conference in Boston, that it will expand its licensing agreement with Oxford Gene Technology indicates that Amersham has big plans for its CodeLink microarray business.
Founded in 1995, OGT manages the intellectual property created by microarray pioneer Sir Edwin Southern. Amersham and UK-based OGT initially entered into a licensing agreement in December 2002, with Amersham obtaining a license to OGT’s patents for research applications. With the new deal, the financial details of which were not disclosed, Amersham expands its rights to include clinical diagnostic applications and the right to provide its customers with sublicenses to the patents.
“The addition of the OGT licenses is a demonstration of our commitment to provide our customers the licenses they need to be successful with the product,” says Trevor Hawkins, Amersham Biosciences vice president of development for discovery systems. With the expanded rights, Hawkins says the company will move ahead in discussions with pharmaceutical partners to “see how CodeLink can be used in a clinical diagnostic setting.” OGT referred any comment on the deal to Amersham.
The diagnostic licensing deal occurs against a backdrop of the pending $9 billion merger between GE and Amersham, which is slated to link Amersham’s unique imaging chemistries and GE’s imaging platforms. Hawkins says he sees CodeLink playing a part in this joining of technologies.
“The concept of mixing together in vivo diagnostic information from MRI or PET with the in vitro information from CodeLink is really one of the core strengths of Amersham,” says Hawkins. “I believe as we go forward with the concept of personalized medicine, you will see a merger of the in vivo and in vitro world, and the merging of MRI and information from microarrays would be a good example. It’s conceptual, but an area that is getting a lot of interest.”
Amersham has owned CodeLink since June 2002, when it purchased the technology from Motorola for $20 million.
The CodeLink product line is regarded as the No. 3 player in the preprinted, industrial-scale microarray market, behind market leaders Affymetrix and Agilent Technologies. Much of the first year of Amersham’s ownership of the product line was spent integrating it into the company, constructing a new fabrication facility in Chandler, Ariz., and introducing four new microarray products — including the Sept. 10 rollout of the CodeLink Human P450 SNP Bioarray, which joins the Affymetrix-manufactured Roche Diagnostics AmpliChip microarray in having potential as a tool for personalized medicine.
The CodeLink Human P450 SNP Bioarray, which genotypes 110 SNPs within nine P450 genes, is “designed for screening clinical trial populations to determine their toxicogenetic profiles and for the discovery of novel associations between P450 genotypes and phenotypes,” the company said in announcing the product.
Still, as a business, CodeLink costs more than it brings in. Amersham Biosciences’ discovery systems segment reported an operating loss of £10 million for the first half of last year, including continued investment in CodeLink, which had net expenditure of £7 million in the first half. CodeLink’s sales, however, are “steadily increasing,” the company said in its third quarter financial report on Oct. 29.
The one thing missing from the CodeLink product line, after the extension of the OGT license and the ability to sublicense for clinical and diagnostic applications, is a method or a technology for automating CodeLink processing in a high-throughput fashion. “It is lacking today, but it is not lacking in our development portfolio,” says Hawkins.
“We recognized that when we took on the business. We are working with a number of key players in the automation field to develop methodologies and approaches that will be announced in the next year,” he says.
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2003, edition of BioArray News.
Mo Krochmal is editor of BioArray News, a weekly newsletter from GenomeWeb at www. bioarraynews.com. He can be reached at mok @genomeweb. com.