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Elitech Sells Nanogen Microarray Assets to Gamida for Life Group

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This story has been updated from a previous version to include comments from Gamida.

By Justin Petrone

The Elitech Group has sold all microarray assets connected to Nanogen, including its NanoChip400 electronic array platform, for an undisclosed sum to Gamida for Life, a group of healthcare-focused firms headquartered in the Netherlands.

San Diego-based Nanogen sold its assets, including its array technology, to Paris-based Elitech last July for $25.7 million after Nanogen filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. However, the firm had already wound down its microarray business, deciding to shutter it in November 2007 after it couldn't find a buyer for it (see BAN 11/20/2007).

Gamida for Life is a privately owned international group of healthcare-oriented companies. Its administrative headquarters are in the Hague and its companies maintain subsidiaries in Bulgaria, France, Israel, Turkey, and the United Kingdom through which they sell diagnostic systems, medical equipment and devices, and products for scientific research.

Gamidor Diagnostics and Savyon Diagnostics, two Israeli firms that are part of the Gamida for Life Group, plan to develop the Nanogen NanoChip 400 array platform for use in molecular diagnostics, Elitech said. According to the firm's website, Gamidor, based in Petach Tikva, is focused on business development and selling tests within Israel. Savyon, based is Ashdod, is focused on the R&D and manufacturing of tests for infectious disease and genetic testing with a global distribution network. Of the two, Gamidor used to act as an Israeli distributor for Nanogen.

Yacob Ofer, president of Gamida's diagnostics business, told BioArray News this week that Gamidor's NanoChip business has been "quite successful," and the firm continued to sell NanoChips to Israeli users even after Nanogen shuttered its business. The acquisition of NanoChip array assets from Elitech now gives the firm the ability to continue to service the "large and growing" number of customers in Israel, Ofer said.

"The main reason for us buying the assets is for us to support our Israeli customers," said Ofer. "Then, with the [ownership of the] IP, we are able to sell outside of Israel."

Gamidor's "main concern was to keep our Israeli users happy. We have an extensive market here," he said.

The history of the NanoChip platform dates back more than a decade. Founded in 1993, Nanogen originally sold a research-use-only platform called the Molecular Biology Workstation, but had focused its marketing efforts on promoting the NC400 for clinical use since the system's launch in 2005. Prior to deciding to shutter its array business, it had been preparing a cystic fibrosis carrier-detection panel for submission to the US Food and Drug Administration.

At the time, Nanogen also had assays in development for warfarin resistance and factor V and factor II clotting mutation detection. It additionally sold a CF panel for Middle Eastern populations (see BAN 9/25/2007).

It is this Middle Eastern panel, among others, that has been successful in the Israeli market. "We have a lot of testing and screening for CF and for various other diseases and we are doing it on almost every pregnant woman in Israel," Ofer said.

"The market is quite big. They need an instrument that is automated and can do large batches," he added. "We felt that Nanogen is the right answer."

Gamidor believes the platform is "the best system available today for these types of tests where you have between 10 and 20 mutations per disease and a lot of people to screen," Ofer said.

The NC400 supported assays that ran on the NanoChip, a 400-site electronic microarray, upon which homebrew molecular assays could be developed for use by clinical and research laboratories. Nanogen had positioned the system for adoption by mid- to high-volume laboratories.

After the firm wound down the array business, Gamida bought every platform on the market to resell in Israel. With the purchase of assets from Elitech, it also bought all the manufacturing equipment for the reagents and assembly of the chips, which was relocated to Savyon.

One outstanding issue for Gamida is that Hitachi has decided it will no longer manufacture the NC400 instrument as it had in the past. Ofer said that Savyon must develop a new instrument to support its NanoChips. He said that that the firm aims to improve some of the features on the instrument, for instance, by integrating a PCR machine.

Gamida is also looking to develop new tests for the NanoChip, with an emphasis on developing country-specific and population-specific tests, an approach that has worked for the company in the Israeli market. The company is looking to work with external partners to develop future tests, Ofer said.

"We have relations with all the universities and research institutes here" in Israel, he said. "We are looking at some interesting opportunities and we are always interested and open for any kind of collaboration with users, manufacturers or distribution companies."

As for existing NC400 customers, Ofer was clear that Gamida's intention for the platform is to use it in its diagnostics business, not to service external researchers. Still, he said that the company is willing to make arrays upon request. "We can produce chips for others and they can get whatever they need from us," he said.

As for Elitech, the firm will retain all other Nanogen products as well as the Nanogen name, Ofer said. Elitech President Pierre Debiais said in a statement that the company "believes that our divestiture of these former Nanogen assets to it will allow the full and appropriate realization of the potential for this cutting-edge technology."

According to Debiasis, the asset sale "allows Elitech to remain focused on our core strengths and gives us the ability to enhance our presence in molecular diagnostics through our attention on real-time PCR relationships."

The Elitech Group is composed of a number of companies, such as Nanogen, that offer microbiology and immunology kits.

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