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Gene Logic Forms New Company to Develop Microarrays

NEW YORK, July 19 - With $15 million in venture financing, Gene Logic said Thursday it has spun off a new company, Metrigenix, that will develop and commercialize its Flow-thru Chip microarray. 

Metrigenix.will market the Flow-thru Chip as a custom and pre-fabricated gene-based screening array to  pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and other life sciences companies. 

Gene Logic, which will own 54 percent of the new company, will provide the intellectual property and other proprietary technology related to the technology, the company said, and the development team for the Flow-thru-Chip will begin to operate under the Metrigenix umbrella.  

Andrew O'Beirne, Gene Logic's senior vice president of new ventures, will become CEO of MetriGenix. 

Gene Logic, based in Gaithersburg, MD, decided to spin off the Flow-thru-Chip as a separate company because the technology offered promise but did not fit into the company's database-centered business model, CEO Mark Gessler told GenomeWeb. 

"We've had an investment in this technology for a number of years and we made the decision quite a while ago to really focus on an information-based model," said Gessler. "As we developed our business on the information side we realized we were not going to be in a position to put the proper focus and attention and capital to make good on this investment.  

"The best way to enable that, he said," was to bring together a group of venture investors who have known the technology from the beginning."

Gene Logic received a patent on the technology underpinning this chip in December 1998, and at the time said it would develop the chip as a pharmaceutical drug-screening tool. But a month later the company signed a pioneering agreement with Affymetrix to use Affymetrix GeneChip arrays to discover disease-related genes for its database, signaling a shift in company strategy towards information rather than tool development.  

"We think the best technology for what we need to build up large amounts of information around human tissue samples and disease-related samples," Gessler said. "This [technology] continues to be the Affymetrix arrays. We have a long-term relationship with them around that. But this Flow-thru Chip fits into a fundamentally different part of the market."

The chip technology consists of a three-dimensional substrate filled with vertical microchannels to which probes are attached, and through which the DNA sample is pumped. This Swiss cheese-like platform has been touted as offering faster hybridization due to the forced flow of sample through the chip, and more sensitive detection of target molecules due to the larger surface area for probes.  

The company has also said the platform could allow for effective testing of smaller sample volumes and higher density arrays. But the technology is still in the R&D stages, and several engineering challenges have to be worked out, including the best way to pump sample through the microchannel to allow for uniform deposition. A prototype cartridge has involved a peristaltic pump, but the company may use another method such as capillary electrophoresis in the final design. The company also said it plans to provide the Flow-thru Chip in a 96-well format for high-volume screening. 

Gessler said the market for these arrays is one where scientists are looking at small numbers of genes and need to perform numerous rapid assays. 

Metrigenix secured financing from Oxford Bioscience Partners, Burrill Biotechnology Capital Fund, German semiconductor company Infineon's financing arm Infineon Ventures, and GE Capital Equity.  

Gene Logic said it expects its financial results, which have traditionally shown Flow-thru Chip R&D expenses, to cease to show these expenses beginning with the fourth quarter of this year, but that the transaction would not affect the company's overall revenue guidance for the year.    
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