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Genotyping Third Incarnation of Epoch Gets It Right With Probes and Quenchers

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For a small genomics company, Epoch Biosciences has had something of an epic existence. A 15-year-old company originally called MicroProbe, it became Epoch Pharmaceuticals for a short time until about a year ago, when it took on its current name. With an SBIR grant from the NIH, CEO William Gerber is taking Epoch whole-hog into its new territory, genotyping.

Best known for its quenchers and probes, the Bothell, Wash.-based Epoch has licensing agreements or collaborations with Applied Biosystems, Incyte, and Third Wave Technologies. Epoch’s minor-groove-binder probe is used in ABI’s TaqMan and in Third Wave’s Invader assays.

The probes are also accessible through the Web. “Customers put their sequences in … and then run through express design probes that they can order immediately,” says Merl Hoekstra, vice president of corporate development at Epoch. The SBIR grant will help the company tweak its probe technology for genotyping applications for use in detecting SNPs or studying gene expression.

Hoekstra adds that the probes are “instrument-agnostic — we don’t believe in supporting a specific probe system.” He says the probes use different dyes, allowing for additional multiplexing, and that the more specific probes enhance hybridization.

Last November, Epoch acquired Synthetic Genetics, which remains in San Diego and acts as its manufacturing division. The company has a total of about 65 employees.

— Meredith Salisbury

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