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Luminex Previews Next-Generation Multiplex Analyzer at AACC; 2008 Launch Planned

This story originally appeared in Biocommerce Week, a newsletter that has been discontinued.
 
This week at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry annual meeting in San Diego, Luminex unveiled its next-generation bead-based multiplexing platform, which is capable of measuring up to 500 analytes in a single microplate well.
 
The new platform, called FlexMAP 3D, offers a five-fold increase in multiplexing capabilities over Luminex’s current xMAP systems. Company representatives are showing off the new system to potential customers at the meeting, even though it won’t officially launch until 2008.
 
“We will be launching probably next year,” said Darin Leigh, senior director for sales and marketing of Luminex Molecular Diagnostics. “This is sort of a first preview of the system.”
 
Luminex is currently determining pricing for the FlexMAP, but “it’s going to be more than the current system,” he told BioCommerce Week. The current Luminex 200 systems are sold to the firm’s partners, who in turn sell them to customers for around $40,000 to $45,000.
 
In addition to the greater multiplexing capabilities, Luminex said that the FlexMAP 3D will offer a high-throughput module and the ability to interface with liquid handlers for streamlined automation.
 
At Luminex’s annual investors meeting earlier this year, company officials said that the next-generation instrument is the firm’s highest R&D priority and is expected to help the firm gain traction in the molecular diagnostics market (see BioCommerce Week 4/4/2007).
 
“Although we do see challengers emerging in the area of multiplexing, the fact is that our next-gen instrument with its 500-plex capability and high throughput will help us maintain a market leadership position,” John Carrano, vice president of research and development, said at the time. (The firm referred to the FlexMAP 3D as the next-gen instrument because it had not yet decided on a name for the new platform).
 
Luminex is facing increased competition in the multiplex molecular diagnostics market from firms such as Qiagen, which purchased two firms over the past year — Genaco Biomedical and eGene (see BioCommerce Week 4/18/2007) — providing it with multiplexing capabilities, and Illumina, which launched its BeadXpress multiplex platform earlier this year.
 
Moving to the 500 assay format is “going to open up some more avenues for our current partners in areas like HLA [typing] and molecular diagnostics,” Leigh said this week. “This allows them to run more mutations or genotypes. Also, in the area of gene expression there’s a lot of interest.
 
“We have a microRNA assay at the moment that has over 300 markers,” he said. “At the moment we do those in separate wells because we can only go up to 100 beads. So, it will allow us to consolidate some of that testing.”
 
Luminex is optimizing assays on the new platform that it obtained through its $44 million acquisition of Tm Bioscience earlier this year (see BioCommerce Week 3/14/2007).
 

“Some of our key pharma and drug research folks, they’re going to be able to use the FlexMAP and not have to run as many instruments to get the same throughput.”

“The good thing is that all of our current beads, you’ll be able to transfer those onto the new instrument,” said Leigh. “Beads from 101 to 500 will be the new set of beads. Current applications for all of our partners, whether they’re protein or molecular, they will all be able to be run on this system.”
 
Leigh said the FlexMAP would be particularly well-suited to Luminex’s high-volume partners because of the increased throughput of the system. “Some of our key pharma and drug research folks, they’re going to be able to use the FlexMAP and not have to run as many instruments to get the same throughput,” he said.
 
Low-End Platform to Follow
 
Luminex also is developing a smaller and lower-cost multiplex platform called BeadPix.
 
The BeadPix is based on a new detection scheme that uses inexpensive but commonplace LEDs and CCD imagers. The firm believes that this will enable it to offer performance similar to the Luminex 200 instrument but in a much smaller, lighter, and lower-cost instrument that will be targeted primarily to smaller, academic research labs.
 
The firm is still conducting feasibility testing of the BeadPix, Leigh said. “In terms of market readiness, that’s going to be a little further away than the [FlexMAP], but it’s basically a project that’s continuing to develop and we continue to develop assays on it,” he said.
 
The firm also is working on a biosensor product for the US Department of Defense that will be able to run the xMAP technology on a chip that is roughly the size of a quarter. Development of the product is being sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency.