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Microarrays Taiwan Sees Cheap Chips by the Millions

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The Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs created a joint venture, the Phalanx Biotech Group, which plans to bring high-density microarrays to the global marketplace this month.

Using its experience with semiconductors as a model, Taiwan and a set of Taiwan-based businesses and North American research entities will enter the emerging microarray marketplace seeking to attack established competitors by manufacturing high-density chips at price-points of tens, rather than hundreds, of dollars.

The first product available will be the Phalanx Human Liver2000 microarray. The chip will contain oligonucleotide probes taken from NCBI Unigene clusters for 1,964 liver-associated genes and 36 controls classified into seven categories based on their tissue source. The chips are offered because of the prevalence of liver disease in Asian populations, according to Ron Woznow, chief executive officer of the Canadian Genetics Discovery Network, a partner in Phalanx.

The next product from the Taipei assembly line will be a single human-genome chip, containing probes for 30,000 human genes derived from NCBI Unigene clusters, and targeted for availability in December. Phalanx will also offer services including array design, DNA hybridization, scanning, and database management.

Phalanx is a spin-off of a four-year development project started by the Ministry of Economic Affairs in 1999 and managed by the Industrial Technology Research Institute, a 6,000-employee government sponsored organization launched in 1973 to create core technology and transfer it to the private sector.

Phalanx enters the field with 16 patents licensed from ITRI: an ink-jet based microarray manufacturing technology, a war chest equivalent to $14 million in funding, and a list of stakeholders that includes: CGDN, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada; The Information Systems for Biotechnology agricultural genomics information organization of Virginia Tech, and several Taiwanese companies.

— Mo Krochmal

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