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NCI Puts SNP Detectors to the Test

NEW YORK, Sept 21 – Nanogen (Nasdaq: NGEN) announced Thursday that the US National Cancer Institute had purchased its NanoChip system for the full list price of   $150,000, but the institute’s Advanced Technology Center said the deal does not signal a preference for one technology over another.

“We use multiple technologies” for SNP detection, said Stephen Chanock of the NCI’s Advanced Technology Center, including Sequenom’s (Nasdaq: SQNM) MassArray system, Applied Biosystems’ (NYSE: PEB) Snapshot and TaqMan, and classical molecular biology methods.

“We need to see these [technologies] head to head,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is rely only upon the commercial companies’ data and their public releases.”

The center is collecting data and comparing the various methods. It plans to publish the results in an unnamed scientific journal within a few months.

The advantage of one technology over the other is not straightforward and often depends on what you are studying, Chanock said.

“There are strengths and weaknesses to each that are applicable to different circumstances,” he said.

Like different classes of cars, “they accommodate different budgets and different needs,” said Chanock. “I can’t say right now that one is the Cadillac and one is the Volkswagen."  

Bud Bromley, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nanogen, agreed that the NanoChip system is not the best choice for every situation.

“If you’re looking for a few SNPs in millions of people, well, that’s probably a screening application that would be better on a Sequenom machine,” he said. “On the other hand, if you already know what the SNP is and you want a very accurate answer for a patient…that’s the application for our system.”