Qiagen last week took another step towards making its technology broadly accessible to microarray users by announcing a non-exclusive licensing agreement with array manufacturer Kreatech Biotechnology.
The deal underscores Qiagen's strategy to leave the microarray reagent kit market for other players to compete in as it continues to invest in diagnostics and RT-PCR technologies, according to a company official.
For example, Qiagen two weeks ago agreed to supply CytoPathfinder, a Japanese startup developing microarrays and drug-delivery technologies, with siRNAs for use on its transfection microarray for high-throughput RNAi screening (see BioCommerce Week sister publication RNAi News 6/1/2006).
Andreas Schäfer, the director R&D at Qiagen, said that the Kreatech alliance "is part of [Qiagen's] strategy to offer [its] products and technologies to partners in the microarray industry," rather than to market the kits to the array market itself. Schäfer told BioCommerce Week sister publication BioArray News last week that Qiagen is instead "focused on … different markets including life science research markets, molecular diagnostics, and applied testing markets."
"Since not every microarray company in this market is capable of providing good preanalytical solutions, we would like to place our preanalytical solutions into complete product offerings from Affymetrix to Agilent to Roche whatever."
Qiagen provides sample-prep reagents to at least a couple of microarray manufacturers, including Osmetech and market-leader Affymetrix, through OEM pacts. The firm expects to ink more collaborations in the field going forward, a company spokesperson told BioCommerce Week late last year, with an eye toward becoming the standardized preanalytical technology for microarrays a field that has yet to set standards (see BioCommerce Week 12/1/2005).
Schäfer said that the company last year hired an OEM manager for life science, so "the organization is now in place to look actively for more partners and more OEM business."
"We do expect more deals like this in the future," Schäfer said, reiterating earlier statements by the spokesperson. "Since not every microarray company in this market is capable of providing good preanalytical solutions, we would like to place our preanalytical solutions into complete product offerings from Affymetrix to Agilent to Roche whatever," he added.
According to Schäfer, Qiagen's products have found their niche in the array market and have become "standard" products. For example, he said that "most" microarray researchers are using Qiagen's line of RNeasy kits to purify RNA purification step, as well as its PAXgene Blood RNA Kit for stabilizing blood and purifying RNA.
Under the terms of the latest agreement, Kreatech gains a license to sell Qiagen's Repli-g whole genome amplification technology with its Universal Linkage System array reagent kits.
Through the deal, Kreatech gains global distribution rights for Repli-g for use with ULS for microarray applications in the life science research market. It will also develop and manufacture microarray amplification and labeling kits for genomic DNA and for array comparative genomic hybridization applications.
"This will be the first amplification and labeling kit available for arrayCGH analysis that enables customers to detect genetic aberrations without introducing bias during the amplification and labeling, unlike conventional amplification and enzymatic labeling procedures," Brent Keller, Kreatech's general manager and vice president of commercial operations, said in a statement this week.
'Rapidly Growing Market'
Though Qiagen, which employs 1,500 people, is not interested in directly marketing its kits to array users, Kreatech, which employs just 25 staffers, is attempting to do just that.
According to Kreatech's Keller, the Repli-g deal represents another avenue for his company to build its identity in the array comparative genomic hybridization sector, which he said is a "very active and rapidly growing area with several platforms now on the market besides the homebrews."
"The array CGH market is important to us in helping to establish our brand identity and name in the marketplace," Keller told BioArray News. The company launched its first kit for array CGH in June 2005.
Several years ago, Qiagen mulled licensing Kreatech's ULS technology to sell kits directly into the microarray market and "there were kits being developed specifically for Qiagen," Keller said. However, a management change in 2003, which resulted in the promotion of then-Chief Financial Officer Peer Schatz to CEO, prompted Qiagen to change its attitude towards the microarray market and caused the company to seek partners who could sell its technology, Keller said.
He said the deal with Kreatech reflects a continuation of this strategy. "I don't think [Qiagen has] changed [its] strategy of going after the microarray market or the array CGH market," Keller said. "They are going to allow us to do that for them."
A similar version of this article appeared in this week's issue of BioArray News.