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Six Months After ProteOptics Acquisition, Bio-Rad Launches New Protein Interaction Array System

Bio-Rad Laboratories said this week that it has launched a protein interaction array system aimed at bridging the gap between protein discovery and function.
 
The new instrument, which Bio-Rad acquired along with its purchase of Israeli firm ProteOptics earlier this year, is an integral part of Bio-Rad’s efforts to grow sales in the protein research field. The firm intends to sell the system, called ProteOn XPR36, alone and in a bundle with the firm’s other tools for customers performing earlier-stage research and biomarker discovery.
 
In particular, Bio-Rad will sell the ProteOn as a companion to its Bio-Plex suspension array system for quantitative peptide and protein analysis.
 
The deal also will complement Bio-Rad's recent agreement to acquire Ciphergen’s proteomics instrument business for approximately $20 million in cash and a $3-million equity investment in Ciphergen (see BioCommerce Week 8/16/2006).
 
The ProteOn instrument is based on surface plasmon resonance (SPR) technology and uses image analysis to simultaneously track optical changes at different sites in an array without the need for molecular labeling, according to Bio-Rad. The technology was the primary reason for Bio-Rad’s purchase of ProteOptics earlier this year (see BioCommerce Week 3/1/2006).
 
“The significance to the Bio-Rad portfolio is it’s really the next step in asking questions about proteins,” said Emily Dale, marketing manager in Bio-Rad’s Protein Function Division. “For the last 50 years, Bio-Rad has offered products for protein separation and protein analysis, in terms of molecular weight, PI, purification, and up to process scale chromatography. This enables them to ask more in-depth questions about the proteins that they think are interesting."
 
She told BioCommerce Week that the ProteOn instrument offers a higher throughput than other protein-interaction instruments on the market. The array of 36 spots enables an application that the company calls “one-shot kinetics.” Dale said, “What it means is that in one experiment, because we run six samples in parallel, that you can actually get all of your kinetic data in one experiment.
 
“Other instruments are serial processes, where [researchers] do one and they have to go back and do it again and do it again,” she explained. “They have to do that process six times, while we do it in one parallel process.”
 
Dale said that while the ProteOn instrument will be sold as a companion to the Bio-Plex system, which uses Luminex’s xMAP technology and has been on the market since the end of 2000, it also will be marketed alone.
 
“There are many different areas of research that will use protein interaction — signal transduction analysis, drug discovery, even understanding protein complexes,” said Dale. “The connection with the Bio-Plex is that one of our key applications is ranking and characterizing antibodies. The process of characterizing antibodies is very simplified using the ProteOn because of the parallel processing and the one-shot kinetics.
 
“So, if you’re trying to develop a Bio-Plex assay, then you would use the ProteOn to figure out which antibodies are going to work for you, [and] what’s the cross-reactivity. It really speeds up the whole process of antibody characterization.”
 
Though Bio-Rad’s instrument sales force usually sells all of its products to life science customers, the firm is employing specialists to help sell the ProteOn instrument, Dale said.
The prototype instrument looks like two microwave ovens side by side, into which a scientist feeds samples and buffer, she said.
 
Dale could not disclose the price of the ProteOn instrument. Bio-Rad officials previously told BioCommerce Week that the firm is targeting an $80-million market with the SPR technology.
 
Increasing Focus on Protein Research
 
The ProteOptics acquisition and the launch of the ProteOn are just a part of Bio-Rad’s recent efforts to expand its share of the protein-research tools market. The acquisition of Ciphergen’s proteomics instrument business is undoubtedly a major part of its plans for the market as well.
 

“For the last 50 years, Bio-Rad has offered products for protein separation and protein analysis, in terms of molecular weight, PI, purification, and up to process scale chromatography. This enables them to ask more in-depth questions about the proteins that they think are interesting."

The acquisition includes Ciphergen’s SELDI (surface enhanced laser desorption/ionization) technology, ProteinChip arrays, and accompanying software. Bio-Rad will manufacture, sell, and market the SELDI technology to the life sciences marketplace for applications such as biomarker discovery, characterization, and validation.
 
Though Ciphergen will retain exclusive rights to the products for the diagnostics market, the firms will maintain a supply agreement, under which Bio-Rad can purchase SELDI instruments and consumables for the continued development of its diagnostics business. The companies also will collaborate to identify SELDI customers interested in partnering with Ciphergen to commercialize biomarker discoveries.
 
Todd Morrill, director of business development for Bio-Rad’s Life Sciences group, told BioCommerce Week last month, “We are extremely interested in proteomics research and analysis, with a real focus on our customers’ workflow. The Ciphergen technology is an important part of that protein workflow — the ability to separate and identify proteins from complex samples — and it fits in very nicely with a number of the other technologies we already have in house.”
 
Dale could not provide an update on the Ciphergen technology acquisition. However, she told BioCommerce Week, “Having protein identification will definitely add to our protein portfolio.”

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