Amersham BioSciences seems to have figured out the way to the hearts of even the most die-hard public-sector genomics researchers: playing hard to get. Two years ago, Amersham’s John Nelson gave a talk at the anti-commercial Advances in Genome Biology and Technology conference in Marco Island, where attendees often dismiss the relatively few company talks as irksome product pitches.
But Nelson’s presentation on TempliPhi not only got attention, it packed the room. Scientists, it seems, forgave the company affiliation — perhaps because the then-unavailable TempliPhi was presented as pure research rather than a product. By the time TempliPhi hit the market some months later, scientists were eager to buy.
The strategy seems to have been a hit. This year, Carl Fuller gave a talk on SNP-SNAP, a SNP-scoring technology under development at Amersham. As people trickled into the room from other talks, Fuller opened his presentation by telling people not to ask him about the technology’s price tag. “This is not a product,” he said. “It is not for sale.”
SNP-SNAP’s appeal is in its simplicity, Fuller said. Unlike most SNP-scoring methods, there are no washing or separation steps involved. SNPs are identified from fluorescent dye emitted as the detected SNP gets repeatedly added and removed from a primer, releasing more and more fluorescence in each cycle. With different fluorescence emissions, the method can be multiplexed, Fuller said. He’s currently working on multiplexing up to 96 SNPs at once, “and it looks like it’s going to work,” he said. He’s used the technology successfully in 96- and 384-well plates.
Amersham, however, is keeping its lips sealed about SNP-SNAP, citing its policy not to discuss research that isn’t yet a product. But if the technology follows in the steps of TempliPhi, the company may have to start giving its scientists marketing bonuses.
— Meredith Salisbury