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Under New Management, Motorola BioChips Stays the Course

NEW YORK, Jan 12 - Motorola BioChips has undergone a major management change in the last two months, but it has not changed course in its multi-pronged plan to enter the microarray market, according to Nicholas Naclerio, vice president of Motorola Biochips.

The BioChips division, formerly under the oversight of business development senior vice president Rud Istvan, now is being led by a Motorola operations general manager, George Turner, who was formerly the head of Motorola Korea. Istvan is no longer with Motorola.

" This shift reflects the [BioChip] division's shift from the development to product stage," said Naclerio. " Everything is on track. There are no other changes."

Despite the recent decision of Packard Biosciences, one of Motorola's partners in its BioChip endeavor, to withdraw its plans to commercialize its own DNA chips, Motorola remains committed to moving forward with manufacturing a variety of microarray products and will continue to use Packard's robotic printing technology in printing its chips, Naclerio said.

Packard said earlier in the week it had decided not to market its own DNA chips primarily because of Affymetrix's continued dominance. Meanwhile, a number of competitors have continued to cast their hats into the ring, most recently PamGene, a Dutch microarray company.

Naclerio said these changes are to be expected and would not act as a deterrence to Motorola.

" The market is going through a maturation process, but it is still very early in its development," Naclerio said. " It's hard to forecast the future, but there are [probably] going to be a few big players and lots of small boutique players. We think that we are well positioned to be one of the
principal suppliers."

A month ago, Motorola placed its CodeLink system, which consists of bioarrays, instrumentation, reagents, and software, at the Mayo Clinic for beta testing. The bioarrays being tested at the Clinic include the p450 arrays and gene expression chips capable of detecting hundreds of SNPs at a time.

Meanwhile, on December 19 Motorola made an equity investment in Molecular Staging and exclusively licensed Molecular Staging's Rolling Circle Amplification Technology for use in its diagnostic nucleic acid bioarrays.

Motorola's collaboration with Molecular Staging, however, extends beyond the licensing and equity agreement, Naclerio said. " The Molecular staging [arrangement] is a research project aimed at generating next-generation SNP chips that will be capable of cost effectively doing genome-wide scans," Naclerio said. Motorola hopes these SNP chips will be able to look at
thousands, or tens of thousands of SNPs in tens of thousands of patients at a time.

Current high-throughput SNP analysis technology, such as Sequenom's Massarray system, can look for a single SNP in thousands of patients at a time. While these technologies work well for SNP discovery, Naclerio said the SNP chip will be more suited toward SNP identification in patients with a particular disease.

At the the clinical end of the spectrum, Motorola hopes to launch its eSensor platform to detect small numbers of SNPs involved in causing a particular disease.

Motorola's protein chips are still in the research phase, as there are many obstacles to overcome before a company successfully develops a high-density protein chip, Naclerio said.

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