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With $4M in New Funding, Aviva Upgrades ChIP-on-Chip Service, Plans Expansion

Aviva Systems Biology, a privately held San Diego company, last week announced that it has raised $4 million to upgrade its flagship chromatin immunoprecipitation-on-chip service offering, move to a larger facility, and lay the groundwork for a major staff expansion this year.
Jeff Falk, director of technology and business applications at Aviva, told BioArray News via e-mail this week that the new funding round, secured from existing investors, closed in December. He declined to name the investors.
“We are currently undergoing a major expansion in personnel to accommodate the increased demand for [ChIP-on-chip] services, boost manufacturing capabilities, and significantly expand [our] active research and development program,” Falk wrote.  
Falk said the new funding will also support Aviva’s recent move to an 11,000-square-foot facility in San Diego that will “significantly enhance” its ability to expand its operations and staff.  
Falk declined to discuss Aviva’s current size or how many employees it plans to add. However, he said that the new hires will mostly be in R&D to help develop new applications such as locus-based tiling arrays and DNA methylation analysis. Personnel will also be added in sales and marketing to augment Aviva’s global distribution network and sales team.
A key component of Aviva’s strategy for growth is the expansion of its ChIP-on-chip services offering, which the company launched last August (see BAN 8/15/2006).
Originally called ChIP-Guided Ligation and Selection (GLAS), the service used an in-house developed microarray to detect promoters and enhancers that interact with proteins or carry modifications that affect gene expression. The technology was licensed from the University of San Diego in 2004, Falk said.
He said that Aviva has now renamed its service offering ChIP-DNA Selection and Ligation (DSL). As with ChIP-GLAS, ChIP-DSL also relies on Aviva’s main platform, an array containing 40-mer probes of 20,000 human promoters located in regions where only the DNA sequence of interest is amplified.
ChIP-DSL “enables genome-wide identification of key promoter interactions and DNA methylation sites by screening 20,000 promoter interactions in a single array format using only 106 cells,” Falk wrote.
While Aviva’s human offering will remain essentially unchanged, the company’s mouse product will experience a boost in density. Falk said the firm’s 8,000-promoter mouse array has been upgraded to include 16,000 mouse promoter sequences. New custom tiling arrays have also been added to the firm’s portfolio to “obtain detailed information on promoter interactions at specific sites in the genome,” Falk wrote.

A key component of Aviva’s strategy for growth is the expansion of its ChIP-on-chip services offering, which was launched last August.

The Market
According to Falk, Aviva’s investments are part of an effort to reach scientists in a variety of settings. Falk said that while the market opportunity for ChIP-on-chip services is potentially very large, encompassing “academic and pharmaceutical companies involved in drug discovery and screening, identification of disease-related pathways, biomarker discovery, and diagnostics,” the firm faces little competition.
Falk’s perspective on the market was reinforced by Mary Warren, chief scientific officer at Genpathway, another ChIP-on-chip services firm based in San Diego. “We're doing major assays for all types of organizations — pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and academia,” Warren wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News.
She said that customers currently use the firm’s Affymetrix GeneChip-based assays to determine the downstream effects of drug targets, discover and validate biomarkers, identify mechanisms of action for compounds, discover and validate new targets, and other projects.
Genpathway launched ChIP-on-chip assays for transcription factor studies last August and followed that launch with assays for DNA methylation studies in October (see BAN 8/1/2006, BAN 10/3/2006). Warren said that this year, Genpathway customers could expect improvements in data analysis as well as the release of diagnostic tools.

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