AMSTERDAM, the Netherlands — The sign outside Kreatech Biotechnology's headquarters in the northern part of this city still reads "Kreatech Diagnostics" — the moniker the company sported 15 years ago when it first incorporated, long before microarrays became a common tool in most molecular biology labs.
However, with three new distribution agreements announced in the last few weeks, and 11 expected before autumn, officials for the labelling-kit manufacturer said that the firm is now poised to re-enter the diagnostics space — albeit as a provider to developers of downstream diagnostic applications.
"We are trying to position a product for automation — for pharma and diagnostics," Ted van der Lende, Kreatech's director of product development told BioArray News in an interview in the company's headquarters here. "We hope our product will wind up in the diagnostics field again."
Kreatech already has an established relationship with pharma, he added, and the company has worked with Proctor & Gamble to "fine tune" its labeling kits for the Affymetrix platform. In the future Kreatech hopes to customize its kits for individual companies, according to van der Lende. Currently, however, it is stitching together a network of distributors to carry its expanding product line.
This week, Kreatech announced that it had signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Funakoshi to distribute its Universal Linkage System labeling technology in the Japanese market.
"We are looking at those kinds of distributors that aren't carrying 1,000 products in their catalogue. We are looking for dedicated people, small companies that are eager to make a success out of the product."
The company announced two similar deals last week. Fellow Dutch firm Bioke will distribute its ULS kits in the Benelux region, while Open Biosystems has agreed to make Kreatech kits available to customers in the US.
According to Kreatech CEO Alexander Altink, the company plans to announce "11 more [distributors] between now and September" in the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and other markets.
Rebounding from Qiagen
According to van der Lende, it was never part of Kreatech's "strategic vision … to build a sales force."
Instead the company had negotiated with Qiagen to distribute its kits throughout 2003 and early 2004, before Qiagen walked away from the deal in May of 2004, leaving Kreatech with little in the way of resources to bring its products to the marketplace.
"We presumed that after Qiagen launched these kits, that other companies like GE Healthcare and PerkinElmer would follow suit," explained Altink. "But there again, we had products, we had waited for the whole business to start up, and then we had to decide what direction we were going to go."
Van der Lende said that the Qiagen deal fell through for "strategic reasons."
Instead of finding a large distributor, like Qiagen, Kreatech decided to court smaller, local distributors to sell its line of ULS-based kits.
"We didn't want to wind up in a catalogue of 500 pages," explained Altink.
"We are looking at those kinds of distributors that aren't carrying 1,000 products in their catalogue. We are looking for dedicated people, small companies that are eager to make a success out of the product," he said.
The new distributors will be selling the firm's array CGH kit, for array-based comparative genomic hybridization analysis, and its standalone kit for aRNA labeling. A kit that couples that aRNA labeling technology with Ambion's MessageAmp TM II aRNA-amplification system will be available within the next two months (see BAN 6/29/2005).
The kits include CyDyes from GE Healthcare, Cyanine Dyes from PerkinElmer, and DYDyes from Dyomics, plus the firm's KreaPure purification columns, its KreaBlock blocking buffer, as well as hybridization buffers.
Kreatech's kits target the labeling market for microarray reagents, which Kreatech expects to grow from $80 million in 2005 to $150 million in 2008. "That's not something we invented, it's based on the sales of the [array] companies," van der Lende said.
As the market matures, van der Lende said that the firm's strategy is to create kits for new applications, and add components to its existing products.
New kits in the company's pipeline include labeling solutions for SNP detection as well as fluorescent in situ hybridization experiments, he said.
Kreatech is also collaborating with a "major" US non-profit partner developing kits for bacterial gene expression and ChIP-on-chip applications, but Van der Lende declined to name the partner.
The kits in development use "direct labeling without interference of enzymes or modified nucleotides," he said.
Van der Lende said that the kit being developed for FISH experiments would be sold as a "general labeling kit for FISH probes, [that] will also be intended for the ChIP-on-chip application, and we are also looking at tissue arrays." There are also plans for a microRNA kit, to be launched by this September, as well as a kit for whole-genome amplification and labeling later this year.
"We are in negotiation with a number of parties that have this technology available. This will be similar to our RNA solutions; we will have an amplification part for [the] whole genome," van der Lende said.
Kits for proteomics, however, are still in R&D. "I think it's a little bit early, [however] we will have solutions for serum labeling and cell extracts for antibody arrays [with third parties]," he said.
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])