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Arrayjet Taps MDS, American Medical Link to Be North American Reps; Plans Arrayer Upgrades

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This story has been updated to include comments from MDS Analytical Technologies. MDS was incorrectly referred to as MDS Analytical Sciences in a previous version.

By Justin Petrone

Arrayjet has tapped MDS Analytical Technologies and American Medical Link to represent it in North America, a company official said this week.

Commercial Director Duncan Hall said that the Roslin, UK-based firm, which sells instruments and software for printing arrays, has entered into a non-exclusive co-marketing arrangement with MDS. American Medical Link, meantime, has agreed to provide technical support and service for Arrayjet instruments in the US and Canada.

MDS' Molecular Devices, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., sells its own line of Axon GenePix array scanners. American Medical Link, based in Somerset, NJ, provides biomedical services and logistics support to governmental and nongovernmental organizations.

Arrayjet previously worked with Salt Lake City-based BioMicro Systems to market, sell, and support its instruments in North America (see BAN 5/22/2007). BioMicro sells array hybridization and wash systems. That partnership, initiated in 2007, ended earlier this year, Hall said.

"The initial fit that we saw between our two businesses wasn't there," Hall said. "BioMicro's most interesting market is in DNA arrays; ours is in protein arrays," he said. "We parted on good terms."

Arrayjet currently sells four instrument setups for the fabrication of arrays: The Sprint arrayer, which enables the production of 20 microarrays from 2x96- or 384-well microtiter plates; the Marathon, which can print up to 100 slides from six 96-well or 384-well microtiter plates, with manual mid-run plate change enabling more plates to be loaded, for added capacity; the Super-Marathon, which includes a microplate stacker and automated lid lifter to enable printing of microarrays from up to 48 microtiter plates; and the Ultra-Marathon microarrayer, which can print up to 1,000 slides in a single print run.

According to Hall, MDS shares Arrayjet's interest in the protein array market. MDS has been selling its widely used GenePix 4200A scanner since 2003, which offers 5-micron-level detection. In 2008, the firm launched the next-generation GenePix 4300A, which also offers 5-micron-level detection, and the GenePix 4400A, which can scan images at the 2.5-micron-level (see BAN 5/13/2008).

Describing his firm’s decision to tap MDS to promote its technology in North America, Hall said "the initial part is for them to have our materials in the hands of their sales force and have them talking about us. We'll make an appearance on their website and they'll appear on ours."

He said that the co-marketing deal should develop over time, but the opportunity to work with MDS "feels like a seal of approval" for Arrayjet’s tools.

Varshal Davé, director of genomics marketing at MDS, told BioArray News this week that MDS is "very happy" to be working with Arrayjet, "especially in the protein array space, where we see significant synergies between the Arrayjet technologies and our Axon GenePix microarray systems, which lead the market in usage amongst protein array researchers and protein array companies."

American Medical Link, meantime, will offer technical support and maintenance of Arrayjet instruments installed in North America. Its biomedical engineering division, based in New Jersey and Virginia, provides repair and maintenance services for biomedical, laboratory, and environmental testing equipment. One major customer is the US military.

"We have signed a deal that will provide front-line technical support and service to our customers in North America," said Hall. "They are engineers. All machines need servicing and maintenance to get the best from them and they will be there to assist our customers."

Instrument Upgrades

Business is "going well" for Arrayjet, Hall said. The firm expects to have 30 instruments installed worldwide, mostly in academic labs, by the time its fiscal year ends Sept. 30. Hall said the firm only had a handful of instruments installed before he joined the firm in 2005.

Some North American customers include the University Health Network's Microarray Centre in Toronto, the University of Miami, Cornell University, and the US Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md.

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Now, according to Hall, Arrayjet is looking to attract more companies that are manufacturing arrays at an industrial scale. Its efforts to serve existing customers and to attract these new industrial clients include plans to augment its existing arrayers and to introduce greater quality-control checks in its arrayer manufacturing, eventually working towards International Standards Organization certification.

Next month, Arrayjet plans to debut new control software called Command Centre for its Marathon arrayer. The tab-based graphical user interface "helps the user navigate the steps of setting up microarray runs," Hall said. "It walks you through all the options of printing arrays or plates using the Marathon."

Command Centre will also include a component called Pathfinder that will enable researchers to perform multiple print runs within a single print run.

Also next month, Arrayjet plans to launch JetMosphere, a clean-air environmental-control module for its Sprint and Marathon instruments. The module provides filtered air, humidification, and temperature controls for retaining stable environmental conditions during the printing process, Hall said.

He noted that Command Centre and JetMosphere are backwards compatible, meaning that customers for the company's older instruments can upgrade to the new devices.

"Our philosophy for arrayers has been an upgradeable one," said Hall. "It extends the life of an instrument and protects the customer's investment in buying one."

Arrayjet is also looking to improve its manufacturing process to attract more industrial customers. Hall said that the firm will introduce "further flexibility to each device" and "onboard diagnostic-type checks" on its instruments.

"We are starting to move our devices into the manufacturing sector, where the wants and needs are more stringent," Hall said. "We need to demonstrate [to these customers] that our technology has the requirements to satisfy them. We want to give peace of mind to those who want to use our machines as manufacturing tools."

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