Two new microarrayer instruments placements in major North American labs support recent vendor claims that they are seeing an uptick in demand in the tools market. Last week Aushon Biosystems announced that it has placed a 2470 spotting unit in the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine at George Mason University. Meantime, the University Health Network in Toronto has agreed to purchase an Arrayjet system for its microarray center.
Both deals represent steps forward in a market that has been, until recently, relatively flat. Customers at GMU and UHN said they acquired the new arrayers to get their hands on new technology and to address the needs for high-throughput systems in emerging application areas, such as proteomics and cellular analysis.
In the case of GMU, the recent addition of the 2470 arrayer brings to four the number of Aushon systems that TCAP co-directors Lance Liotta and Emanuel Petricoin have placed in their lab, the first of which was installed in 2005. Mike Tognotti, director of sales and marketing at Aushon, told BioArray News in an e-mail this week that Liotta and Petricoin are printing reverse-phase protein lysate microarrays to measure protein expression levels “in a large number of biological samples simultaneously.”
According to Tognotti, Aushon’s ability to produce reverse phase arrays in a high-throughput manner has enabled the Burlington, Mass.-based firm to place four 2470 arrayers at several large pharmaceutical companies in the US and Europe.
“Aushon’s 2470 arrayer was designed from the outset to handle proteomic materials, in addition to genomic samples, and therefore it can make reverse-phase protein lysate microarrays at the quality standard necessary to answer functional, pharmacological, and diagnostic questions,” he wrote.
Petricoin told BioArray News in an e-mail this week that the decision to use Aushon arrayers was based on the need to create protein arrays that were consistent enough for use in a clinical setting. Petricoin and Liotta recently founded a company called Theranostics Health that seeks to commercialize the protein array technology through discovery partnerships with pharmaceutical companies. Theranostics Health also uses an Aushon arrayer, Petricoin wrote.
In terms of TCAP’s needs, Petricoin wrote that “the demand is really for any arrayer that can work all day every day and deliver consistent, reliable spot quality on any surface. Whatever technology that can do that is going to have a very strong market position, in my opinion,” he said.
Another selling point was that Aushon’s arrayer uses spotting pins, rather than an inkjet printhead, to print arrays. “The bottom line is this: inkjet printers, or any printer that relies on spraying or launching the sample out of a tube-like structure onto the substratum of interest — these are invariably going to foul and clog even with great sonicated-based cleaning,” he wrote. According to Petricoin, what “Aushon did, and did so well, was make a contact arrayer that does not clog or foul and comes in contact with the substratum with so little force as to have negligible effects on the surface.”
UHN and Arrayjet
While Liotta and Petricoin’s lab considers arrayers that use pins to be the technology of choice for generating high-throughput protein arrays, the Toronto-based Universal Health Network, Canada’s largest hospital, decided that inkjet was preferable when it came to printing protein arrays, especially on new surfaces.
According to Neil Winegarden, head of operations at the microarray center at UHN, the center recently agreed to purchase an Arrayjet Super-Marathon arrayer, which uses Arrayjet's non-contact inkjet printing technique, where the printheads draw in fluids before arraying them at various throughputs.
“We are hoping to bring a system on board, however, at this time the purchase has not been made,” Winegarden wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News this week. “We have been funded in principle for this purchase, but the finalization of the grant has not been completed. This will likely happen in August,” he wrote.
Jim Woodgett, scientific director of the center, told BioArray News in an e-mail that UHN currently uses contact-spotting Versarrayers from Bio-Rad, but needed a high-throughput inkjet arrayer for printing protein and cell arrays.
“The demand is really for any arrayer that can work all day every day and deliver consistent, reliable spot quality on any surface.”
“Several new and emerging technologies such as cell arrays and reverse phase arrays are more easily generated through the use of non-contact spotting systems,” Woodgett wrote. “Several new technologies being developed in the microarray center cannot be performed via contact printing systems,” he added.
Woodgett also wrote that “DNA arraying ... will remain largely the domain of the [contact] spotters” but that “new substrates, such as hydrogels and some membrane-coated substrates are a challenge to contact printing as the substrate itself is fragile in nature and can be easily damaged by spotting pins.”
According to Duncan Hall, Arrayjet’s sales and marketing director, the UK firm is seeing an increase in demand in the North American market. The firm recently signed a co-marketing and distribution agreement with Salt Lake City-based BioMicro Systems in May, but Hall said that its most recent deals in the US and Canada were signed prior to that partnership (see BAN 5/22/2007).
“We have essentially done no promotion at all, so much of the activity there has been via contacts we already had or people that have come to us via our [online] inquiry form,” Hall told BioArray News this week.
Hall acknowledged that inkjet printers had gotten a “bad rap” in the past but said that customers are now contacting Arrayjet “because we have something different to offer. We are in the same [price] ballpark as some of the big pin printers, but at the same time we offer the non-contact but we do it with speed, which means we can use our technology in high-throughput environments, such as a microarray core lab,” he said.