This past week, Jena, Germany-based SIRS-Lab introduced a biochip intended solely for educational purposes. The Lab-Arraytor Training chip joins the firm’s other commercially available Lab-Arraytor products for a variety of gene-expression applications, but is offered at a steep discount to the firm’s other arrays. While it will provide microarray students with practical, hands-on experience, it can also be viewed as a wise marketing decision by the firm, familiarizing early users with SIRS-Lab’s products. Roberto Wolfer, a product manager for the Lab-Arraytor product line, discussed the new chip in an interview this week with BioArray News.
When was the Lab-Arraytor Training chip introduced?
Thursday [Nov. 18]. It was a development between us and the University of Applied Science here in Jena. There was a small show and we used that event to introduce the array.
What about the chip’s availability? Is it available worldwide?
It’s available to everybody — not only for Germany, but for the whole world. Also, in addition to universities, it’s suitable for professional training. So, if a biologist is interested in additional training, there are these training centers for professionals, and they may use it as well.
What is on this particular chip?
The chip is very adapted to the lipopolysaccharide signal transduction pathway. So, there are 40 genes on it, which exactly fit into that pathway. They are selected for two reasons. First of all, we select the genes in that matter that we can say, ‘eight genes are over-expressed, five genes are down-regulated, and with six genes nothing happens,’ or something like that. So, the student knows before he starts the experiment what should be the result of the experiment. They have the comparison of their result with the theoretical result. We use that pathway because it is very well-described, and every student who works in biology and medicine knows a little bit of this pathway. Most results [regarding the pathway] are already available in the scientific community. That’s why we use it as an application example. Maybe somebody who works in the scientific area as well, in the implementation field, he may use it for scientific purposes as well, but the number of 40 genes is a bit limiting for scientific purposes. But it makes it easy to use for educational purposes.
This is why you made this specific chip instead of just offering one of your other Lab-Arraytor products?
Exactly. The other Lab-Arraytors are quite more complicated, not only in regard to the number of genes but also to the quality system on the chip. Of course, you have some quality elements on this chip as well, like positive and negative controls, but you don’t have any process controls as you have on our other Lab-Arraytor arrays. These are a bit more simple design. Nevertheless, it’s complex to learn.
What instrument does the chip run on?
An array scanner that can read a fluorescent signal. So, it’s a standard glass format, such as the Agilent slides, or [those sold by] MWG or Clontech. We do not provide any scanner.
Where does the content for the chip come from?
We produce the chips ourselves, but the oligonucleotides, we have those synthesized by a third party.
Can you say who that is?
It changes from time to time, due to better prices or better relations. It’s a German company, but for confidentiality reasons I can’t say who it is.
Is this chip cheaper than your others?
Because we would like to introduce the technology to the educational field, we offer a special discount for educational purposes. So, the original list price is €104 ($135.6), but for educational purposes you can get it for €69. The profit for us is more or less zero, but to get it into the educational field is a crucial point, and that’s why we made it as cheap as possible. If somebody would like to introduce it to students, they have to confirm that it is really used only for education.