Celsis International, a UK-based provider of microbial detection systems and services, said last week that it will use microarray technology developed by BioVentures in its next generation of contamination tests.
The agreement marks the first time Celsis will use a microarray-based platform for its tests, as well as the first commercialization partner for BioVenture's technology.
According to Jenny Parsons, head of corporate communications at Celsis, the move to microarrays will "provide Celsis with a competitive advantage in the field of rapid [microbial] testing," which she said is expected to grow to $4.5 billion from $3 billion over the next three years.
Celsis CEO Jay LeCoque echoed Parson's comments about the pace of market growth and the drive to cheaper and faster technologies. "The rash of product contamination stories hitting the headlines in the drug industry in the last few months [shows the] industry is looking for cost-effective and rapid microbiological testing products," LeCoque said in a statement.
Still, while Celsis promises to deliver something both "rapid" and "specific to the market" based on BioVentures' technology, the company is hesitant to provide further details. Parsons said this week that, at the moment, Celsis sees numerous possible applications for the newly licensed array technology.
"The rash of product contamination stories hitting the headlines in the drug industry in the last few months [shows that the] industry is looking for cost-effective and rapid microbiological testing products."
"The next generation of products developed with BioVentures will be capable of rapid microbial and virus detection," she wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News.
"The technology can also be applied to drug discovery, clinical diagnostics, environmental analysis and biological warfare agents, as well as microbiological detection," she said.
When pressed about what applications may be developed, Parsons said that the company doesn't "want to disclose any more specific information" suffice to say that "generally it would be for microbial contamination and viruses."
'Quicker and More Specific'
According to Parsons, Celsis and BioVentures will combine Celsis' expertise in microbial testing with Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based BioVentures' high-density array platform.
The goal, Parsons said, will be "to develop and release new rapid-testing products to market as soon as possible." The initial selling points for the products will be the reduction in time and cost compared to the company's current detection systems, as well as the specificity of the tests.
"Celsis currently provides rapid-testing systems to detect and measure microbial contamination in raw materials, in-process, and finished products, which are based on ATP bioluminescence and adenylate kinase technology," she explained.
These methods provide results in 18 hours to 24 hours compared to five to seven days with traditional agar plate testing, according to Parsons. But the microarray-based tests that Celsis hopes to commercialize should be "much quicker and more specific" she said.
The products developed with BioVentures "will bring Celsis' customers closer to 'real time' testing, with results in a few hours or less," Parsons said this week. "Faster detection times bring a significant economic benefit to customers by reducing manufacturing cycle times and working capital requirements."
Another perk is that Celsis will now be able to identify specific contaminants, whereas before the firm could only tell if a sample was contaminated or not.
"At the moment it's a sort of positive/negative result that we get, rather than a specific identification of contamination. So this will be sort of the next generation that we'll be able to do sort of specific ID," Parsons explained.
The new tests will also provide more information than is permitted with Celsis' current testing methods, including enumeration, identification of species, and in-process detection, she said.
While Celsis claims that it is "a world-leading provider of rapid microbial detection systems," the new exclusive licensing agreement with BioVentures represents its first introduction to microarray technology.
"This is a whole new thing for us. We are licensing it from BioVentures because it is not something we have ourselves currently," Parsons said.
Commercial First for BioVentures
Just as the partnership is a first for Celsis, it is also the first time that BioVentures has sought to profit commercially from its microarray technology.
According to Elliot Dawson, president and founder of the 17-year-old company, BioVentures' bread and butter in recent years has been its reagent kits, not its array technology.
Dawson told BioArray News this week that the company has been sitting on its array technology for seven years, but that the tests developed with Celsis would be the first commercial tools based on his firm's platform.
"This is our first commercial collaboration using the array technology," Dawson said. Dawson deferred all questions about the partnership to Celsis, but did describe BioVentures' proprietary array technology.
"The fundamental element is being able to immobilize a number of specific binding partners," he said of his company's platform. "You can immobilize these individually onto a number of different things where you can co-solidify each of them onto a membrane."
BioVentures' arrays are then embedded in plastic or some other kind of matrix to form a block.
"There is a variety of materials you can use as embedding material. And then you slice sections off of the block. Each slice would represent an array," Dawson explained.
Dawson said that BioVentures' arrays are compatible with most popular array scanners and readers.
Justin Petrone ([email protected])