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BlueGnome Enters 'Emerging and Significant' Chinese Market

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By Justin Petrone

BlueGnome this week began providing its cytogenetic research tools to researchers in China.

Nick Haan, CEO of the Cambridge, UK-based firm, said the expansion comes at a time when BlueGnome, comfortable with its positions in Europe and North America, vies to establish itself in emerging markets.

"The company has reached the scale where we can address these emerging and significant markets," Haan told BioArray News this week. "We have established growing positions in major developed markets and, having achieved that, we are now looking for growth."

BlueGnome began its overture to Asian customers last year when it signed on distributors in Japan and Malaysia. Haan said that China is a particularly attractive market because the company's pre-implantation genetic-screening products could make a strong showing there, and because its 1.3 billion-person population is becoming "increasingly affluent."

In fact, the company officially announced its Chinese play this week at the Chinese Society of Reproductive Medicine meeting in Chongqing, in east-central China, where it touted its 24sure and CytoChip platforms.

Launched two years ago, the 24sure is an array-based technique that can check eggs and embryos have the correct number of chromosomes. BlueGnome is targeting the product for in vitro fertilization-based pre-implantation genetic screening. (BAN 9/8/2009).

CytoChips, meantime, are used to investigate constitutional genetic disorders and cancer studies. The firm launched the oncology-focused array in December (BAN 12/21/2010).

Shishou Kangxin Trading Co. has agreed to distribute BlueGnome's products in China. Based in Wuhan, in the eastern part of the country and a short flight to Shanghai, Shishou claims on its website to have "long-term stable business relationships with large- and medium-sized gynecological and obstetric departments in domestic hospitals and reproductive medicine centers."

Shishou currently distributes products for Bloomington, Ind.-based healthcare device provider Cook Medical.

BlueGnome's Haan said that identifying a Chinese distributor was "reasonably straightforward" for the firm considering BlueGnome's focus on "developing the 24sure business" and Shishou's connections to reproductive medicine centers.

As a result, 24sure would seem like BlueGnome's flagship offering in China, said Hann, adding that all of BlueGnome's products should find a market in the country.

"We are optimistic about CytoChip Oligo for postnatal work, CytoChip Cancer for cancer work, and 24sure," Haan said. "There is no platform that will be the most popular. We feel they will all have appeal."

Tony Gordon, director of 24sure, said in a statement this week that China represents a "substantial market" for the firm's range of technologies. He also said that BlueGnome has been working with Shishou to "develop closer links with investigators in China" and announced the first shipments of BlueGnome's products into that country.

Other array firms selling chips for cytogenetic research have also sought to stake a claim in China. In November, Roche NimbleGen established a diagnostics-focused partnership with Beijing-based CapitalBio (BAN 11/16/2010) and Agilent Technologies in recent quarters has cited strong sales performance in China (BAN 8/17/2010).

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