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CapitalBio, Affy Seal Deal in China; Will Launch HLA Typing Service in US

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SAN FRANCISCO — CapitalBio, a Beijing-based microarray vendor with a San Diego subsidiary, has entered into a marketing and licensing agreement with Affymetrix, and will launch a new HLA genotyping service in the US in the next few weeks, a company official told BioArray News.

Separately, in a statement, Affy hinted that the company may also move some of its production to China in the future to "take advantage of CapitalBio's engineering and manufacturing capabilities."

"Other collaborations under discussion include manufacturing certain products in China," the company said.

David Sun, CapitalBio's vice president of marketing and business development, said that after a year of negotiations the Chinese company will now sell its clients in China and Southeast Asia Affymetrix products, in addition to its own brand of microarrays. Sun spoke with BioArray News at the Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference, held here last week.

While there are a variety of estimates on the global market size for microarray scanners, a 2003 report by D'Trends put the market for scanners and arrayers at $254 million.

For CapitalBio, the deal means the company will become one of just two firms licensed to sell Affy products in China. The second is Gene Company, which is based in Shanghai and until now has been Affy's exclusive Chinese distributor.

As part of this alliance, CapitalBio has upgraded its LuxScan 10K microarray scanner to enable researchers to analyze Affy chips as well as its own brand. The original scanner is a dual color confocal instrument that the company launched in the US last March. (see BAN 2/23/2005).

The LuxScan 10K can provide imaging and data analysis for DNA, protein, cell, and tissue arrays, according to the company. The upgraded version will be available globally later this year, Sun said.

According to Sun, the companies' marketing agreement calls for Affy to market the new scanner to its US and European customers while CapitalBio markets the instrument in China and Southeast Asia.

"Affy will market in their territory, and we will market it in our territory," said Sun, who said the partners will share IP and marketing rights.

According to a statement released by Affymetrix this week, the companies planned to "jointly pursue a number of products for research and molecular diagnostics for worldwide markets." Though it did not provide additional details, Affy said the new products may "include additional instrumentation, reagents and services."

Affy President Susan Siegel said the two companies would work together to increase standardization of microarray technology worldwide. "We believe that our partnership will accelerate the growth and standardization of molecular technologies to understand and improve life worldwide," she said. She did not elaborate; calls placed to Affymetrix were not returned.

While CapitalBio markets its scanner as part of its collaboration with Affy, it will also be introducing its second offering to the US market. Sun said the company plans to launch its HLA typing service, which has been available to Chinese users, in the next few months. According the CapitalBio's website, the HLA typing service uses hybridization of sequence specific oligonucleotide probes with up to 20,000 immobilized typing DNA fragments simultaneously. The HLA service is useful for SNP genotyping as well as serological analysis, CapitalBio said.

The company has reported that customers of the HLA typing service in China include blood banks, bone marrow registries, academic researchers, and pharmaceutical companies. The market size for the HLA service in China is still unknown, although some estimates, from companies like Genomics USA, put the US market for HLA typing at roughly $100 million annually.

Currently, US-based customers will be required to send their samples to Beijing for HLA typing, Sun said. However the company may launch the service from its US office in San Diego. "We will do the service in Beijing, but we are thinking of setting up the service in San Diego," Sun said.

Sun said that in China, CapitalBio sells arrays and performs gene-expression services, but offers the service component globally.

"We don't have any IP issues [in China]," he explained. He also said that users of the HLA typing service would have access to Affymetrix technology. "Affy will provide [their products] and we will add Affy chips to our service offering," Sun said.

— JP

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