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CapitalBio, VigeneTech to Co-market Instruments, Analysis Software as Integrated Array System

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By Justin Petrone

Beijing-based CapitalBio and Carlisle, Mass.-based VigeneTech have partnered to sell CapitalBio's scanners together with VigeneTech's analysis software as an integrated microarray platform, the companies said last week.

Under the terms of the non-exclusive agreement, the firms will recommend that their customers use CapitalBio's LuxScan array scanners with VigeneTech's MicroVigene image analysis suite. While the agreement is intended to cover "diagnostic and high-throughput DNA, protein, antibody, and miRNA array applications," the partners intend to focus the effort on the protein array market.

Financial terms of the deal were not discussed.

The LuxScan is a general-purpose, dual-laser confocal scanner that can read microarrays from a number of different vendors with up to 5-micron-level resolution. MicroVigene is an image- and data-analysis tool that can be used in a variety of research areas as well as clinical and preclinical array applications, the firms said.

CapitalBio currently manufactures and sells a variety of array-related products, including an instrumentation platform with precision microarray spotters, LuxScan scanners, and hybridization stations, as well as a range of high- and low-density spotted arrays and consumables.

The Chinese firm also sells its own microarray analysis software, including software for low-density arrays that are used in areas such as food safety inspection and infectious-disease testing, according to Keith Mitchelson, CapitalBio's vice president of corporate business development and marketing.

Mitchelson told BioArray News in an e-mail this week that some of CapitalBio's clients use arrays manufactured by other vendors or spot their own chips, and need access to data analysis tools that can meet their requirements.

"Our clients … need professional image analysis software to cater [to] the variety of different commercial microarray formats and the flexibility of self-manufactured microarrays [that] some produce with our spotters," Mitchelson said.

"There is also a strong interest for VigeneTech customers in a total solution, where the software is integrated and customized to the microarray scanner," Mitchelson said. He noted that "both research customers and industrial customers" can use LuxScan instruments with MicroVigene software.

As part of its agreement with VigeneTech, CapitalBio will market its scanners together with the MicroVigene suite internationally, Mitchelson said. CapitalBio maintains subsidiaries in San Diego and Hong Kong and has a sales presence in Europe.

VigeneTech, meantime, will take a "major role" in selling the system to North American customers, he said.

"Both companies have already initiated some co-marketing activities in the US and China, presenting the combined solution at several meetings," Mitchelson said. "Our intention is to co-develop a world-leading brand of combined hardware and software [original equipment manufactured] solutions for the protein array market."

David Lynch, vice president of sales and marketing at VigeneTech, said that the firm stands to benefit from CapitalBio's sales muscle. "CapitalBio’s presence in Europe, Asia and the Americas are congruent and complementary with our own growth markets," he told BioArray News.

Protein Array Demand

While partnering with VigeneTech allows CapitalBio to offer its customers software tools for a variety of applications, the firm's protein array clients stand to benefit immediately from the deal, according to Mitchelson.

"The protein array market is emerging rapidly and because of the variety and flexibility of these microarrays a professional hardware-software solution will be warmly received," Mitchelson said.

The agreement is not limited to targeting protein array users, however. "If client demand is forthcoming," CapitalBio may offer MicroVigene analysis of its higher-density arrays for other applications as part of its services, Mitchelson said.

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VigeneTech's Lynch said similarly that the firm has experienced "demand for fully integrated, hardware-software solutions for many customers, particularly in the protein array market."

The MicroVigene suite includes modules for analysis of reverse-phase protein arrays, protein-antibody arrays, and diagnostic protein arrays, according to the firm's website.

"We have many OEM customers that look to our performance and 'one-click' automation as the core image analysis engine for their platforms," Lynch said. "We continue to support and engage in OEM relationships. The intention of both companies is to provide the combined hardware-software solution to protein array customers," he said.

The protein array market has received increasing interest from other companies that sell products to array users. For example, companies such as Oxford Gene Technology, Aushon Biosystems, and Gentel Biosciences this year have closed deals to appeal to this growing market segment (see BAN 3/17/2009).

Vendors who sell scanners and spotters, in particular, have looked to benefit from this growth in demand. "For all the spotter manufacturers, protein arrays have been a great shot in the arm," Duncan Hall, chief commercial officer of UK-based Arrayjet said last year (see BAN 5/13/2008). "There has been a renaissance of spotting because people want to do non-DNA applications and there is not an Affymetrix in the protein space."

CapitalBio and VigeneTech said they envision their combined platform will eventually be used by clinicians. For example, VigeneTech CEO Minzi Ruan said in a statement that the integration of MicroVigene with the LuxScan scanner represents a "complete turn-key system, with the flexibility and extensibility to accommodate any new diagnostic or research microarray applications, and will be a superior platform for deploying diagnostic arrays in the field."

CapitalBio and VigeneTech first signed the integration partnership agreement last year (see BAN 10/14/2008).

Mitchelson said that since signing the agreement, CapitalBio and VigeneTech's development teams have been cooperating to identify mutually beneficial projects. He said that CapitalBio expects that the "current commercialization stage will bring new further realization of the benefits of the partnership to both companies." At the same time, he noted that the relationship between CapitalBio and VigeneTech is still in its "early days."

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