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China s CapitalBio to Enter Global Microarray Tools Market with LuxScan Scanner Launch

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San Diego — CapitalBio, a Chinese biotech tools company, will launch its first microarray-related product in the North American, European, and Asian markets this year, according to Weiping Yang, the company’s senior vice president of proteomics.

Yang told participants at the Clinical Genomics conference here last week that CapitalBio’s first product to be marketed outside of China would be its LuxScan 10K Confocal Scanner. Yang added that the scanner, available with a supplemental software package, will not only compete with similar instruments on the market qualitatively, but will also be “competitively priced.”

“It will be very comparative to others in the United States,” Yang said of its price, “but maybe just a little lower.”

The release marks the first significant entry of a Chinese company into the US microarray market, and CapitalBio’s commitment to an affordable price may have an impact on the cost of microarray-relevant technologies in the future.

Yang, who would not disclose the market price of the LuxScan Scanner, said only that “the price will be competitive.” He said that CapitalBio’s target consumers will be researchers working in clinical diagnostics, which has been the largest market for its current products in China. The scanner was chosen to introduce CapitalBio outside of China because it is its “most mature product,” he said.

Yang said the scanner would be “battle tested” by its distributors before it would be formally released.

By releasing affordable instruments to the US, CapitalBio is fulfilling part of its mission statement, Yang said.

“We want to provide affordable systems. Our goal is that every scientist that wants [a scanner] can get one and put it on their bench,” he said.

The LuxScan scanner has already been released in China, he said, and would be provided to American, European, and Asian customers through several subsidiaries. One of these will be San Diego-based Aviva Biosciences, which Yang co-founded and led as CEO from 2001 until he joined CapitalBio in April 2004 (See BAN 06/22/2001).

The company also has two other subsidiaries based in China — Chipscreen Biosciences in Shenzhen and Wandong Medical Equipment in Beijing. According to CapitalBio, it established Aviva and Chipscreen with the interest of distributing its technologies, while it acquired Wandong for similar purposes.

According to Yang, CapitalBio’s ownership is entirely Chinese, and it was initially funded with $46.8 million from primary investors evenly split between universities and private medical, pharmaceutical, and technology corporations (See BAN 06/22/2001).

Some of its major investors include Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Huazhong University. Tsinghua University also has invested in Aviva Biosciences in the past.

The four year-old company has approximately 300 employees and operates out of a new, 260,000 square-foot research and design facility in Beijing.

Yang said that while there are three or four other Chinese corporations dealing in microarray technologies, CapitalBio is the only one that is currently capable of providing its instruments abroad.

More Offerings To Follow

The LuxScan 10K Confocal Scanner is only the beginning of a line of technologies CapitalBio wishes to make available globally.

Yang said that another technology CapitalBio is interested in introducing to the US market is its own lab-on-chip product, similar to PCR-based lab-on-chip technologies like Agilent Technologies’ 5100 Bioanalyzer and Caliper’s 90 Lab-on-chip.

However, Yang said that CapitalBio’s lab-on-chip would not only be capable of PCR-based testing, like the American products, but also would have a separate, built- in, microarray-based assay compartment.

CapitalBio has already introduced a variety of microarray-related technologies to the Chinese market, including its SmartArrayer, a microarray printer, and others.

The company’s array catalogue is composed of mouse, rat, and yeast arrays, as well as human oligo and cDNA libraries. CapitalBio offers an HLA typing service and claims a variety of chips under development, including an infectious disease gene chip, a drug resistance bacterial gene chip, a cancer gene chip, and a non-invasive fetal diagnostic gene chip.

The Chinese biotech firm also has been racking up US intellectual property rights. The company received a patent in March 2004 for “an integrated microarray device as well as a temperature controller” (See BAN 03/10/2004). According to its website, the company holds the US rights to four other microarray-based technologies.

With a growing IP portfolio and its first product about to become commercially available in the United States, CapitalBio is now angling to see if its affordable tools will have any US or European takers.

According to Yang, the LuxScan will be available in Europe, and throughout Asia in “a few months.” He would only disclose that the instrument would be available in the US by the end of 2005.

— JP

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