Eight months after Invitrogen took interest in the microRNA array market by launching its NCode multi-species miRNA microarray platform, the company plans to release an updated version of the tool before the end of September.
The new chips are being made available to supply what the company calls "strong growth" in the market for miRNA arrays.
Peter Joszi, senior product manager of epigenetics at Invitrogen, told BioArray News last week that NCode version 2.0 would most likely be launched within three months.
"We are working on a version 2.0 follow-up array to the first [that was] released in November … and that array will likely come out at the end of the summer," he said. Joszi added that three factors drove Invitrogen to begin thinking of a second release: an increase in interest; an increase in new, validated miRNA arrays; and the recent upgrade of the Sanger Center's miRNA database.
"Generally we see strong growth, both through product sales, but also qualitatively you see more and more publications and out and about customer interest in this space, really across all areas of research."
"Generally we see strong growth, both through product sales, but also qualitatively you see more and more publications and out and about customer interest in this space, really across all areas of research," he said.
"MicroRNAs are sort of the flavor of non-coding RNAs that people are interested in right now," Joszi said. "The number of microRNAs continues to increase as well as the general knowledge of how microRNAs exert their functions, how they are processed, so that requires a lot of updates from the array standpoint," Joszi added. He said that interest is coming from researchers studying areas as diverse as neurodegenerative disorders, stem cells, host-pathogen interactions, and cancer.
Invitrogen's NCode version 2.0 chip "will contain more human sequences, rat, and mouse, as well as removing some [probes] that have since been shown to not have been microRNAs," said Joszi.
NCode version 1.0, released last December, is currently printed in duplicate and contains about 330 human microRNAs, with an additional 150 or so human predicted microRNAs, or RNAs that have yet to be validated. The array also contains 250 mouse miRNAs, 200 for rat, 93 for Drosophila, 130 for C. elegans, and 163 for zebrafish, with controls spotted throughout, he said at the time (see BAN 11/16/2005).
Invitrogen has not yet determined pricing for NCode version 2.0, but Joszi said that the price could increase in relation to the amount of content added to the array. Invitrogen currently sells its arrays for $150 apiece or $750 for a five-pack. . "Our goal is to keep the arrays affordable," he said.
Rivals are also seeing a need to update their offerings, and officials from Exiqon and CombiMatrix told BioArray News this week that the release of the Sanger miRNA mirBase version 8.1 this spring had prompted them to introduce new content.
In the case of Exiqon, which launched its miRNA arrays in December 2005, Søren Echwald, the Danish firm's vice president of business development, said that Exiqon's arrays are currently up to version 8.0 of mirBase for human, mouse, and rat, and that it will "within the next two months" release a "new, bigger array holding all mirBase [miRNAs] on one chip, including plants." Exiqon so far has not included plant miRNAs on its arrays.
Separately, Michael Tognotti, vice president of sales and marketing at CMBX, said the company "immediately updated" its miRNA array content following the release of the 8.1 miRNA database.
Investing in miRNA
Invitrogen last month added to its miRNA analysis product line by launching its NCode miRNA Amplification System, a linear amplification system that Joszi claims can enable customers "to profile miRNA expression with much smaller samples than [required] previously."
Joszi said last week that Invitrogen could upgrade its NCode offering in the near future after version 2.0 is launched. "Today, the number of validated miRNAs is considerably small, but we definitely project a growth in that trend," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years if people are surveying miRNAs on high-density arrays," he said.
However, one of the reasons Invitrogen became interested in the miRNA array market was because it is a low-density array market and it felt comfortable competing in it, Joszi said. He said that Invitrogen lacks the capabilities to compete in higher-density array markets, like those for array comparative genomic hybridization or gene expression, which are dominated by Affymetrix, Agilent Technologies, and NimbleGen Systems.
If the rapid growth of validated miRNA content eventually necessitates a high-density array, Joszi said that Invitrogen will "take a look at the competitive landscape, evaluate what type of action would [strengthen its] position, the investment it would require, and go from there."
He added that "the investment in any type of suitable research platform, through licensing or any other approach, requires investment and the decision would not be made in the context of Invitrogen's interest in the miRNA market alone."
In addition to its miRNA array offering, Invitrogen currently sells arrays for proteomics research.
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])