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CombiMatrix Joins CGH Space with Array Genomics Deal to Develop Retardation Dx; CGH IVDs on Deck

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CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics this week entered the array comparative genomic hybridization market by announcing an agreement to manufacture array CGH-based tests for Array Genomics, and appointing as chief scientific officer a former Quest Diagnostics official with expertise in array CGH.

CMDX, a subsidiary of Acacia Research's CombiMatrix group, will now join a market that includes competition from Spectral Genomics, Signature Genomic Laboratories, NimbleGen, Agilent Technologies, Oxford Gene Technology, and others.

The company said this week that it has signed an agreement with Paris-based Array Genomics to co-develop and co-market a series of comparative genomic hybridization microarrays for diagnosing genetic anomalies associated with mental retardation. CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics will manufacture the arrays in the US, and Array Genomics will distribute them in Europe, according to the company.

The arrays, which are expected to begin generating revenue for both companies "within the next several weeks," could identify chromosomal imbalances linked to developmental disorders more quickly and definitively than conventional cytogenetic approaches, CMDX said.

Though CMDX has access to CombiMatrix oligo microarray technology, Matthew Watson, CEO of CMDX, told BioArray News this week that, for the time being, the company will print bacterial artificial chromosome clones on glass slides for the tests developed with Array Genomics.

"We will print the BACs directly onto a glass slide and they can be read using an Axon scanner or similar device," Watson said. He said CMDX has plans to combine array CGH with CombiMatrix's platform in the future. "We intend to combine the two technologies in a very innovative way. I can't comment on the specifics, but we are confident the two technologies together will create a very powerful research tool," he said.

Watson said in this week's statement that the company will also offer molecular diagnostic testing services based on CGH and gene expression profiling at its Irvine, Calif.-based clinical laboratory, and that it will also file "a number" of its tests with the US Food and Drug Administration for approval to market them within the US as in vitro diagnostics.

"We expect the CGH product line to play a prominent role in our clinical laboratory, once we receive CLIA certification," Watson said. "Over time we anticipate offering a broad menu of 'home brew' CGH clinical tests in the areas of pre and post natal genetics, oncology, and infectious diseases," he said.

To build the array CGH offering, CMDX has also appointed Mansoor Mohammed, previously director of the Advanced Technologies and Genomics program at Quest Diagnostics, to the position of chief scientific officer. Mohammed has also joined the company's board of directors (see People).

Mohammed stressed in a statement that he saw potential to combine CombiMatrix's gene expression profiling expertise with array CGH. "By bringing the two technologies together under one roof we will be able to provide our customers comprehensive, full-spectrum genomic analysis," he said.

CMDX has said in the past that it expects CLIA certification sometime this quarter. The company has also rolled out diagnostic tests for bird flu as well as an oncology project with the University of California, Los Angeles, since it was founded by CombiMatrix in May 2005 (see BAN 12/14/2005, BAN 5/11/2005).

— Justin Petrone ([email protected])

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