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CombiMatrix Signs a Co-Marketing Deal With Axon as its new 10K Chip Waits in Wings


While it has not set a date for the release of its next-generation microarray product, CombiMatrix, the Mulkiteo, Wash.-based life-sciences unit of Acacia Research, appears to be prepping for the launch of its 10,000-plus probe CustomArray product.

On Monday, the firm announced a co-marketing arrangement with Axon Instruments, which manufactures the widely distributed GenePix fluorescence scanner used for microarray imaging.

The agreement is non-exclusive and financial details were not disclosed in company’s statement.

This agreement, and the May 19 announcement of the hiring of Michael Tognotti, 30, from Illumina as CombiMatrix director of sales for the CustomArray line, points to increasing momentum for the product line.

A company spokesman told BioArray News that CombiMatrix is not ready to announce a rollout date for the 10,000 probe microarray product, which is aimed at the mid- to low-density microarray market, providing a customizable chip product at a competitive price point, the company said. Pricing, however, has not been announced.

For at least the first nine years of its existence, CombiMatrix positioned itself as a research and development outfit, creating partnerships to design products using its semiconductor-based electronic-microarray technology, and leaving the selling to others.

The company recently completed one such deal with Roche Diagnostics, a project implemented in 2001 to design proprietary instruments for fabricating custom microarrays that Roche will sell under the MatrixArray brand. While the deal was completed in 2003, and CombiMatrix earned some $25 million for its work, Roche has yet to release the product, telling BioArray News in November that it was delaying the launch of the platform indefinitely, and taking a “deliberate approach” to any entry into the market for custom microarrays.

CombiMatrix is taking a bit more energetic approach in its first product marketing campaign. The company in March (see BAN 3/3/2004) introduced the CustomArray 902, a 1-inch by 3-inch customizable array with approximately 1,000 sites for in situ synthesized oligonucleotides, which is selling for approximately $400.

The 1,000-probe array product is available for purchase individually. Buyers send probe information to the company, which then fabricates the array on an instrument that it may also sell one day, and returns it to the customer.

The next-generation microarray product will have nearly 13,000 sites for the in situ synthesis of oligonucleotides, ranging from 30 to 70 bases in length.

The CombiMatrix arrays are manufactured to the de facto standard 1-inch by 3-inch microscope slide format that can be read on scanners such as those manufactured by Axon, Agilent, and PerkinElmer.

At this point, CombiMatrix’s product offering appears headed for the same market niche as NimbleGen Sytems of Madison, Wis., which uses a mirror-based photolithographic process for manufacturing custom arrays, which it sells as a service business.

Others are headed in that direction too. Recently, life sciences conglomerate Invitrogen purchased the assets of struggling Xeotron of Houston, Texas, a venture-capital-backed firm developing a microarray manufacturing process based on a similar type of mirror photolithography technology used by NimbleGen (see BAN 5/26/04).

In the UK, Edwin Southern, who is regarded as the patriarch of the in situ deposition techniques used by the microarray mass manufacturing giants Affymetrix, Agilent Technologies, and the CodeLink line of microarrays of GE Healthcare, is backing Oxamer, a startup company that will use an electrochemical process to manufacture microarrays (see BAN 2/18/2004).


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