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Conference: Mergen Pushes on Prokaryotes, Ready to Sell Staphylococcus, Haemophilus


Jamie Love, director of business development for San Leandro, Calif.-based Mergen, took the podium of the Strategic Research Institute Biochips conference last week in Iselin, NJ, to roll out the company’s new strategy on microarrays.

Mergen is making a strong pitch to the prokaryote research community, with microarrays based on genomes of Staphylococcus and Haemophilus already in hand and designs for Helicobacter pylori, and Streptococcus in process, Love said.

The company is hoping that customers will like to buy the arrays as part of a service offering, with customers providing RNA up front, and receiving data at the end of the experiments. Love told BioArray News that the company sees a broad opportunity in this type of low- to medium-density arrays.

“It looks like an open field and we are looking for first-mover advantage,” said Love. The company will offer its prokaryotic arrays printed with 45-mer oligonucleotides that should offer better species specificity, as opposed to 30-base probes.

The company will also create microarrays that have more than one set of probes — printing from two to 16 areas per chip with a new multichamber setup.

Meeting, Deep in the Heart of Pharma Country

Mergen’s announcement was one of the few tidbits of new activity to come out of the two-day conference, held on the outskirts of New York City, and deep in an area that some regard as the geographic heart of the pharmaceutical industry in the US. Attendance was as high as 80 people at a time gathered in a banquet room for PowerPoint talks and presentations. A large portion of attendees, according to a posted list, came from the ranks of Johnson & Johnson. And, a large portion of the presentations were much like infomercials for life-sciences wizards. Many companies sent substitute presenters for the published speakers, while others apparently failed to meet deadlines to have copies of their presentations included in the conference workbook. The ambiance was of a catered networking event for vendors and users.

Companies said they felt it important to be there.

“You never know where a sale will come from,” said Xiaolian Gao, chief science officer and a co-founder of the Houston-based startup company Xeotron who also holds appointments as a professor of chemistry, biochemistry, and biophysics at the University of Houston, from which the company spun out. “Getting the message out is important,” she said. She presented on the company’s peptide microarray chips.

Keep an Eye for Sales

“The conference gave a good overview of the industry,” said Andy Carmen, genomic operations manager for J&J Pharmaceuticals R&D. “Companies were able to present themselves and address how they meet the peculiar needs of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Still Early forIndustry

Mel Kronick, chief scientist for Agilent Technologies, subbing for Barney Saunders, vice president and general manager for Agilent’s BioResearch Solutions unit, in a keynote address said the industry now is comparable to where mass spectrometry was some 30 years ago.

“Now, mass spec is a routine tool,” he said. “The same can and will happen with microarrays. But, the industry and technology must evolve to meet the needs of industry beyond research and provide a robust end-to-end solution where you put in a sample at one end, and have data to process at the other.”

Perhaps the next step for Agilent to this goal will be a multiplex array slide, one with eight separate regions on it. Such an eight-pack is under development at Agilent, but is not a product yet, Kronick said.

Lawrence Cohen, vice chairman for Zyomyx, told the conference the company is developing a new human cytokine application for its protein arrays, and is also developing a murine chip, while assessing interest in rat content for its chips.

Other presenters included Amersham Bioscience; Affymetrix,; Millennium Pharmaceuticals; Procter & Gamble; IBM; Ventana Medical Systems; Aventis Pharmaceuticals; Phosphosolutions; Metrigenix; Avalon Pharmaceuticals; Merck Research Labs; Genway Biotech; Schering Plough; Li-Cor Biosciences; Ciphergen Biosystems; Biodiscovery; Partek; Accelr8 Technology; Johnson & Johnson; and CEA.



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