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France’s Innopsys Debuts InnoScan 900 Amidst Flurry of Next-Gen Scanner Launches

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Innopsys this month will launch a new microarray scanner to meet the needs for higher-resolution imaging of the high-density chips recently released by Agilent Technologies and Roche NimbleGen, according to the Carbonne, France-based firm’s CEO.
 
Stephane Le Brun told BioArray News last week that Innopsys is set to debut the InnoScan 900, a 1-micron resolution system that is the first new system launched by the company since it rolled out the InnoScan 700, a 3-micron resolution system, in 2006.
 
“We can see a lot of demand for those new scanners due to the new interest for slides from NimbleGen or Agilent, for instance,” he said. “There are other applications, like cell imaging for example, where people need a 1-micron resolution and the capability to scan all [of a] a slide in one run, which is not possible with a classical microscope.”
 
The product launch comes at a time when other tool vendors are looking to address the market for high-resolution scanning. Both Tecan and MDS Analytical Technologies, for example, have pledged to begin shipment of next-generation scanners by the third quarter (see BAN 5/13/2008).
 
Specifically, Tecan will launch a 2-micron resolution system called the PowerScanner by September, while MDS has announced that its 2.5-micron resolution Axon GenePix 4400A will be available next month. Le Brun said that Innopsys’ new system, however, will come to the market with the advantage of having slightly higher resolution, a benefit, he claims, of the company’s background.
 
We are people coming from the CD and DVD market, specialists in optical systems and high-precision motorization stages,” he said. “Technically speaking, we have a high numerical aperture system, and we read in a real confocal mode to maximize signal-to-noise ratio,” said Le Brun. “To achieve that, we use a dynamic autofocus system, to be sure not to lose the optical imaging between the laser, the fluorescence content, and the detectors.”
 
Innopsys entered the market for scanners through a development partnership with French diagnostics company, BioMérieux, which ran from 2001 to 2005. During the partnership with BioMérieux, Innopsys developed a custom high-resolution system for scanning Affymetrix arrays called LightScan. The LightScan development work resulted in the commercialization of two systems, the InnoScan 700 and now the InnoScan 900.
 
“The main specification of the work for BioMérieux was already the resolution,” Le Brun said. “We knew, years ago, that we were high-resolution ready, but we decided not to go that far for the 700 system,” he said.
 
“The first goal for us with InnoScan 700 in 2006 was to increase the speed,” Le Brun said. “The InnoScan 900 is our second step to construct the InnoScan family; we are now able to read with high resolution and high speed at the same time.”
 

“We further believe that going to higher resolution will cause an undue burden upon users, as they would be required to purchase extremely cumbersome computational systems to handle the very large image files.”

The main difference between the two systems is the resolution, according to LeBrun. Like the 700, the 900 scans one slide at a time, but is available with an autoloader. Customers that purchase the 900AL are able to scan 24 slides in one run.
 
The higher-resolution capabilities come with a higher price tag. While the InnoScan 700 system costs €35,000 ($54,600), the InnoScan 900 costs €65,000. The 900AL version costs €85,000. That makes it price competitive with Tecan’s PowerScanner, which will cost around €90,000 and MDS’ 4400A, which could cost between $100,000 and $120,000.
 
Each scanner is delivered with three licenses of Innopsys’ internally developed Mapix software for use on Linux, Windows, and Windows 64-bit systems. “For managing big files with this resolution, it is best to use the Windows 64-bit operating system, as the image size is about 5.7 gigabytes,” Le Brun said.
 
He said that the version of Mapix being launched with the InnoScan 900 will contain new features, such as a batch scan mode and plug-in capabilities that will allow users to import plug-in features designed in Java into Mapix.
 
“This function will be useful for a company making diagnostics tests,” he said. “If you want the end-user not to see all the steps – scanning, spot recognition, et cetera — then you can develop a plug-in and the end-user will only see the scan or a PDF file with the only thing that really counts for him, his biological result.” 
 
Le Brun said that Innopsys is mainly represented in Europe through distributors, though the firm has distributors in Japan, China, Israel, Korea, and in the US. However, the American market is particularly hard for the French firm to crack, given the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro. However, Le Brun expressed hope that Innopsys’s new high-resolution system will garner attention among prospective US customers. 
 
Sizing Up the Market
 
Innopsys is later to the market than rivals like Tecan and MDS, whose previous systems were launched in 2004 and 2003, respectively. Still, the company is attracting attention because of its claim of having the highest-resolution scanner on the market. Representatives of both Tecan and MDS cautioned, nevertheless, that the market for next-gen scanners will not be driven by resolution capabilities alone.
 
Ralph Beneke, Tecan’s microarray product manager, told BioArray News last week that because the InnoScan 900 is not yet available, it is hard to compare the PowerScanner with Innopsys’ new system. However, he said that “just smart scanner engineering ... is not sufficient to provide top array results.
 
“It is a solution-engineering approach I see — including optimization of chemistry, protocol, process control, array layout and production, and sophisticated software modules, all in one dedicated to each other — which can make a package really superior to what several stand-alone systems can provide,” he said.
 
Varshal Davé, director of microdissection and microarray marketing at MDS, similarly told BioArray News this week that it is difficult for MDS to compare its 4400A scanner with the new Tecan and Innopsys systems because he has not seen working examples of either system.
 
According to Davé, MDS’ believes its 2.5-micron resolution to be “more than sufficient for the current generation of high-density arrays, as well as anything that might be available within the next year or two.
 
“We further believe that going to higher resolution will cause an undue burden upon users, as they would be required to purchase extremely cumbersome computational systems to handle the very large image files,” he said.
 
Davé explained that even at 2.5-micron-per-pixel resolution, a full slide 2-channel image is almost 600 megabytes, which requires a 64-bit operating system and 16 gigabytes of random access memory. “I think that once customers realize what will be needed to handle images scanned at 1-micron [resolution], they might think twice about what is truly required for the high-density arrays,” he said.

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