Genicon Sciences last week introduced its second product, and reclaimed a share of the North American market from Qiagen, its exclusive sales and distribution partner for resonance light scattering nucleic acid microarray products.
“We wanted to move faster,” Patrick Mallon, CEO of San Diego-based Genicon, told BioArray News. The company, a four-year-old firm, will now co-market self-spotted microarray toolkit products incorporating Genicon’s proprietary technology in North America. The original agreement, announced in August 2001, granted Qiagen an exclusive global license. Qiagen sells the system under the HiLight brand.
“Genicon, as a technology provider, needs the freedom to work in the market to improve the technologies,” said Martin Potgeter, global product manager for microarrays for Netherlands-based Qiagen. “We aren’t competing; we want to try to combine our forces to get quicker access to the US market.”
Qiagen and Genicon Sciences are targeting the self-spotting microarray market with the Two-Color Nucleic Acid Microarray Toolkit, a labeling and detection system, based on resonance light scattering technology.
The system offers the promise of increased sensitivity for smaller sample sizes. It enters a marketplace dominated by Amersham Biosciences, whose CyDye line of fluorescent dyes is widely used by self-spotters. Other entrants in the field include companies such as Quantum Dot of Hayward, Calif., and Nanosphere of Evanston, Ill.
Resonance light scattering technology is a non-fluorescent detection system that utilizes nanoscale-size gold and silver particles to intensely scatter light from a white light source. The characteristics of these particles, including their size, shape, and composition, cause them to scatter light when illuminated so that the specific levels of intensity and differing colors emitted can be easily detected, differentiated, and quantified. As a result, attaching these particles to specific biological content enables analytes to be detected and measured with greater sensitivity and accuracy.
By how much?
“We tell our users that it’s a log [scale] more sensitive,” Mallon said. “It like a telescope that can see the Milky Way; we can see each star, because we know what we are looking for.”
The company says it needs 10-fold less RNA for analysis due to the improved sensitivity of its system.
“You use less and see more genes that are expressed; the signals don’t bleach or fade, and you get stable, reproducible results,” said Mallon.
The company has nearly 50 labs testing the technology, Mallon said. In the Feb. 7, 2003 edition of BioArray News, Edward Wagner, who runs one of these labs at the University of California, Irvine, said the Qiagen system produced results quantitatively comparable to fluorescent analysis while potentially reducing effective costs by as much as a factor of 10.
The toolkit is part of an integrated product line that includes reagents, consumables, analysis software, and a $36,000 reader.
Both Genicon and Qiagen said that the issue in marketing the technology is getting well-entrenched users to switch.
To address that, Genicon will offer researchers a four-week free demo option, Mallon said.
“We think the dual-color system is the right system for the array market,” said Potgeter of Qiagen. “Some will be hesitant to change, but, on the other side, we hope they can see the potential.”
Potgeter said the strategic plan for the system is to have references and data available by the end of the year.
“This is our entry year and we will be prepared to penetrate the market in 2004,” he said.
Genicon is re-positioning its single-color microarray toolkit as a tool for genotyping, Mallon said. The company is also developing a protein-protein interaction system, which is now being alpha tested by Novartis, and is in the final stages of preparing a two-color protein expression system. Both proteomics systems are expected for commercial rollout in the second quarter, Mallon said.
Genicon Sciences has received some $40 million of investment, including a $32 million round in May, 2001.
The company is based on technology developed by former University of California, San Diego, biology professor Juan Yguerabide, who now serves as vice president of discovery for Genicon. The IP was the subject of intense legal wrangling between Yguerabide, UCSD, and another faculty member, and a PhD candidate on whose committee Yguerabide sat. After acrimonious ownership claims and counterclaims were leveled, in 2000, the parties reached a settlement with UCSD receiving joint patent rights on Yguerabide’s invention and then exclusively licensing it to Genicon, which has as well received license to the patents granted to the PhD student and the faculty member.