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Genicon Sciences Partners with Novartis Research Foundation to Develop Protein Chips


Genicon Sciences, the San Diego startup that has lit up headlines recently with deals to develop its Resonance Light Scattering (RLS) probe detection technology, signed on to a protein chip development collaboration with the Novartis Research Foundation last week.

Under the agreement, Genicon will provide RLS technology for use in Novartis’ proteomics array research. While Novartis will be able to use the RLS technology for drug discovery, Genicon will have the right to commercialize murine antibody arrays and protein chip kits based on any chips developed through the multi-year collaboration.

“We view this as the clichÈ win-win situation,” said Patrick Mallon, CEO of Genicon Sciences. “Now we have a whole product area of proteomics and antibody arrays which we didn’t have before, and our R&D expenses are dramatically lower [while] Novartis is saving about $10 million on technology and getting their drug [discovery] up to speed.”

RLS technology involves tiny light scattering particles that preferentially refract certain wavelengths of light. These particles work like chemiluminescent or fluorescent proteins used as chemical labels, but emit a signal that is up to a million times stronger than a fluorescent particle, according to Genicon. Different light scattering particles can be designed to emit specific colors of light.

These particles make protein arrays more sensitive than chemiluminescent labeling methods, said Mallon, and in doing so, allow for smaller volumes of sample to be used on a protein chip. “Most protein arrays are sensitivity-wise able to [detect] as little as ten to fifty picograms per ml,” he said. “Genicon’s RLS is a couple of logs more sensitive, in detecting sub-picogram levels of antibodies.”

Because of this sensitivity, Mallon said the arrays allow for detection of a greater range in protein expression levels. The arrays also can be treated with more than one analyte at a time.

So far, the partners in the collaboration are able to put over 5,000 protein probes on a chip.

This collaboration with Novartis comes after a series of recently-announced deals between Genicon and Qiagen, Kreatech, Pall, and Ventana Medical Systems.

Qiagen has licensed the RLS technology to develop a full microarray platform, and has also recently collaborated with Kreatech to combine RLS with Kreatech’s Universal Labeling System (ULS) labeling technologies into a molecular labeling package.

“The Qiagen agreement was significant in that it ensured us we were in the market and was a distribution and promotion outlet for all of our microarrays, placements, and customer product sales,” Mallon said. “This deal is a little different in that sense that it focuses more towards our ability to partner and exploit the technology on a broader scale.”