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GenoSpectra Fuels Fiber Optic Microarray Development with New $20M Financing

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GenoSpectra, a Fremont, Calif., fiber optic microarray startup founded with investments from Affymetrix co-founder Alejandro Zaffaroni, has begun to develop its technology with $20 million raised this fall in a series B financing round.

The company’s technology uses fiber optic strands as mechanisms to deposit oligonucleotides onto microarray slides in a parallel, precise, high-throughput manner, according to Victor Shi, the vice president of corporate development.

“The fiber optic in our platform is used to manufacture DNA microarrays on a standard microscope slide,” Shi said. “The end result is the same as if you did it with a GeneMachines spotter, except for the throughput and the quality that we can deliver.”

Unlike Illumina, of San Diego, the other microarray maker using fiber optics, GenoSpectra is designing its arrays to work on an open system.

“If you use Illumina arrays, the whole system has to be supplied by Illumina,” Shi noted. Of course, there are more obvious differences, namely that Illumina’s arrays are really beads at the end of fiber optic strands.

GenoSpectra is banking on the fact that its technology allows it to spot an entire chip at once rather than spot-by-spot. The other advantage is that the fiber optics allow the company to see what is being put down and perform quality control in real-time, Shi said.

The company plans to use this time-saving technique to make cheaper oligonucleotide arrays, which it plans to sell directly to customers. The company will use presynthesized oligonucleotides and will spot them down on the glass slide. But it has not yet figured out just how cheap these arrays will be, Shi said.

In addition to the DNA arrays, GenoSpectra is also working on developing protein arrays with proteins, and arrays for high-throughput screening of compounds. Given that surface chemistry is important for both DNA and protein arrays, but especially for protein arrays as proteins are “happier” in a three-dimensional surface and tend to non-specifically bind to the surface of the array, the company is working hard on developing robust surface chemistries. “We have a strong group of surface scientists, and internally surface is a big part of our technology platform,” Shi said.

The company hopes to have DNA microarrays ready for commercialization later this year, as well as a prototype protein array and high-throughput screening array.

Meanwhile, Shi said, “We are working with a couple of beta-testing customers to validate the application and look at the different types of products that we have developed.”

GenoSpectra is planning to make a presentation on its work at the Genome Tri-Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., at the end of February.

— MMJ

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