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GE's CodeLink Unit Launches Inflammation Chips; Pipeline Points to More Content in '07

GE Healthcare recently launched a new series of mammalian inflammation bioarrays for human, rat, and mouse as the opening round of a plan to move its CodeLink unit beyond basic expression arrays and into the market for low- to medium-density content-focused chips.
Plans are also underway to introduce metabolism and women’s-health-themed arrays next year.
The launch of the new focused arrays coincides with other developments in the CodeLink portfolio, including a new reagent kit, an upgrade to the iCenter web portal, and an expansion into different multi-assay formats.
The Mammalian Inflammation Multiassay Bioarray 3 Series was released two weeks ago. It comprises three arrays for analyzing variations in RNA expression for genes involved in inflammation response. 
The three arrays contain 30-mer probes for a defined set of genes from either human, mouse, or rat. All are produced in a multi-assay format that enables the processing of 16 samples on a single array slide. GE is targeting the research market for the product.
“Our strategy going forward is essentially to focus on lower- to medium-density custom arrays and theme arrays with predetermined content. The mammalian inflammation bioarray series is the first … in that vein,” Randall Lockner, GE senior scientist, told BioArray News last week. 
Lockner said that GE developed the content for the inflammation arrays with a team of inflammation experts “from leading institutions globally.” Similarly, the company has “also solicited input and collaborative efforts in defining content that would be interesting to researchers studying metabolism, for example in diabetes or lipid metabolism, and women’s health,” Lockner said.
The metabolism and women’s health chips are tentatively scheduled to launch in the first and second quarter of 2007, respectively. According to Lockner, the metabolism chip will be a “catchall” that will package about 1,200 genes into a 16-assay format.
For women’s health, the “idea would be to identify the common genes in breast cancer, cervical cancer, other common cancers and diseases that afflict women and to place that content into a 16-assay format,” Lockner said.
All of the new chips will sell into the research market, but Lockner said that GE sees the potential to groom some of its arrays, particularly its mammalian series and an existing p450 array, for clinical applications. “We would imagine this moving into the clinic in the not so distant future, but not necessarily in ’07,” Lockner said.
GE has hinted at the clinical potential of its p450 array in the past. At the 2005 World Microarray Congress in Vancouver, BC, a CodeLink field specialist said that the company was “going into the diagnostics market” and was engaged in trials connected with seeking US Food and Drug Administration clearance for the p450 array (see BAN 3/23/2005).
Last week Lockner said that the company is considering migrating the content from its p450 bioarray single-assay platform to a 16-assay format and “reintroducing that to the marketplace.”
New Stuff
CodeLink has been steadily adding to its offering since it released a series of custom array chips at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting in Salt Lake City last year. The company launched a web portal for users called iCenter in the fourth quarter of 2005 (see BAN 11/2/2005), and an upgrade to the iCenter site, originally slated for June, should go live this month, Lockner said.
Lockner said that the first generation of the site was developed to provide customers with probe sequence information, and that the upgrade adds more interactive features.
The new version includes tools for custom bioarray design and ordering and enables users to securely submit target sequences and request probe designs.
“Customers can now save probe lists in their own design space to build their own custom bioarrays. They can then submit their design through the web and anticipate follow-up with CodeLink support within two business days,” Lockner explained.
Also hitting the market are the company’s iExpress Reagent Kit and its Expression Analysis Software 5.0.  According to Lockner, the new kit contains “all of the reagents that previously were purchased separately by the end user and then assembled at their site to execute the protocol.”

“We would imagine this moving into the clinic in the not so distant future, but not necessarily in ’07.”

Now, Lockner said, “everything is in one streamlined kit,” including components and reagents for cDNA and cRNA purification, as well as for fragmentation, hybridization, and labeling. “The only thing that is not in the kit is the streptavidin cy5 conjugate for the actual labeling step and that is still available from us,” he added.
The new software’s “most salient new feature” is a subset probe normalization capability, Lockner said. The new software is an upgrade for customers who have purchased the software within the last year or as a new package for older customers.
CodeLink is also working on expanding its assay format capabilities beyond its current single-assay and 16-assay formats. Lockner said that in the coming months GE will launch a two-assay array that “bifurcates the slide and provides the capability of placing up to 30,000 probes in each array.”
Lockner said that the company is targeting the format at customers who want “to define their own 30,000 ‘favorite’ genes and have probes for those in a two-assay format.” The two-assay array should offer lower cost per sample, he added.

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