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'Global Expansion' Spurs BlueGnome to Ink Hardware Supply Agreement with SciGene


By Justin Petrone

BlueGnome has penned a supply agreement with SciGene that will give the company an entry into the microarray hardware market and enable it to further secure its global footprint.

Under the terms of the deal, SciGene will manufacture BlueGnome's new range of ClearLab hybridization and wash systems.

Previously, Cambridge, UK-based BlueGnome had recommended SciGene's equipment for use with its arrays for constitutional and cancer cytogenetics and pre-implantation genetic screening.

According to a company official, though, BlueGnome's increased sales to customers in different geographies prompted the firm's decision to directly offer all laboratory equipment associated with microarray processing.

"This is purely down to global expansion," Graham Snudden, the company's vice president of engineering, told BioArray News this week. He said the firm is experiencing "significant growth outside the core European and North American markets," particularly in China, South America, and Africa.

"As microarray technology becomes ubiquitous, we are working with increasing numbers of national and regional centers that are interested in a one-stop solution for all microarray applications: constitutional, cancer, and PGS," Snudden said.

Founded in 2002, BlueGnome has traditionally offered consumables, not hardware. The firm sells its CytoChip ISCA and CytoChip Cancer arrays for constitutional and cancer research, respectively. Both chips are manufactured by Agilent Technologies.

BlueGnome also offers its internally manufactured bacterial artificial chromosome array-based 24sure platform for PGS, and last year founded a company, Sure Laboratories, to further commercialize the technology (BAN 9/7/2010). The company also sells software and fluorescence in situ hybridization probes.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SciGene develops instruments that automate workflows used with microarray-based procedures in research and clinical diagnostic laboratories. These include the ArrayPrep target preparation system, the Mai Tai hybridization system, and the Little Dipper microarray processor.

The instruments will now be available to BlueGnome customers under the brand name ClearLab. Snudden said that the difference for BlueGnome customers who had been buying instruments from SciGene will be that clients will purchase the products as part of a "complete equipment pack to support our protocols."

The protocols have been optimized to run on the ClearLab hardware, he noted. BlueGnome is currently accepting orders for ClearLab products and will begin shipping the new line in August.

Snudden said that the company is ready to help maintain the new line of instruments. "We already provide on-site training and support, especially during the critical startup period," Snudden said. "The ClearLab line will not provide any additional burdens." Instead, a "consistent and known hardware set should reduce issues associated with customers using non-standard hardware."

Starting from Scratch

Privately held BlueGnome does not break out revenue figures, but the company claims to have experienced "significant" growth in recent years. CEO Nick Haan said in a statement that the company has sold products in 39 countries this year, and noted that the firm's customers are "increasingly looking for a complete turnkey solution," including laboratory hardware.

"Time-to-market is a major issue for new laboratories that wish to establish and evolve their microarray-based services," Haan said. "We have long recommended SciGene products as the best available solution for hybridization and washing of our microarrays and are excited to be working with them."

According to Snudden, BlueGnome has "many new customers setting up labs from scratch, who require all the lab equipment recommended in our protocols. In many cases these are in geographies where they don’t have immediate access to the items [or] brands they we recommend so it makes sense for us to supply everything."

In the past, BlueGnome mostly sold microarrays to customers who could repurpose existing lab equipment, said Snudden. As the firm expands into new markets, this has become less common.

"Having all customers on a standard hardware set, right down to the size of a stir bar, is fundamental to ensuring they obtain excellent results from the outset," he added. "This accelerates the delivery of their services and also greatly reduces our support and training commitments."

Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioArray News? Contact the editor at jpetrone [at] genomeweb [.] com