Two weeks after it sold an internally developed protein chip platform to GenTel Biosciences, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to couple certain of its kinase inhibitors with Procognia’s protein array platform, enabling Procognia to sell label-free kinase-screening arrays.
Procognia also announced that in coming weeks it will begin selling a product that contains all known human kinases and uses GSK's inhibitors.
According to Andy Sutcliffe, a sales development manager at Procognia, the agreement gives Procognia access to GSK's fluorescently labeled broad-specificity kinase inhibitors. When the broad-specificity fluorescent ligands are attached to Procognia's existing protein arrays, it creates a product that can perform label-free kinase screening. It is this technology that Prognia said it plans to market.
"It means that if you then come in with [an] unlabeled molecule — say, your compound of interest — and you apply that to the array it will displace the fluorescent molecule,” Sutcliffe told BioArray News this week. “So this is actually a label-free technology."
"That's very applicable to companies like GSK that do a huge number of kinase-screening programs. It enables pharmaceutical companies to use these arrays in-house, rather than outsourcing their kinase screens," he said.
The first product available using the combined GSK-Procognia technology will be Procognia's human Kinome 2.0 Plus Compound Profiling Kit. The kit will include 336 proteins, 305 of which are human kinases with the rest comprising splice variants or kinase-associated proteins.
GSK will be an initial customer and will use Procognia's arrays in-house to profile its kinase hits. In addition, the companies will work together to assess where GSK may integrate Procognia’s protein array technology into its screening process, Sutcliffe said.
"This is a consumable item and will be produced as a catalog array for anyone to use," Sutcliffe said. "This collaboration is an R&D collaboration. Procognia can use GSK's broad-specificity fluorescent ligands which we can use within our products and which we can then sell to all of our customers around the world."
Procognia has been developing its kinase panel over the last 15 months, the company said in a statement.
The firm currently sells a glycoprotein array through a partnership with Qiagen, and produces pathway-specific human antibody chips through its collaboration with Sigma-Aldrich. Sigma also sells an earlier version of Procognia's kinase array as the Panorama Human Kinase Version 1 Array.
Pharma Grows the Market
GSK's decision to partner with Procognia comes as some vendors say pharmas are increasingly finding protein arrays attractive.
For instance, Invitrogen has been working closely with its pharmaceutical clients to upgrade its ProtoArray product. "We have seen an overall increase in interest from pharmaceutical and biotech companies to incorporate [our] technology platforms into their target identification and lead optimization processes," spokesperson Eric Endicott told BioArray News in an e-mail this week.
He said Invitrogen has recently collaborated with “two large pharmaceutical companies” in the areas of small-molecule protein profiling and kinase-inhibition assays using its ProtoArray protein microarray technology.
Invitrogen will also be one of Procognia's main competitors in the market. Endicott claimed that the firm's Human ProtoArray contains the "highest kinome content commercially available with 378 full-length human kinases," and that the firm plans to add more kinases to future versions of its protein microarrays.
"We have seen an overall increase in interest from pharmaceutical and biotech companies to incorporate [our] technology platforms into their target identification and lead optimization processes."
Procognia’s Sutcliffe said that the fact that its kinase arrays would be label-free would give it an advantage over competitors like Invitrogen. "For this product there are actually no direct competitors. There's no other company that does label-free kinase screening on protein arrays," he said
Shedding One Protein-Array Asset, Partnering With Another
GSK's decision to partner with Procognia came a few weeks after it decided to sell an internally developed protein chip platform to GenTel Biosciences, a Madison, Wisc.-based protein array vendor (see BAN 3/13/2007).
Robert Negm, GenTel’s vice president of business development, told BioArray News at the time of the divestiture that the GSK deal includes personnel, instrumentation, intellectual property rights, and four multiplex immunoassays developed and validated at GSK: a chip for human cytokines, a chip for mouse cytokines, a metabolic chip, and a matrix metalloproteinase chip. GenTel currently does not offer a kinase chip.
This week Negm said that GSK’s recent actions coincide with an increased “willingness of big pharma to purchase services from protein microarray companies” that has increased over the last three years.
Outsourcing to companies like GenTel or Procognia “demonstrates how drug developers prioritize delivering drugs to the market over initiatives to build cutting-edge life science tools,” Negm said. “The decision to select a preferred protein microarray service provider comes down to assay performance, specifically reproducibility, but more importantly is trust in the relationship and the flexbility or easiness to work well together.”
According to GenTel, GSK remains an important customer. Paul Domanico, a former GSK scientist who oversaw the creation of the platform sold to GenTel, told BioArray News in an e-mail earlier this month that he wasn't surprised that GSK decided to sell the platform to GenTel as it was outside the scope of its main focus as a drug maker.
“For almost every technology my department created, the exit strategy was either to license it to another company or to spin it out into a new company,” he wrote. Domanico currently works as a consultant.