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Hitachi Software Engineering Introduces AceGene 30K Human Chip for Japan Market

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Last week, Hitachi Software Engineering of Japan announced the development of a DNA microarray product, the AceGene Human Oligo Chip. The product contains a complete representation of the human genome on three chips, and will be marketed through Hitachi Software and its subsidiary, DNA Chip Research.

The chip set includes 30,000 oligos and will sell for $481, DNA Chip Research said in a statement on its website.

The probes are designed by computer with a proprietary database developed by the two firms.

Hitachi, which is also developing mouse and rat arrays, in addition to a yeast chip it has marketed since 1999, is hoping to reach $16 million in annual sales within three years in this key Asian market. The chip is intended only for sale in the Japanese market because of patent issues, said Don Fourby, microarray product manager for MiraiBio of Alameda, Calif., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi Software.

“We won’t be able to sell it here, unfortunately,” Fourby said.

The Hitachi announcement presages the Jan. 1, 2003 Japanese market entry of Affymetrix, whose patent portfolio has created an almost impenetrable wall of IP around its high performance, semiconductor-model technology. Affymetrix, which has marketed its arrays in Japan under a distribution agreement with the Japanese unit of UK-based Amersham Biosciences, will sell directly through a wholly-owned subsidiary, competing against Amersham and Hitachi at the high-density end, and against companies like Toshiba, Mitsubishi Rayon, and Takara Bio, a spinoff from liquor supply giant Takara Shuzo, — at the low-density end.

Hitachi made its initial foray into the microarray market with its SPBIO microarray spotting station in July 2000. In May, the company released its next generation spotting system, the SPBIO II.

The company’s effort in microarrays is conducted among many lines.

DNA Chip Research is an affiliate of Hitachi that integrates the company’s three biochip research efforts (Yokohama, Chiba, and Nara) into a single organization.

Hitachi established a life science group in 1999, offering genetic analysis and other services to Japanese pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The firm sells gene analysis software through subsidiary Hitachi Software Engineering. Hitachi has sold its microarray products at prices between a third and a quarter less expensive than those made by Affymetrix, according to GaijinInvestor.com, a Japanese biotechnology investment advice website.

— MOK

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