Jivan Biologics, the Berkeley, Calif.-based array company that ran afoul of Agilent Technologies in June for reselling chips manufactured by Agilent without its express permission, has resolved its issues with the life sciences giant and plans to co-release a new splice array in coming weeks, according to a company official.
Jivan spokesperson Jonathan Bingham told BioArray News last week that the company has "successfully resolved all of the details with Agilent" and has the right to resell arrays manufactured by Agilent with Jivan's splice variant array content through Agilent's Shared Microarray Consortium program.
The program, which was launched earlier this year, allows companies to retain IP rights and financial rewards for chips manufactured on the Agilent platform. It also enables rival firms like ExonHit Therapeutics to design their own chips on Agilent's platform and then make them available to customers through a service, although Agilent recently signed an agreement to distribute ExonHit-designed splice arrays worldwide (see story, this issue).
Although Jivan was a member of the consortium prior to its June product launch, confusion arose between the company and Agilent after Agilent learned that Jivan was reselling the arrays, instead of making them available to users through a service.
John Jaskowiak, manager of Agilent's certified service provider program, told BioArray News in June that he was "not aware that [Jivan had] specific rights to sell actual arrays" and that while Agilent had "a custom microarray supply and services agreement in place to manufacture microarray designs for Jivan Biologics," the company needed to engage the firm to better understand their new business model.
"We believe we are on the right track for this, selling catalog products focused on content and optionally adding services for people who prefer that."
Jaskowiak could not be reached to comment on issues concerning Jivan for this article, but Stuart Matlow, a spokesperson for Agilent, confirmed that the previous issue with Jivan has been resolved.
"Our agreement is that Jivan arrays are being sold through Agilent's Shared Microarray Program," Matlow said last week.
In an interview in June, Bingham had said that the issue with Agilent boiled down to "semantics" and last week he said that Jivan had not signed any new paperwork with Agilent since it launched its products.
Evolving Business Model
Agilent's confusion over Jivan's new business model may have been easy to resolve, but it was not unfounded.
For five years, Jivan had operated primarily under a service model, where it had been making some of its splice variant arrays available through a service on TeleChem International's ArrayIt platform, performing the experiments and data analysis for its customers, according to Bingham.
Then in early June the company launched 14 distinct splice variant arrays, all commercially available through its website. "We saw no reason to hold back," Bingham said of the decision to release all of its arrays at once. "We have been working on this stuff for four years."
Included in Jivan's June launch were gene family-specific splice arrays for G-protein coupled receptors, ion channels, kinases, phosphodiesterases, cytochrome p450, phosphatases, proteases and proteinases, ATP-binding cassette transporters, and solute carriers.
In addition, Jivan launched its TransExpress Whole Spliceome Array, which the company claims will enable researchers to study splice variants across the human genome; the TransExpress Toxicology, a splice variant chip for use in toxicological studies; the TransExpress Cell Surface, for cell signaling; and the TransExpress Whole Blood, which covers splice variants for the 2,000 genes that are expressed in blood, and will be useful for identifying clinical biomarkers, Bingham said in June.
Last week, Bingham told BioArray News that another splice variant array for researchers working in oncology will most likely be released in coming weeks.
He said that ideally users would work with the Whole Spliceome Array, but since the content of that array is actually spread out across four separate chips, it made sense to make oncology-relevent splice variant probes available on one chip.
He also said that Agilent is "preparing to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities," and that a newer version of the Whole Spliceome Array would likely be available on only one chip in the future.
Jivan has also expanded its service option to include a recently announced partnership with Mogene, a St. Louis-based Agilent Certified Service Provider that will perform sample preparation, hybridization, scanning, feature extraction, and data analysis for Jivan customers that do not wish to purchase the catalog arrays, according to Bingham.
Bingham said that similar agreements with service providers may be announced in coming months, but declined to name any future partners.
He said that Jivan is comfortable with its new business model and does not expect to dramatically change -- by adding to its salesforce, for example -- in the near future.
"We believe we are on the right track for this, selling catalog products focused on content and optionally adding services for people who prefer that," Bingham said.
Bingham also praised Agilent for "recognizing that content matters" by allowing external firms to commercialize arrays on its platform.
Bingham said that in the past the quality of arrays was generally assessed based on the manufacturer.
"It was about the Affymetrix-manufactured product versus the Agilent-manufactured product versus NimbleGen versus GE [Healthcare] and so on," he explained.
"What Agilent has done is recognize that content matters, and to create this format so that customers and researchers and companies can actually come up with content that customers value," he said.
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])