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Life Bioscience Enters 'Competitive' Slide Market with 3D Glass Microarrays


By Justin Petrone

Life Bioscience, a three-year-old startup based in Albuquerque, NM, last week launched a menu of slides to meet the needs of the growing protein array market.

Tim Foster, vice president of marketing and sales at LBSI, said that the firm's new Oracle 3D glass nanowell microarray substrates are targeted towards customers that use protein arrays for research, in drug discovery, and, potentially, in the clinic.

"We produce reproducible nanowells on the surfaces of our substrates," Foster said. "You don’t get spillover from the spot; it's very uniform," he said. "This is a very repeatable array, and you get much more reproducible results than what you get on another slide," he added.

Foster spoke with BioArray News during Select Biosciences' Microarray World Congress, held last week in South San Francisco, Calif. LBSI exhibited at the conference.

Like Corning, Schott, and other slide makers, LBSI's expertise is in making glass. Its menu of substrates features hydrophilic 3D surface topography. The substrates are available in covalent, direct adsorption, epoxy, and custom-formatted arrays. Each slide contains 3,600 nanowells etched into the surface. The rounded wells are 300 microns in diameter and 25 microns deep, Foster said.

According to LBSI's website, its Oracle slides are compatible with high-throughput printing and scanning systems. Additionally, higher-throughput slides are in development. LBSI forecasts making eventually 250,000 nanowells on a single slide.

Because the surface of the bottom of the nanowell is hydrophilic, while the surface of the glass itself is hydrophobic, Foster said that LBSI customers can control the 3D surface topography. "It gives us many more binding sites in that well than a planar surface," he said.

While LBSI's etched nanowells differentiate it from other slide sellers in the market, its Oracle arrays compete against a number of 3D surfaces sold by firms like Schott, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Grace Bio Labs, Gentel Biosciences, SurModics, and others for use in proteomic applications.

Many of these 3D slides are coated with nitrocellulose to maximize the bonding of proteins and other biomolecules to the array surface. Foster, though, was critical of other vendors' slides.

"That coating is not very repeatable," he said of rivals' planar nitrocellulose slides. "When you spot it, you get spots that are different sizes and shapes. When you go to read them, it's not very consistent," he said. Foster noted, though, that LBSI can put nitrocellulose in its nanowells too if customers request it.

Despite the alleged shortcomings of nitrocellulose slides, Thermo Fisher Scientific is seeing growth in demand for these substrates, according to Cyndi Smith, the firm's microarray sales and marketing account manager.

Smith told BioArray News that Thermo's substrate customers include "universities, companies — anyone who's doing protein arrays that need a high-capacity slide." Thermo also exhibited at the Microarray World Congress last week to push the latest addition to its menu: SuperChip Advance, a thick, 3D nitrocellulose slide.

"All the problems people associate with nitrocellulose are from the idea that fluorescence is too high," Smith said. SuperChip Advance is "about four to 10 times [thicker] than anything that is on the market right now," she claimed, though BioArray News could not independently verify her statement.

One advantage that firms like Thermo, Schott, or Corning might have over LBSI is their sales and distribution muscle. Thermo, for example, is based in Waltham, Mass., and commands sales forces on every continent, making it a formidable competitor for a relative newcomer like LBSI.

Foster, though, dismissed the strength of the competition LBSI faces. "It's competitive. There are a lot of people in the market, but that's because there are a lot of people buying microarray slides," he said.

According to Foster, LBSI is also trying to attract potential partners with competitive global sales and marketing resources in place that could sell its slides together with their own content.

"We would like them to use our glass and our formats to sell [content] to their customers," Foster said. "We are trying to get them to use our slide as part of their platform," he said. "We want the guys who are already selling slides to try our glass."

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