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Linden Bioscience Rolls Out its First Service, Introduces Web-based Oligonucleotide Design

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Linden Bioscience is introducing a new service for designing oligo probes that the company says offer improved sensitivity and specificity for self-spotting microarray users.

The Woburn, Mass.-based group, an operating division of Linden Technology, introduced its web-based Tilia design service at the Molecular Medicine Marketplace conference in Santa Clara, Calif., last week.

The company is charging $10 per each oligo designed and is initially limiting its design to human genes. It uses an algorithm to design oligo probes for target source sequences.

“We priced it at par to get rapid market penetration,” said Bill Neacy, director of sales and marketing for Linden Bioscience.

The offering enters a crowded marketplace. Affymetrix and Agilent offer probe design services. Compugen and Sigma-Aldrich subsidiary Sigma-Genosys have a two-year-old deal to jointly design, manufacture, and market oligonucleotide libraries. There is freeware, shareware, and many flavors of commercially produced software for probe design.

“It’s a fractured market,” said Linden’s Neacy.

Linden is hoping that offering to build a better probe will lead the microarraying world to its doorstep.

The company validated its algorithm in an in-house test where 160 probes were designed by the Tilia technology, a commercial service, and a commercial software program. The Tilia probes produced significantly greater (ANOVA p<.05 signal="" intens-ity="" than="" the="" probes="" designed="" by="" commercial="" service="" and="" software="" program="" company="" said="" in="" a="" technical="" document="" that="" it="" posts="" on="" its="" website="">http://www.lindenbioscience.com/ TILIA.pdf).

Linden’s oligo designs are set by default to 50-mer lengths. Its standard for quality is a minimum number of matches to the UniGene database, meaning better specificity, said Heidi Hoffman, Linden’s director of bioinformatics.

The service will design probes for human genomic research, with other species offerings, such as rat and mouse, dependent on demand, Hoffman said.

Keeping a Grip On Its IP

Linden is holding its scheme tightly to its chest.

The company has no plans to publish its methods in journals, nor to seek patent protection, Neacy said. It will offer its services directly, and through partners.

“We are doing this as a service because of the concern that when the first copy went out the door, no matter how we tried to protect it, it would probably be cracked, the algorithm would be revealed and disseminated, and we would lose value,” Neacy said.

So, the company is targeting academic laboratories, microarray core labs, and smaller biotechnology companies for direct sales of its service; and is looking at creating partnerships with oligo supply firms for co-marketing of the services.

“We are looking at people who don’t have large resources,” Neacy said. “For this, you don’t need a computer, nor a dedicated service.”

Online users can submit files containing ascension numbers, or sequences in Fasta format.

Neacy said the company expects to hit break even on the service quickly.

“We believed that the market was attractive enough to commercialize [Tilia],” he said. “Our role in marketing going forward is to educate and substantiate, saying ‘Hey, start looking at the probes, and start validating them.”

The Company

Linden Technology was founded by Tai-Nang Huang, former president of Shionogi BioResearch, and a Taiwanese native who keeps close ties to its pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. He holds a PhD in organometallic chemistry from Australian National University, a master’s degree in organic chemistry from Göttingen University in Germany, and an undergraduate degree in chemistry from National Taiwan University.

Linden Technology is privately held and backed by a group of Asia-based investors including Taiwan technology companies United Microelectronics Group, Acer, and Solomon Technology; the Fujisawa Venture Fund of Fujisawa Pharmaceutical; the private equity firm TCW/YFY Investment Partners; UOB Venture Management of Singapore; the Taiwan imaging company UMAX; Evergreen Marine of Taiwan; Allied Industrials; SourceOne Venture Fund; and a number of small investors.

— MOK

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