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Looking to Grow Services, Catalog Biz, OGT Inks OEM, Service Provider Deal with Agilent

For the second time in two weeks, UK-based Oxford Gene Technology has signed a major cooperative agreement with a US-based array vendor in an effort to expand its custom services business and beef up its array density and manufacturing capabilities.
OGT and Agilent Technologies have signed an agreement that gives OGT access to Agilent’s microarray platform, appoints Agilent as an original equipment manufacturer for OGT-designed catalog microarrays, and certifies OGT as a provider of Agilent services.
In addition, the companies said they hope to pool OGT’s experience in custom microarray design and data analysis with Agilent’s microarray tools — including its 2100 Bioanalyzer and GeneSpring software suite — to jointly develop a microarray “center of excellence.” The center will target “emerging” microarray applications including comparative genomic hybridization, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip, methylation, and microRNA studies.
Taking advantage of Agilent’s microarray manufacturing capabilities, OGT will also introduce higher-density versions of its catalog arrays, including its Chip2 prokaryotic ChIP-on-chip products.
The deal comes a week after OGT signed an agreement to license its oligonucleotide array patents to NimbleGen while gaining access to NimbleGen’s high-density array technology for use in its services business (see BAN 1/9/2007).
According to James Clough, commercial director at OGT, both the Agilent and NimbleGen agreements are part of an ongoing strategy to provide OGT customers with higher-density arrays. However, Clough said that a fundamental difference in the agreements is Agilent’s role as an OEM manufacturer for OGT’s catalog arrays.
“From the NimbleGen agreement we’ve now got access to NimbleGen’s high-density arrays in our services business,” Clough told BioArray News this week. “What we are looking to do within our services [business] is use whatever is the appropriate density for the project that we are undertaking at that time,” he said.
The Agilent agreement will provide higher-density arrays for OGT’s catalog arrays as well as its services business.
Clough explained that OGT’s arrays were previously limited to 22,000 features, and that the Agilent OEM agreement will enable the company to reintroduce some of its existing catalog arrays at higher density in coming months.
“The high-density formats available from Agilent allow us to increase the performance of the product where higher density is more beneficial, and with the formats that Agilent is coming out with, like the four-44K subarray format, we can make it more cost efficient for the customers,” he added.
According to Yvonne Linney, general manager of Agilent’s genomics business, the OEM side of the OGT deal will benefit Agilent because it will force the firm to test its manufacturing capacity. Agilent currently has OEM deals with other array companies like ExonHit Therapeutics and Jivan Biologics.
“Partnerships like the one with OGT … help us push our manufacturing volume upwards and it helps our economy of scale. By making technology improvements we increase our throughput as well,” she told BioArray News this week.
Reintroducing Chip2 
One immediate result of the Agilent deal is that OGT will reintroduce some of its prokaryotic Chip2 arrays using Agilent’s higher-density formats. Since last May, OGT has released a number of arrays for ChIP-on-chip applications, including its Chip2 Escherichia coli K12 microarray, which interrogates the E. coli K-12 genome. Arrays for Escherichia coli 0157, Salmonella typhimurium LT2, Salmonella typhimurium SL1344, and Streptomyces coelicolor were launched in September (see BAN 9/12/2006).
In October, OGT CEO Mike Evans said that four more Chip² arrays are planned for release this year, including products for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Neisseria species, Campylobacter jejuni, and Staphylococcus (see BAN 10/3/2006).

“Where [this deal] differs significantly from the NimbleGen deal is that Agilent will also be an OEM supplier for OGT.”

This week Clough said that OGT will most likely reissue its Escherichia coli K12 microarray first, followed by its array for Streptomyces coelicolor. All other Chip² arrays will follow. “We are going to be increasing the density of our products, and we will be working through our Chiprange to convert them all to a 44K format,” he said.
Clough said that the updated arrays should be available within four to six weeks. “We are literally doing the bioinformatics now and it’s just a matter of having the arrays made,” he said.
Center of Excellence
Through the agreement with Agilent, OGT will also become a certified Agilent service provider. Moreover, the companies said this week that they plan to build a microarray center of excellence — an extended demo lab similar to the COE Agilent opened at its headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., last summer (see BAN 6/20/2006). A second COE is scheduled to open near Agilent’s East Coast office in March.
Now, Agilent is looking to take advantage of the partnership with OGT to develop a microarray-themed COE at OGT’s labs in Oxford University’s Begbroke Science Park in order to better serve the European market. Agilent’s Linney said that the COE will help customers “with experimental design and developing new applications as well.”
Clough stressed that the COE will not just offer Agilent arrays, but will include technology from all of its partners.
“We will be developing a center within OGT in terms of new applications, but we’ll also be using high-density arrays from NimbleGen, to provide the customer with an environment where we can address their questions,” he said.

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