Luminex has inked its twenty-ninth strategic partnership for its LabMap bead array technology, signing a licensing deal with Research & Diagnostics Systems, a Minneapolis-based company that specializes in assays for cytokines and related molecules.
Under the terms of the agreement, R&D systems will use LabMap to develop and commercialize Fluorokine Map multianalyte profiling kits, assays that simultaneously measure multiple cytokines in a single sample of cell culture supernate, for the Luminex 100 analyzer. R&D systems has made an up front payment to Luminex and will pay Luminex royalties from sales of the kits.
R&D Systems plans to release the kits later this month. The company also plans to expand the Flurokine Map assay and add similar multianalyte kits that measure cytokines in plasma or serum.
The R& D partnership “validates that this platform is being adopted,” said Randy Marfin, Luminex’s vice president of business development. “R&D is the largest cytokine vendor out there, and has some of the best reagents. With R&D and our other cytokine partners, we ought to make a significant impact in the cytokine market.”
LabMap uses microspheres, internally color-coded microscopic beads with thousands of attached probe molecules, to perform biological assays. Reactions take place on the surface of the bead, and the color code of the probe molecule identifies the reaction. Small lasers, digital processors, and software allow the system to perform up to 100 assays per drop of fluid.
Rather than commercializing its own applications for the technology, Luminex has pursued the partnership route in order to gain wider leverage in the assay market, said Marfin. “
If we had launched our own product line, we would have only launched the cytokine product line by now,” Marfin said. “Instead there is a long list of LabMap-based kits with a broad number of applications ranging from proteins to genes. We would never have been able to penetrate that [much of the market] on our own.”
This strategy also enables Luminex to make competitors in the bioassay market into allies, said Marfin. For example, Luminex recently formed a LabMap development partnership with Bio-Rad, a leading maker of ELISA-based assays, which its bead-based assays could displace. But under the partnership, BioRad can use the LabMap beads to design its own “improved assays” to displace the current technology.
In the future, the company aims to license out its technology to leading assay providers in a number of areas. A new product in development for genomics is an assay that would allow users to perform 1000 assays in a single well. In September 2000, the company was awarded a grant from the National Institute Of Standards and Technology to develop a higher-throughput successor to LabMap that would enable 10,000 to 100,000 or more assays to be performed simultaneously in a single tube and be analyzed at once.
As Luminex moves into this higher-throughput space, it could find itself in more direct competition with high-density array maker Affymetrix. While current assays are lower-density and more specific than Affy’s whole genome chips, “we intend to compete in that space at some time,” Marfin said. “We’re not constrained by the physical world.”
In terms of number of assays, he said, “We can go up as high as we want to go.”
In 2000, Luminex reported $8.6 million from its LabMap partnerships and sales of its Luminex 100 analyzer.