BOSTON — A string of new co-marketing agreements — both official and unofficial — announced at IBC's annual Chips to Hits conference here last week reveals that niche players in the array industry, from slide vendors like Schott-Nexterion to scanner providers like PerkinElmer, are starting to sell into the market in a different way.
PerkinElmer announced an alliance with Hamburg, Germany-based Eppendorf under which the companies will jointly promote the use of Eppendorf's DualChip content arrays with PerkinElmer's ScanArray GX microarray analysis system.
Peter Banks, PerkinElmer's proteomic business leader, told BioArray News that the agreement stems from a reassessment of the market.
"If you look at the marketplace itself, there's relatively slow growth in academic research. You see a big increase in growth when you start going towards clinical diagnostics, for example," Banks said.
"We see us serving the marketplace much better if we work with content providers. Rather than us reinventing what they've got, let's work with them."
Banks said that after studying the market for content arrays, PerkinElmer decided that it could not compete against rivals like Affymetrix and Agilent Technologies that provide both the content-specific arrays and the instrumentation to read their results. Instead, PerkinElmer has decided that co-marketing agreements with content providers could be its ticket into the growing market for arrays in clinical diagnostics.
"If you look at our product offering, we're really strong in processing and reading, and spotting, and we are not very strong with regards to the actual content," Banks explained.
"We see us serving the marketplace much better if we work with content providers, he said. "So rather than us reinventing what they've got, let's work with them."
According to Banks, when PerkinElmer first starting selling into the market several years ago, instrumentation for academic research was its dominant product. Now the company recognizes that in order to sell to new customers it must team up with content providers, Banks said.
However, the company still considers its niche to be its line of scanners and spotters like the Protein Array Workstation and ProScanArray HT, which he said have positioned PerkinElmer for the nascent, but "nicely growing market" for protein arrays. "It's been slowly coming, but we see protein arrays really coming to the fore now," he said. Banks added that PerkinElmer will introduce a new, upgradeable scanner by the end of this year.
"With that, we are going to have essentially four separate products spanning applications. From the very simple two-laser [scanner] to the very high-end four-laser [scanner] with automation capability of doing 20 slides at one," Banks said. "We are expecting some serious sales this year."
With regards to its co-marketing obligations with Eppendorf, Banks said that PerkinElmer is "working with them to optimize the technology so the customers can have very simple high-performance operation."
He also cited a similar co-marketing deal announced in December 2004 with protein array vendor Procognia as an example of PerkinElmer's new market strategy and called it "another case of us marrying our technology with some really great content" (see BAN 12/24/2004).
The co-marketing agreement with Procognia combined Procognia's U-c fingerprint lectin array-based platform with PerkinElmer's Protein Array Workstation and ProScanArray HT. The agreement also allows the firms to co-distribute the platform and its assays.
Schott's 'Unofficial' Co-Marketing Alliance
Another co-marketing alliance that was unveiled at Chips to Hits shows that other array market players are also adopting the "power in numbers" approach.
At the conference, German slide and microtiter plate vendor Schott-Nexterion teamed up with Genomic Solutions and Alpha Innotech to demonstrate the use of their respective products as an integrated system for microtiter plate users.
Representatives from the trio said that they have formed an "unofficial collaboration" that enables the three companies to fuse their products in presentations to customers as "an integrated [product offering] for doing multiplexed assays." The technologies involved in the alliance are Schott's slides and plates, GS' MicroGrid array spotters, and Alpha Innotech's NovaRay reader.
Schott-Nexterion general manager Lutz Wehmeier said following a demonstration at the conference that the collaboration aims to "enhance [the platforms' ability to] work together to produce a very dedicated format."
"[Our] companies [think] that the microtiter format will be very important" in clinical diagnostics, Wehmeier said. While the collaboration is non-exclusive, Schott will recommend Genomic Solutions and Alpha Innotech tools to its customers, Wehmeier said.
Wehmeier did not exclude the possibility of a formal co-marketing agreement with the two companies. "We will evaluate future opportunities for co-marketing seriously," he said.
Sia Ghazvini, vice president of business development at Alpha Innotech, later told BioArray News that the companies chose to collaborate because they viewed each other as the strongest in their respective areas in the microtiter space, and that the collaboration was focused on making the plate format easier to access and understand for customers.
Jeremy Clarke, Genomic Solutions' global product manager, revealed during the demonstration that the trio is working with the University of Arizona and Stanford University to develop assays based on their respective equipment.
Schott's Wehmeier also said that his firm would recommend Alpha Innotech and Genomic Solutions products to its customers as part of the agreement.
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])