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No Longer Strictly Chips, SuperArray Changes Name, HQ, and Looks to Hire

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SuperArray Bioscience said last week that it has changed its name to SABiosciences, and has moved into a new facility in Frederick, Md., that is three times larger than its previous location in the same city.
 
The firm said in a statement that the moves reflect its expansion into additional technologies beyond gene-expression analysis, and company officials said that it is unlikely that SABiosciences will add more microarray products to its portfolio in the future.
 
“We are not just a microarray company anymore,” Dave Martz, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. He noted that to “provide our vision of a systems biology approach in a post-genome era, SABiosciences now also offers gene function-analysis solutions such as RNA interference, ELISA kits, cell-based reporter assays, as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation and other products for epigenomics research.”
 
Jeffrey Hung, SABiosciences’ director of marketing, told BioArray News last week that the only array platform that the firm offers and will continue to offer is its line of GEArrays for gene-expression studies, which includes gene panels for nearly 60 different disease-related pathways, from Alzheimer’s disease to tumor metastasis. Clients also have the option to order custom GEArrays from SABiosciences.
 
Hung said that SABiosciences’ GEArrays have been on the market for eight years and it is doubtful the firm will add to its array catalog. Instead it will look to broaden its other existing platforms, such as its menu of PCR Arrays, and will look into commercializing other emerging technologies as it sees fit.
 
“If you use the classical definition, I would say that we are no longer going to add new hybridization-based assays to our product line,” Hung said. “But there are emerging technologies we are interested in with higher-throughput capabilities,” he said. “We believe RT-PCR-based technologies offer customers a wider magnitude of sensitivity compared to traditional, hybridization-based arrays,” he added.
 
SABiosciences in 2007 first launched a line of pathway-focused PCR “arrays” printed in microtiter plates, similar to its GEArrays. In March, SABiosciences debuted a line of PCR arrays for microRNA analysis. Specifically, the company launched four different miRNA PCR arrays: one to analyze all known human miRNAs, another for miRNAs linked to cancer, a third devoted to miRNAs associated with cell differentiation and development, and one for the most abundant miRNAs (see BAN 3/18/2008).
 
At the time of the product launch, Hung explained some of the rationale behind SABiosciences’ move from traditional microarrays to PCR arrays. He cited the sensitivity of RT-PCR versus array analysis as well as the fact that many labs are more used to running plates of PCR instead of hybridization arrays.
 
Hung said last week that SABiosciences recently added to its PCR array offering by adding a web-based data analysis portal for its customers. The software package provides results not only in a tabular format but also in scatter, volcano, cluster-gram, and multi-group plots. It also enables users to interpret the genomic DNA, reverse-transcription efficiency, and positive-PCR control wells on the arrays.
 
“For PCR arrays, data analysis has been a true bottleneck, and by providing online software we complete the PCR array system,” Hung said.
 
While SABiosciences’ PCR arrays are not microarrays per se, the company is competitive with array firms in the market. In terms of its miRNA PCR array line, for instance, it directly competes against companies like Exiqon, Febit, Agilent Technologies, Illumina, and others.
 
Søren Møller, chief scientific officer and vice president of R&D at Exiqon, told BioArray News in March that that “PCR arrays are not high-throughput enough due to requirements for automation” for widespread use — though Exiqon has introduced its own RT-PCR-based miRNA-profiling product line based on its internally developed locked nucleic-acid technology (see BAN 3/18/2008).
 
New Digs
 
In conjunction with its name change and profile update, SABiosciences has changed its location, moving into a 43,000-square-foot facility that supports the firm’s 150 full-time employees. SABiosciences’ previous space, also in Frederick, was 18,000 square feet.
 
Martz said in a statement that the company’s new location includes "state-of-the-art R&D lab space, molecular and cell biology instruments, and particle-free clean rooms.” Hung said that the larger facility will also accommodate more personnel, particularly in R&D and sales and support.
 
“We are excited to be moving into a brand new, custom-built facility,” Hung said. “We will definitely be adding headcount in R&D, because that is the driving force of the company,” he said. “There will also be some additions in manufacturing, sales, and marketing.”
 
Hung declined to discuss how many people SABiosciences hopes to add in the coming months.

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