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OGT Expands Pre-implantation Genetic Screening Offering with New Embryo Screen Array

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NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) — Oxford Gene Technology has broadened its activity in the pre-implantation genetic screening market with the launch of a new oligonucleotide microarray.

Called the CytoSure Embry Screen Array, OGT's new chip includes eight, 60,000-spot arrays per slide for high-resolution, genome-wide aneuploidy and copy number detection in pre-implantation embryos. According to the Oxford, UK-based company, the chip can support the high-throughput analysis of 14 embryos per slide using single-color hybridization, making it ideal for use in embryo banking.

The new product launch builds on last year's introduction of OGT's CytoSure Single Cell Aneuploidy Array, which contains eight, 15,000-spot arrays per slide, and could help drive growth in the PGS market, according to CEO Mike Evans.

"The advent of advanced genomic technology, such as [array comparative genomic hybridization], is fueling rapid growth of the PGS market," Evans told BioArray News this week. "We estimate that approximately 250,000 PGS tests are currently performed each year worldwide, growing at over 10 percent per annum," he said. "The CytoSure Embryo Screen array offers significant advances over alternative platforms, and, as such, we believe it will be an attractive proposition for IVF research labs."

OGT's main rival in the market is Cambridge, UK-based BlueGnome, an Illumina-owned company, which offers 24sure bacterial artificial chromosome arrays and a newly launched next-generation sequencing-based application called VeriSeq for PGS. Like OGT, BlueGnome offers oligo arrays for chromosomal microarray analysis that are manufactured by Agilent Technologies, in addition to newer arrays based on the Illumina BeadChip platform. However, the company has always relied on BAC arrays for its PGS offering, citing low turnaround times and straightforward data analysis.

Given OGT's background in oligo array design, the company is keen to push its oligo-based offering as a viable alternative to BAC array-based methods.

"We have assembled a world-class team of computational biologists, enabling the development of superior probe design algorithms and analysis software," said Evans. "As such, OGT has the capabilities to develop unique, high-performance oligo-based array products."

In addition, Evans added, the same reasons that researchers moved from BAC arrays to oligo arrays in a constitutional setting are also applicable for PGS. "Oligo-based arrays have been shown to offer lower batch-to-batch variation, increased design flexibility, and the potential to offer higher-resolution analysis," he said.

Throughput is another aspect of the new chip that OGT is looking to exploit as it courts IVF research centers. Users of the new CytoSure Embryo Screen Array can analyze eight samples per slide using dual-color hybridization and 14 samples per slide using single-color hybridization, attributes that the company believes will see centers adopt the chip for embryo banking, a common procedure for advanced maternal age samples where women who typically only produce a few eggs during ovarian stimulation undergo multiple rounds of IVF and retrieval, producing embryos that are then frozen for use in future embryo transfer cycles.

"The advances in embryo freezing using vitrification and aCGH PGS technologies has allowed the advent of embryo banking," said Evans. He added that by screening multiple embryos on one slide, centers should be able to conduct "more consistent analysis" of the banked embryos with the "aim of further improving the chances of successful IVF."

According to Evans, OGT has been working with leading IVF research labs for a number of years to develop its PGS arrays. He noted that the CytoSure Embryo Screen Array was developed in collaboration with Joris Vermeesch's lab at the Center for Human Genetics at University Hospital Leuven in Belgium to "address their requirement for high-resolution PGS analysis."

As such, the company anticipates making additional PGS arrays available to its customers in the future. "The potential of oligo-based arrays for higher resolution analysis is recognized in the market, and OGT is already in discussion with potential new collaborators to develop additional customized array designs," said Evans. He did not elaborate.

In addition to BlueGnome, OGT will likely face competition in coming months from other companies that have developed their own offerings for PGS. These include Reproductive Health Science, an Australian biotechnology company that intends to launch array- and sequencing-based PGS applications later this year.

Irvine, Calif.-based molecular testing services company CombiMatrix has hinted in recent months that it might be preparing a PGS test. CEO Mark McDonough told BioArray News in May that the company has been developing a test that addresses "an opportunity in the reproductive health, endocrinology, and in vitro fertilization markets" but declined to further elaborate.

And other array-based offerings are not the only competition that OGT will face. As the market leader apparent, Illumina has stated in recent months that it aims to move recent adopters of 24sure over to VeriSeq.

CEO Jay Flatley told investors last month that the San Diego-based vendor believes the market over time will "move more from arrays to sequencing because of the completeness and richness of the data set that you can get from sequencing today." While he noted that Illumina would continue to offer both of its PGS products, he said that the firm is "planning to convert many of our existing customers over to a sequencing-based method."

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