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OGT to Launch New ChIP-on-Chip, CGH Arrays In 2007; Looks to Japan for Future Partnerships

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BOSTON — Oxford Gene Technology next year plans to significantly expand its prokaryotic ChIP-on-chip line, to continue developing a syndrome array for array CGH applications, and to develop relationships with Japanese partners with an eye toward bringing its chips to European and North American markets, according to a company official.
 
Yet as OGT focuses on new projects, it has decided to end the internal development of its mass spectrometry-based Tridend business unit, and to seek outside partners to find a better use for the technology.
 
OGT CEO Mike Evans told BioArray News last week that the company is now primarily focused on three core areas: growing its chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip portfolio, developing a comparative genomic hybridization-based diagnostic for genetic syndromes, and building its licensing business in new markets.
 
Evans made his comments at IBC Life Sciences’ Discovery 2 Diagnostics conference, held here last week.
 
“OGT is going to double its [ChIP-on-chip] offering in the next couple of months,” Evans said. “We see this as an interesting market for both academic research and pharmaceutical discovery.”
 
OGT currently offers five prokaryote species arrays through its Chip² product line. The company launched the first, an E. coli K12 ChIP-on-chip microarray, in May. Four more arrays for Escherichia coli 0157, Salmonella typhimurium LT2, Salmonella typhimurium SL1344, and Streptomyces coelicolor were launched last month (see BAN 5/30/2006, BAN 9/12/2006).
 
In a follow-up e-mail, Evans said that four more Chip² arrays are planned, including products for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Neisseria species, Campylobacter jejuni, and Staphylococcus.
 
“It is anticipated that these products will be available in the first half of 2007,” Evans wrote.
 
Syndrome Chip
 
Another array in development is OGT’s CGH chip for diagnosing patients with well-characterized genetic diseases. The unnamed chip was co-developed with input from researchers at the Oxford Genetics Knowledge Park, a UK government-funded think tank, and other UK research institutes. OGT began alpha testing the chip this past summer.
 
In his e-mail this week, Evans shed more light on the content of the forthcoming array, noting that the syndromes on the array will include “Prader Willi, DiGeorge, and Cri du Chat, amongst others.”
 
“We are currently alpha testing the array with leading genetic testing laboratories in the UK and aim to enter beta testing before the end of 2006,” he added.
 
OGT’s expansion into array CGH diagnostics coincides with the launch of a CGH-based testing service for constitutional abnormalities by CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics in the US, and the young market for this kind of CGH-based testing is also being served by Signature Genomic Laboratories and Baylor College of Medicine in the US.
 
A key difference between what is available now and what OGT is preparing is that OGT will initially sell to the UK, a market that is not being directly reached by CMDX or Signature’s service labs. Perhaps more significant is that OGT’s CGH test will use oligonucleotides, rather than the bacterial artificial chromosomes used by current testing services.
 
In the past, some CGH users have said that oligos provide data that is too noisy for the average cytogeneticist. However, Evans said that “the noise issue associated with oligonucleotide arrays is becoming far less of an issue as we improve both our aCGH protocols and also optimize our probe design.”
 
“We are confident that the benefits of enhanced resolution and reproducible manufacture will rapidly result in olignonucleotide arrays replacing BACs as the array of choice,” Evans said.
 
Japan
 
As OGT looks to broaden its product lines, the company has also continued pursuing licensing opportunities for its IP, scoring a licensing deal with Invitrogen two weeks ago. Recently, the firm’s emphasis has been on addressing the Japanese market, inking deals with Bio Matrix Research, Filgen, NGK Insulators, and Yamatake — all of them Japanese array developers — in August (see BAN 8/15/2006).
 
OGT has characterized the deals with the Japanese quartet as helping to develop an immature array market. In August, Michael Bennett, vice president of licensing in Asia at OGT, told BioArray News that there had been “an element of confusion in the Japanese microarray market” regarding IP and that the licensing agreements could “help to open up that marketplace and get more people using microarray technology there” (see BAN 8/15/2006).
 
This week, Evans said that OGT’s interests in Japan may go beyond licensing. He said the company sees an opportunity to work with some of its new Japanese contacts to bring their arrays to Western markets.
 
“As our Japanese licensing and business activities develop, we will be considering opportunities to transfer technology from Japan to the US and Europe,” he said.
 


“As our Japanese licensing and business activities develop, we will be considering opportunities to transfer technology from Japan to the US and Europe.”

Tridend

 
As it consolidates its focus on ChIP-on-chip, array CGH, and licensing opportunities, OGT has decided to close one of its business units.
 
Evans said last week that OGT had decided to close down the unit, called Tridend, because it "didn't fit with OGT's core strategy." He explained that OGT will now "look at ways of utilizing the Tridend technology externally" with partners and is considering licensing opportunities for the IP behind Tridend.
 
Evans told BioArray News in April 2005 that Tridend is focused on commercializing the firm's mass spectrometry technology for applications such as genotyping or protein characterization. The unit was one of several in development as the company sought to expand its business beyond licensing (see BAN 4/27/2005).
 

“While the Tridend technology has considerable value, OGT has decided that further development of the technology is outside its core strategy,” Evans explained in an e-mail this week. “We are therefore investigating ways of commercializing the mass tag technology externally.”

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