Oxford Gene Technology announced this week that it has been awarded a tender by the UK National Health Service to supply chromosomal microarrays to four labs in Britain, with an additional eight labs able to procure arrays through an agreed-upon supply framework.
According to a statement, the four labs that will use OGT chips are in Bristol, Manchester, Salisbury, and Sheffield. NHS labs in Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Great Ormond Street, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham, and Oxford will also be able to join the agreement and obtain OGT arrays at the agreement's preferential pricing structure.
While the two-year agreement between OGT and the NHS does not cover all UK labs engaged in constitutional cytogenetic testing, the tender "represents a significant proportion of the NHS cytogenetics labs," James Clough, OGT's vice president of commercial activities, told BioArray News. He also suggested the tender process, in which OGT's chips were compared with arrays from other vendors, could help the firm win over other UK cyto labs in the future.
"While there are other NHS labs that are outside the scope of this tender, we believe these labs will take great interest in the validation results obtained," Clough said. "Not only did the tender find that OGT offers the highest quality products but also customer support," he added.
As part of the evaluation process, each lab submitted a variety of samples for processing. OGT said its CytoSure ISCA 8x60K platform was successful when compared against a number of similar products from other array providers. The ISCA chip was designed in collaboration with the International Collaboration for Clinical Genomics, formerly known as the International Standards for Cytogenomic Arrays consortium. Agilent Technologies manufactures OGT's chips, each of which contains eight 60,000-probe arrays.
OGT claims it was "the only supplier whose product correctly identified all the genetic abnormalities tested," as part of the evaluation, attributing its selection to the performance of its CytoSure Interpret software, which the company provides with all of its CytoSure chromosomal microarrays.
Chris Wragg, head of molecular cytogenetics at the Bristol Genetics Laboratory, led the tender process. In a statement, he called the procurement and evaluation "exhaustive," stating that the labs wanted to "identify the most financially viable option" while not compromising on quality.
"OGT was the only company able to deliver on quality, providing the best proposal, product, and customer service," Wragg said, adding, "what we have achieved here is an excellent model for future procurements."
While OGT will no doubt sell more arrays thanks to the tender, and could win future agreements based on its performance and its relationship with participating labs, it is unclear exactly how many samples might be run on its chips while the two-year agreement is in effect. Clough declined to comment on how many samples the participating labs expect to run.
OGT and EACH
Within the NHS, chromosomal microarrays are being used on post-natal constitutional samples to detect chromosomal abnormalities, specifically amplifications and deletions. A separate project that aims to compare the diagnostic yield of prenatal chromosomal array-based testing with standard karyotyping is ongoing in the UK. Dubbed "EACH" for evaluation of array comparative genomic hybridization in prenatal diagnosis of fetal anomalies, researchers hope to deliver the EACH results next year, which could impact how CMA is used within NHS labs.
While each lab participating in EACH is free to use whatever platform it wishes, Clough told BioArray News that OGT has been "closely involved" in the project since its inception, providing its ISCA 8x60K chip for the initial technical evaluation of prenatal DNA using a number of extraction methodologies for accurate CMA.
"Subsequently, this array is now also being by a number of laboratories participating in this important NHS research project," Clough noted.
According to Clough, labs that use OGT's chromosomal microarrays in post-natal constitutional samples have been able to use the same workflow for testing prenatal samples, meaning that pre- and post-natal samples could hypothetically be run on the same OGT array.
"This ensures samples can be processed in a cost-effective and timely manner without the requirement to accumulate sufficient pre-natal sample numbers to fill up the 8x60K array format," he said.
OGT does "expect to gain additional market share through our involvement in such studies as the EACH project and through our streamlined workflows and software," said Clough. And, acknowledging the growing market for next-generation-sequencing-based non-invasive prenatal testing, Clough added that OGT "expects to see further demand for microarrays driven by the growing requirement for the accurate confirmation of non-invasive pre-natal testing results."