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PamGene Expands Sales Efforts to Reach More Pharma, Academic Customers

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This story was originally posted on April 27.

Dutch microarray company PamGene recently announced three new distribution agreements, tapping Cronus Technologies to represent it in the UK and Ireland, Bucher Biotec to sell its products in Switzerland, and Dichrom to cover Germany and Austria. And, according to its managing director, PamGene expects more of such deals in coming months.

Tim Kievits told BioArray News this week that after years of closely collaborating with pharmaceutical and academic partners on different drug development and oncology-related projects, the firm is ready to make its technology available to all customers who would like to run PamGene's arrays in their own laboratories.

Rather than building its own sales force, the company has opted to work with distributors and sales agents. In the past year, the firm has also made similar agreements with Bionordika to represent it in the Nordic region, and with Nirco to cover the Spanish market.

In addition, PamGene recently hired a second US sales agent based in Chicago. The firm already had an agent working on its behalf in Boston. Kievits said that ultimately, PamGene will have "five or six" such agents selling its products in North America.

The firm is also looking at adding distributors to round out its coverage in Europe, and is interested in finding partners in larger Asian markets, such as India, China, and Japan.

"We focused most of our commercial effort over the last years [on] partnering [for] our technology and teaming up [our R&D team] with pharmaceutical and academic R&D teams," Kievits said. "We have learned a lot from them and this has led to the current range of PamChips, reagents, and assays."

Now, he said, the company is focusing its energy on "making the technology known and available to any researcher, academic or industrial," by putting the networks in place to sell the chips and systems worldwide.

Kievits credits some initial success with Bionordika with encouraging this trend. "We already expect to sell a few units [in Scandinavia] this year," he said. "Because of this experience … we were fully prepared to take on the whole new set of distributors."

Founded in 2000, the Hertogenbosch-based company originally used its three-dimensional PamChip arrays for applications as diverse as gene expression, copy number-variation detection, and human leukocyte-antigen testing. The company realigned its efforts several years ago to focus on kinase activity and nucleic receptor activity profiling (BAN 9/8/2009).

PamGene's 3D arrays are manufactured using a porous ceramic membrane made of aluminum oxide. Samples are applied on the PamChip, which is then placed in the firm's PamStation instrument, according to the company. During hybridization or incubation, the sample is pumped back and forth through the porous material.

The company uses a CCD camera to image the membranes' wells over time, providing users with real-time analysis of nucleic acid and protein binding as well as kinetic measurements of enzymatic reactions of kinases. "This is not a screening platform," said Kievits. "Because of the flow-through concept, we can take images during the reaction time."

PamGene's PamChips are available on chips containing four wells, where each array is spotted in each well with up to 400 probe molecules, which may either be synthetic oligonucleotides or synthetic peptides. The four arrays can be hybridized either separate or simultaneously.

The firm has developed a number of catalog PamChips and Kievits said that PamGene has recently updated the content on each chip. PamGene's Tyrosine Kinase PamChip consists of 144 kinases with known phosphorylation sites representing 100 different proteins. Its Serine/Threonine Kinase PamChip consists of 140 kinases containing peptides as well as four positive control phosphorylated peptides. And its Nuclear Hormone Receptor PamChip consists of 150 peptide motifs.

Kievits said that the first two PamChips can be used to survey biological samples including cell lines and clinical samples, and have been used in pharma R&D. He noted that PamGene's customers are now running 22 different assays that use the Nuclear Hormone Receptor PamChip.

Drug makers are interested in PamGene's platform because they can add compounds on a chip, Kievits said, allowing them to first monitor kinases and nucleic acid receptors, and then add a compound to study the reaction kinetics. "That can help clinicians make a choice about therapies by running them on proteins from the patient," he said. In another example of matching medicines, Kievits suggested that clinicians using PamGene's platform could test antibiotics on bacteria isolated from a patient and monitor the response.

Eventually, PamGene's platform could also be used as part of cancer therapies, Kievits said. PamChips could be used to "see what pathways are active in a particular tumor sample to guide treatment."

According to Kievits, diagnostics has always been part of the company's business plan since its founding 12 years ago.

"The company started with a diagnostic focus and the first business plan focused on nucleic acid multiplex diagnostics," Kievits said. "That market is not big and there is a lot of competition, so we went after gene expression, but there were a lot of players and it didn't give us the competitive edge we needed," he said. For now, the firm's focus continues to be on drug development and companion diagnostics.

Kievits also said that the company is in a stable financial position. "We have a good investment base," he said. "We are not your typical [venture capitalist] story, where the company is built to be sold," he said. "We are still building this technology because we think it is important."

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