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PamGene, Olympus Alliance Reaches Another Milestone with DNA-Analysis Product Launch

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Japanese instrument manufacturer Olympus Optical said last week that it had developed a 3D DNA analysis technology in collaboration with Dutch microarray manufacturer PamGene, marking a milestone in the firms’ 5-year-old collaboration

“What they’ve done is developed an application where they’re able to use extremely small samples that come from endoscopes and bring it into a gene-expression assay,” said PamGene CEO Tim Kievits. “It’s coupling technologies we have with what they’ve developed internally.”

The new product utilizes Olympus’ proprietary enzyme sensitization, fluorescent photometry, and image analysis technologies. According to an Olympus statement, the 3D DNA microarray requires “only nanograms of sample tissues to analyze at about 1,000 times the sensitivity of conventional technologies.”

Attempts by BioArray News to reach Olympus representatives by press time were unsuccessful.

“They are looking at adding value to the endoscope business through identifying particular gene-expression patterns in a sample taken by the endoscope,” Kievits told BioArray News. “What they’re trying to do is create a feedback loop to the person who does the endoscope” — which would translate into being able to get results on a biopsy without having to send it out to a diagnostic lab.

Kievits said the new product incorporates PamGene’s linear amplification method. “In comparison with other methods, it’s very easy to robotize,” Kievits said. “It only takes two and a half hours to complete the amplification.”

He added, “They’ve coupled label-enhancement technology that they’ve developed themselves, with the amplification technology, so you get a very fast method. Then the gene-expression pattern is read on our microarray technology.”

The Olympus 3D DNA micro-array is specifically for gene-expression applications and uses DNA probes. But, Kievits noted, PamGene’s technology is much more versatile. “We’ve licensed it, for instance, to Innogenetics for nucleic acid assays,” Kievits said. “So, [the platform can do] mutation detection or typing in genetic tests but also HLA testing on the protein end.” It can also array antibodies, peptides, and other molecules, he noted.

The new array system follows the introduction two years ago of the FD10 microarray platform by Olympus and PamGene (see BAN 10/4/2002). The FD10 uses a flow-through chip developed by PamGene that contains four microarrays with up to 400 probes each. It integrates hybridization and reading, features real-time signal detection, and allows control of the reaction temperature.

The FD10 instrument is manufactured by Olympus in Japan, but the chips are made to order at PamGene’s manufacturing facility in Den Bosch, Netherlands. Olympus also has rights to make a limited number of chips at its own facility.

The collaboration between the firms dates back to 1999 and was expanded in March 2001, when the firms agreed to jointly develop a series of instrument platforms and applications for gene expression, integrated amplification, and protein analysis. Olympus had also made an undisclosed, but “significant” equity investment in PamGene.

In May 2003, the partnership was expanded with PamGene granting Olympus non-exclusive, worldwide rights to sell the flow-through microarray technology to the pharmaceutical and biotech R&D and diagnostic testing markets. At the time, PamGene said Olympus had paid roughly €6 million for access to the technology.

PamGene made a clear move toward the diagnostics market with a collaboration inked earlier this year with Belgian firm Innogenetics. Under the pact signed in May, Innogenetics gained rights to use PamGene’s microarray technologies in developing next-generation nucleic acid and protein-based tests.

Kievits told BioArray News this week that a product from that collaboration is expected to launch in 2006.

PamGene also recently launched its PamStation 96 platform, which enables the analysis of 96 samples at a time — testing each sample for up to 400 markers in half an hour, Kievits said.

“We’ve produced several kinase inhibitor assays,” he said, and “we’ve sold the first unit,” [which the firm will announce soon].

PamGene was spun out of Akzo Nobel’s former diagnostics business unit Organon Teknika in 2000. Organon Teknika is now part of Biomérieux.

— EW

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