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Partnering with Jivan, NimbleGen Becomes Latest Shop to Compete in Emerging Splice Array Market


Count NimbleGen in.

The privately owned array company last week said it will pair its high-density microarray platform with Jivan Biologics' splice variant content, and joined a growing number of platform providers entering the emerging splice variant array market.

Jivan originally launched its content on the Agilent platform in June 2005, and splice array rival ExonHit Therapeutics rolled out its gene-family and custom splice arrays as a service on the Agilent platform in February 2005 (see BAN 6/8/2005, see BAN 2/9/2005).

More recently, Affymetrix showed its interest in the market by pledging to make ExonHit's content available on its GeneChip platform (see BAN 10/19/2005).

According to NimbleGen CEO Stan Rose, the company's decision to join the developing market reflects the its belief that the market for splice variant arrays has the potential to become "ultimately as big as expression itself."

"Most of the scientists who today work with conventional expression arrays would prefer to have the broader view of transcriptional activity offered by splice arrays," Rose wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News this week.

"Most of the scientists who today work with conventional expression arrays would prefer to have the broader view of transcriptional activity offered by splice arrays."

While Rose said the market for splice arrays in general may have potential, Jonathan Bingham, the spokesperson for Berkeley, Calif.-based Jivan, said that the two companies have decided to offer just one of the Jivan's 14 splice arrays, the TransExpress Human Spliceome chip, as a service.

Bingham said that the decision to make the Human Spliceome array available on the NimbleGen platform was due to the amount of content that company could get on one array. Since it was launched in June 2005, the Human Spliceome chip has been printed across four Agilent arrays. Because of the amount of real estate it uses it is also Jivan's most expensive array, priced at $3,995.

Subha Srinivasan, Jivan's CEO, told BioArray News this week that Jivan had not settled on a price for the Human Spliceome service on the NimbleGen platform but that it will be less than what it is currently charging.

She added that Jivan expects that the market for splice arrays will one day eclipse the gene expression market. Estimates on the size of the expression market vary, but a conservative estimate based on available figures puts the market size at $700 million — 800 million annually.

The TransExpress Human Spliceome chip features 24,484 genes from the RefSeq and EST libraries; 98,382 spliced isoforms; 135,706 alternatively spliced sites; and 148,693 oligo probes for alternatively spliced sites and gene expression, according to the company's website.

Because of NimbleGen's ability to squeeze that content onto one array, in the short term, the Human Spliceome product at first should be cheaper on NimbleGen's platform, Bingham said. He added that the NimbleGen and Agilent versions of the Human Spliceome "will be comparable in cost once Agilent officially releases its 185K arrays." Jivan has no plans to release its other lower-density arrays on NimbleGen's platform, Bingham added.

Agilent Technologies is currently in the midst of a plan to quadruple the density on its 44K chips, and Scott Cole, Agilent's marketing director of microarrays, told BioArray News last October that the company expects to introduce 185K arrays by the second quarter of this year (see BAN 10/12/2005).

The Service

Jivan's deal with NimbleGen also differs from its arrangement with Agilent because Jivan cannot resell NimbleGen's arrays. Instead, customers will place orders and provide samples to Jivan, which will forward them to NimbleGen's labs in Reykjavik, Iceland, where all experiments will be done. Jivan will then analyze NimbleGen's data and provide results to the customer.

NimbleGen, which offers its own services, such as array comparative genomic hybridization, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip, and comparative genomic sequencing, has signed other deals outside its R&D department for content.

According to Rose, NimbleGen has had similar deals with companies like Orion Genomics, which uses NimbleGen's platform as the basis for its genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation status. "NimbleGen makes the arrays and analyzes the customer's samples according to the partner's protocols," Rose said.

And Jivan may not be the only splice array firm NimbleGen partners with in the future. Rose confirmed that the deal with Jivan is non-exclusive and said that NimbleGen is "always happy to entertain [new partners that] will broaden the utility of and access to our technology platform."

Jivan has also pledged to make its content available on as many platforms as it considers feasible. "Our goal is to customers a broad choice of microarray platforms and service providers," Bingham said. Jivan also offers some of its splice arrays on TeleChem International's ArrayIt platform.

The decision to remain platform independent seems to be the modus operandi of the splice array companies. In fall 2005 ExonHIt Therapeutics, which developed its line of splice arrays with Agilent, announced that it would also make the content available on the Affymetrix platform.

Christina Hedberg, senior director of business development at ExonHit, told BioArray News this week that, in light of NimbleGen's entry into the splice array space, ExonHit Therapeutics would be "happy to talk with companies that are interested in licensing our technology, or in discussing a commercial partnership on SpliceArray."

"We are interested in seeing this technology commercialized in a variety of contexts," Hedberg said.

— Justin Petrone ([email protected])

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