In an unexpected move, PerkinElmer last week announced that it had acquired Spectral Genomics, a 6-year-old Houston company that sells products for array comparative genomic hybridization.
Having divested its semiconductor and fluid sciences businesses in recent months, PE now appears to be investing more in the molecular diagnostics space, a move that could equally benefit the position of Spectral Genomics' chips in the array CGH market.
At the same time, the acquisition, the terms of which are undisclosed, will undoubtedly have some effects on Spectral's existing customers.
For PE, the acquisition brings it a molecular diagnostics platform for determining genetic abnormalities — or constitutional changes — in patients with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disorders.
Moreover, Spectral's flagship Constitution Chip, which analyzes 42 genetic diseases and 41 sub-telomere syndromes, may be close to gaining clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration — something that PE can use to bolster its molecular diagnostics and genetic screening business, according to Robert Friel, PE's president.
"Spectral Genomics' innovative technologies are highly complementary to our current molecular medicine and genetic screening offerings," Friel said in a statement last week.
"Baylor gave Spectral an exclusive commercial license which presumably carried forward to PE."
In the statement, PE also said that array CGH technology is "widely expected to replace florescent in situ hybridization, G-banding microscopic analysis and other conventional forms of karyotyping in the cytogenetic market, which was valued at approximately $1.4 billion in 2004."
"The array CGH marketplace is also positioned for strong growth as more academic institutions leverage this technology in their biomarker discovery programs," the company added.
Ann-Christine Sundell, vice president of genetic screening for PerkinElmer, told BioArray News last week that Spectral will be fully integrated into PE. She declined to provide any further information on how much PE paid for Spectral or how Spectral's existing management team would be absorbed into PE's organization.
Still, Sundell did offer some details on the future of the platform. Specifically, she said that PE could bundle its existing microarray instrumentation, such as its ScanArray scanner and software, together with the Constitution Chip to provide "one complete system."
Previously, Spectral Genomics had sold the Constitution Chip for use on any open microarray platform.
In addition, the bundling of the product, coupled with PE's existing sales and marketing infrastructure, could give the Constitution Chip an extra push forward in a nascent array CGH market that has been lately attracting more attention.
For example, last week Abbott Molecular confirmed that it is seeking FDA clearance for its own array CGH chip for genetic screening and plans to launch its platform in the first half of next year (see BAN 5/2/2006).
Other competitors include CombiMatrix Molecular Diagnostics, which last month began shipping an array CGH chip for genetic screening, as well as NimbleGen, Signature Genomic Laboratories, Agilent Technologies, and Oxford Gene Technology.
One question the acquisition raises is what will happen to existing Spectral Genomics customers and partners. As the company's former CEO Ed Chait told BioArray News last year, Spectral's Constitution Chip is already in use in clinical labs in Europe as well as research labs in the US (see BAN 5/25/2005).
Furthermore, the company has licensed some of its technology to existing players in the array CGH space, like Baylor College of Medicine's cytogenetics lab. Baylor licensed Spectral's surface chemistry for its in-house chip, which it uses for pre-and postnatal genetic screening, according to Art Beaudet, the chairman of Baylor's Department of Molecular and Human Genetics.
In fact, the surface chemistry — as described in US Patent No. 6,048,695, "Chemically modified nucleic acids and methods for coupling nucleic acids to solid support" — was exclusively licensed from BCM to Spectral, then licensed back to Beaudet's lab, he said.
"Baylor gave Spectral an exclusive commercial license which presumably carried forward to PE," Beaudet told BioArray News this week. "We have had to take a license back from them to use their attachment chemistry," he explained.
Beaudet, who also sits on Spectral's scientific advisory board, said that if PE decided not to license the surface chemistry back to his lab, then he would be forced to seek new attachment chemistries for the chip the lab uses. He added that he told Spectral that he wants to remain involved in the development of its technology.
According to PE's Sundell, the company views Beaudet's chip as an "in-house developed array." She declined to comment further on any intellectual property issues.
She added that PE would continue to sell to and support Spectral's existing customers, such as Art Brothman's cytogenetics lab at the University of Utah.
Brothman, also a member of Spectral's SAB, told BioArray News this week that it is "too early to tell how things will go with PE," but that he is "optimistic that their involvement will move the Spectral project forward, and enhance their entire system."
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])