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Qiagen Signs Deals with Bayer and Genicon For Light-based Microarray Technologies

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Qiagen has signed on two new partners to its microarray efforts, making Bayer an early access customer for its ZeptoGene Workstation microarray platform, and acquiring exclusive distribution rights to Genicon Sciences’ self-spotted microarray toolkit products, the company said.

In signing these agreements, Qiagen is endeavoring to cover both high and low ends of the microarray market, said Solveigh Mahler, manager of investor relations for Qiagen.

“The ZeptoGene workstation is for the high-volume research market,” said Mahler. “The ZeptoGene products are combined with Qiagen’s leading nucleic acid separation, purification, and handling technologies to form a complete integrated analysis line. Customers get everything out of one hand. With the Genicon technology, we add the much bigger market of research laboratories, which do most of the work on their own. ZeptoGene is like a Mercedes and the Genicon technology is a little more than a [Volkswagen] Golf.”

Both agreements, Mahler added, further Qiagen’s strategy of boosting the market for its consumables, allowing Qiagen to strengthen its position in this niche of the microarray market.

Bayer is the second early access partner for the ZeptoGene platform. In June, Aventis Pharma agreed to use the PCR-free technology.

Under the Bayer agreement, the German pharmaceutical giant will acquire limited access to the platform, which Qiagen is developing in a multi-year revenue sharing collaboration with Swiss company Zeptosens, a spinoff of Novartis.

The platform employs Zeptosens’ Planar Wave Guide technology, a method for selectively detecting molecules bound to the surface of the microarray without the use of PCR, as well as Qiagen’s nucleic acid separation, purification, and handling technologies.

Qiagen claims the platform eliminates problems with background noise, reproducibility, and sensitivity inherent in current microarray technology. It is designed to detect amounts of RNA less than one microgram, and employs planar wave guide (PWG), a method of illuminating the probe from the side, eliminating background signal that can be present in the layers above a probe.

“The broad use of microarray technology in toxicogenomics has been limited so far by the insufficient sensitivity and throughput capacity of commercially available systems,” Hans Ahr, head of research toxicology at Bayer said in a statement. “PWG Chip Technology has the potential to work with small amounts of tissue or limited numbers of cells, which may in addition dramatically reduce our cell culture work.”

In the agreement with San Diego-based Genicon, Qiagen will distribute the toolkit that incorporates Genicon’s resonance light scattering (RLS). RLS technology involves tiny light scattering particles that preferentially refract certain wavelengths of light. These particles work like chemiluminescent or fluorescent proteins used in chemical labels, but emit a signal that is up to a million times stronger than a fluorescent particle, Genicon said. Different light scattering particles can be designed to emit specific colors of light.

Qiagen said it hopes to combine this RLS technology with its nucleic acid sample preparation products to create a labeling and analysis package for self-spotted arrays. The parties did not disclose the financial terms of this arrangement.

“This exclusive distribution of Genicon’s RLS microarray toolkit products allows Qiagen’s customers to seamlessly integrate Qiagen’s established preanalytical nucleic acid sample handling and purification technologies with Genicon’s exciting, ultra-sensitive labeling and detection technology,” Ulrich Schriek, vice president of corporate business development at Qiagen, said in a statement.

— MMJ

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