In an ongoing bid to focus on new applications for microarray instrumentation, Quantifoil Instruments announced last week that it would work with German molecular diagnostics firm Texogene on the development of a new flowchamber technology for microarray and cell-culture hybridization.
According to Olaf Hoyer, co-founder and managing director of Quantifoil Instruments, the DiscoverSlips disposable flowchamber technology “was developed to improve experimental performance of different microarrays.” He said the system requires smaller sample volumes, prevents contamination, and reduces cost per array. The reaction area is 40 mm long by 20 mm wide and the required sample volume is 50 µl per hybridization, he noted.
The goal of the collaboration is to “afford in situ hybridization of high speed and precision for molecular diagnosis,” Hoyer wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News.
Jena, Germany-based Quantifoil Instruments, which operates independently from Quantifoil MicroTools, hopes to introduce the new DiscoverSlips product next month.
The target market for the instruments will be microarray-slide and cell-slide users with a performance of under 100 slides per month, Hoyer said. “In the future we will offer systems for high-throughput hybridizations based on microarray glass slides,” he noted.
The firms also intend to develop the next generation of flowchambers with more partitioned reaction fields for one chip or slide. The firms are eyeing a mid-2005 commercialization date for those systems.
In addition, they plan to increase the level of automation. “While our competitors are still developing large, expensive products, our focus [is] smaller, more affordable instruments,” said Hoyer. “A lot of researchers or companies cannot afford these expensive instruments simply because they do not use [them] so extensively for such an investment.”
Hoyer did not provide pricing for the instruments the firm is selling, but said, “There are no similar hybridization systems in this price range on the market.”
Quantifoil Instruments has sales partners in all of the countries of the European Union, as well as the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Korea. He noted, though, that partnering opportunities in Germany were hampered by economic conditions. “Many companies rely on their established product portfolio and are [wary of] investing in new product development,” Hoyer said.
Focus on Microarray Instruments
Quantifoil Instruments — or QInstruments, as it sometimes calls itself — was founded in December 2003 by Hoyer and another employee of Quantifoil MicroTools, following that firm’s decision to sell its microarray business to competitor Schott Nexterion (see BAN 9/24/2003).
Quantifoil MicroTools is a 5-year-old, privately held company that produces perforated support foils for use in electron microscopy, and was creating microarray substrates under the QMT Microarray brand for the fabrication of nucleic acid, peptide, and protein arrays. Since the sale of the microarray unit, MicroTools has focused on its electron microscopy business.
“We simply kept the name Quantifoil for a better entry in the microarray market,” Hoyer said. “Our focus now is on biochip-based technology platforms and devices.”
He added, “We founded the company entirely on our own capital [and] rely on strong cooperation partners to develop new innovations. These collaborations not only give us greater chances for development, but also allow larger German companies that have stopped a great deal of research and development to continue doing [R&D work] with little risk.”
Quantifoil Instruments is developing and marketing tools for microarray processing — hybridi-zation systems, for example — and associated products. According to Hoyer, the firm offers products for incubation, immobilization, and hybridization of microarray slides, microtiter plates, and cell slides — and these products are compatible with microarray products from many other manufacturers.
In addition, the firm has a collaboration with Ibidi, a Munich-based firm, under which Quantifoil Instruments is offering disposable plastic slides with more reaction fields for cell culture and microscopy. “Our shared interests focus on improvements of hybridization for microarrays,” said Hoyer.