Schott Nexterion, the German subsidiary of 100-year-old European glassmaker Schott, last week announced a two-pronged deal with microarray substrate manufacturer Accelr8 Technology, of Denver, that will begin with a supply agreement and, possibly, extend to a technology transfer.
Schott Nexterion, founded in 2002 and based in Mainz, Germany, is actively carving out a larger space for itself in the microarray industry. The company, which last month acquired the microarray business of Quantifoil Micro Tools of Jena, Germany, for an undisclosed sum and was lead investor in Madison, Wisc.-based NimbleGen’s $12.5 million Series D funding, will now add Accelr8 OptArray microarray slides to its sales inventory as the two companies continue to negotiate a deal for a transfer of the Accelr8’s OptiChem surface chemistry products.
Aiming At Spotters
This activity reflects the fact that a majority of the microarray marketplace, projected to reach an estimated $800 million in 2003, still belongs to those who spot their own microarrays, and buy large amounts of activated slides, ranging at prices between $3 to $19 each, to use for that purpose. Corning is considered the leader in this particular market, competing with Amersham, which sells SurModics hydrogel-coated slides, the merged Schott-Quantifoil entity, TeleChem Arrayit, as well as Accelr8. Outside of these microarray-oriented glass sellers, there are some 15 companies globally that produce microscope slides for sale.
Of course, glass is not the only surface for microarray substrates. Others use surfaces such as plastic and nylon.
Under the supply agreement, Schott will resell Accelr8’s OptArray microarray slides under its brand and Accelr8 will continue to manufacture the microarraying products in its Denver facility.
Accelr8 will be Schott Nexterion’s sole supplier of permeable hydrogel microarraying slides during the term of the supply agreement and will provide sales training and technical support to Schott’s customers.
Under the intended technology transfer license, Schott will become the exclusive outsource manufact-urer for OptArray products starting in the summer of 2004, Accelr8 said. Schott will manufacture the OptArray slides and have exclusive marketing rights to those products, Accelr8 said. The two companies will cooperatively market the products, and Accelr8 will provide technology transfer consulting services to facilitate the transition.
“We are very optimistic that we will complete the [technology transfer],” Irene Schwarz, marketing manager for Schott, told BioArray News. “We want to expand our product range to serve the market for the most important microarray applications [such as] immobilizing molecules like oligo, cDNA and proteins on a surface.”
The companies declined to provide financial details of the agreement.
Tom Geimer, Accelr8’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the supply agreement is a bridge toward the completion of a technology transfer agreement.
“They wanted to get moving quickly,” he said. “We will provide them with a supply of slides that will allow them to seed the market.”
A successful tech transfer agreement, however, will not mark an exit from the microarray slide industry for Accelr8, Geimer said. “Our business model is one of developing leading-edge stuff and licensing it,” he said. “We didn’t want to build a sales force and a factory. Schott acts as an outsource, a marketing and distribution partner.”
So, in the next six months, Accelr8 will continue to manufacture its products in its Denver facility until Schott completes its manufacturing facilities and its marketing tests.
“The demand that they perceive will drive the terms of the licensing agreement — how much up-front payments, and royalties against a minimum annual sales target,” Geimer said.
Accelr8, a seventeen-year-old company that started off as a legacy migration software manufacturer, entered the life sciences business in 2001 when it acquired OpTest technology from DDx., a privately owned Denver corporation that made OptiChem technology, in a stock and cash transaction valued at $3 million.
The OptArray technology is a hydrogel coating, which is bonded to a glass surface, “thicker than a monolayer and permeable,” said Geimer.
The technology, Geimer added, has an ability to reject adsorption of interfering molecules such as protein.
“You put it on an array surface, and can wash it off without having blocked anything,” he said.
“It does the same thing with an unbound dye: You can apply label to a sample and you don’t have to clean it up with spin columns and other things.”