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With Schott-Nexterion Deal Winding Down, Accelr8 Preps BACcelr8r for 2006 Launch

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Denver-based biomedical tools shop Accelr8 has extended an agreement to provide Schott Nexterion with hydrogel-coated, or H, glass slides through the end of this year, and has signed another agreement to manufacture hydrogel streptavidin (HS)-coated slides for use in home-brewed protein arrays, the companies said last week. Both slides are based on Accelr8's OptiChem surface chemistry.

But the expanded agreements occur even as the relationship between the two firms is winding down. Schott Nexterion has been developing its own production facilities near its headquarters in Jena, Germany, and as of next year will no longer use Accelr8 as a manufacturer. Schott Nexterion still plans to use Accelr8's proprietary OptiChem surface chemistry.

Accelr8 has a back-up plan, however. The company said in a statement that its "primary business focus" is now in developing its BACcelr8r slide-based bacterial analysis system. Accelr8 expects BACcelr8r, which is slated for launch in mid-2006, to be the "world's first diagnostic system to provide complete bacterial antibiotic resistance strain identification in eight hours or less."

Accelr8 and Schott Nexterion originally entered into a manufacturing and supply agreement in late 2004, which was "originally for a designated amount of [H] slides," said David Howson, Acceler8's president "We're in a three-year market test phase, [and] Schott has been selling more than they had forecast. They are getting their production ramped up and they didn't want to run short."

Howson said that Schott already has an industrial customer lined up for the HS slides, and expects to begin production for them "sometime in 2006."

"We have acquired the exclusive right [from Accelr8] to produce Slide H beginning in the last quarter of [this year]," Markus Boehm, international product manager for microarray solutions at Schott-Nexterion, told BioArray News via e-mail.

"Consequently this means that at [that] time, Slide H will no [longer] be produced at Accelr8 and that the Slide H production technology will be transferred completely to Jena. We are already in the middle of transferring the production and have begun to do test production runs on a small scale in our state-of-the-art production facility," Boehm explained.

Boehm said that the HS slides are a welcome addition to Schott Nexterion's catalog of slides for home-brew microarraying, by most estimates a major piece of the total market for microarrays. The new slides are coated with streptavidin, a bacterial protein that forms a strong and specific bond with biotin, which is used by researchers as a molecular linker for proteins, DNA, and other molecules.

"We believe that the future protein array market demands several specialized coating chemistries due to the diverse nature of the different protein probes, and therefore we see a need to expand the existing protein slide product line with the Slide HS," Boehm said.

Schott Nexterion has been accumulating a larger product portfolio in an effort to become the dominant slide provider in the global market.

Boehm told BioArray News in May that the company will soon ink a deal with a US distributor for its slides, and that it will launch a kit for home-brewers comprised of glass substrates along with reagents, dyes, and 70-mer oligos supplied through an agreement that it signed last month with Operon Technologies (See BAN 4/20/2005).

Accelr8, meanwhile, expects product revenues from Schott Nexterion of approximately $150,000 "for the remainder of this calendar year."

Boehm declined to provide details on how much business Slide H has generated for Schott Nexterion.

BioArray News attempted to contact Corning Life Sciences, Schott Nexterion's main global competitor in the microarray slide market, to gauge its response to the new agreements, but Corning did not return calls or e-mails by press time.

Big Plans for BACcelr8r

Howson told BioArray News that Accelr8 is using its OptiChem surface chemistry, as well as some of its scanner and analysis software, for its BACcelr8r bacterial analysis system.

"It's sort of like using microarray technology, but it's not a microarray per se," he said of the system.

Howson said that the platform should be available for research use in the second quarter of 2006. "Ultimately it will be a diagnostic device used by hospitals for very rapid identification of bacterial strains." He said it also has use in industrial microbiology and antibiotic drug discovery and development.

Howson said that Accelr8 may be ready to submit a hospital-ready version of the BACcelr8r to the US Food and Drug Administration for approval sometime in mid-2006.

He said that the BACcelr8r system would create a "new market opportunity" and that it would not displace any other conventional products. Howson said that the company has no estimates of how large the market size may be for the system, but that "at least 200,000 patients a year" in the US would benefit from this kind of rapid testing.

— Justin Petrone ([email protected])

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