Schott Nexterion, the Mainz, Germany-based subsidiary of European glassmaker Schott, is gearing up for the opening of a new production facility in the town of Jena in Eastern Germany. The October 1 opening of the is expected to make Schott Nexterion’s production capabilities more efficient as it prepares to take over the manufacturing of Acceler8’s OptArray microarray slides.
“We are really concentrating our efforts here, because before we also produced in different facilities in Jena and in the United States,” Schott Nexterion General Manager Lutz Wehmeier, told BioArray News this week. “We have clean-room 100 manufacturing conditions and have implemented a fully automated 100 percent quality-control system to ensure geometric precision and visible controls for defects and particles.”
“It’s nearly a direct flow from the production of the raw glass into our production facility here,” Wehmeier added. “It’s not only the raw glass. We have laser-cutting processes and all of these issues are concentrated here now. In terms of synergy and quality, I think it’s the perfect solution.”
It will also enable the firm to compete more effectively with Corning, which is considered the leader in this particular market; as well as Amersham, which sells SurModics hydrogel-coated slides; TeleChem, with its ArrayIt line; and several other firms globally that produce microscope slides for sale.
Schott Nexterion, which was founded in 2002, expanded its reach in the microarray market last year with the September acquisition of the microarray business of Jena-based Quantifoil Micro Tools. It also was a lead investor in Madison, Wis.-based NimbleGen’s $12.5 million Series D funding.
The firm’s key customers are the academic core facilities making home brews and biotech companies utilizing the slides for their R&D efforts. According to Wehmeier, the academic labs account for 75 percent to 80 percent of that split.
Under agreements soon to be signed with Acceler8, Schott will manufacture the OptArray slides and have exclusive marketing rights to those products for DNA as well as protein microarray applications. Accelr8 will provide technology-transfer consulting services to facilitate the transition.
According to Wehmeier, Schott Nexterion expects to start producing the OptArray microarray slides in Jena at the end of October.
The OptArray technology is a hydrogel coating, which is bonded to a glass surface, “thicker than a monolayer and permeable,” Tom Geimer, chairman and CEO of Denver, Colo.-based Acceler8 told BioArray News last year. (see BAN 10/22/03) The technology, Geimer added, has an ability to reject adsorption of interfering molecules such as proteins.
The opening of the facility in Jena also means that Schott Nexterion will no longer manufacture microarray slides at its facilities in Duryea, Pa. However, Wehmeier said that the firm would retain its research and development operations, as well as customer support and a warehouse at that site.
He would not provide a cost for the new 500-square-meter facility, which has a maximum capacity of around 1 million slides per year. Because the facility is almost completely automated, it will staff only 12 employees, cutting down on costs for Schott Nexterion.
Unlike some other players in the microarray industry that use plastic and nylon surfaces for substrates, Schott Nexterion is making products based solely on glass. Wehmeier noted that in addition to microarray slides, the firm will manufacture products at the facility for other future formats, such as microtiter plates.
Although the firm has been fairly aggressive in trying to increase its presence in the microarray field, don’t expect Schott Nexterion to get involved with other types of products for the industry anytime soon. “Of course, we are evaluating complementary products which might fit into our glass business,” Wehmeier said. “But I don’t think we’ll produce content slides like Affymetrix or Agilent. It doesn’t make any sense for us.”