Scienion, a Berlin-based microarray instrumentation and services provider, has for years positioned itself as an original equipment manufacturer, producing arrays for diagnostic partners such as Courtagen, Genomica, and Euroimmun.
However, the company announced earlier this month though that it would venture into the catalog array market by manufacturing and commercializing an array for fresh-water quality assurance testing.
Designed in collaboration with a European scientific consortium, the new chip should launch by the second quarter of next year, CEO Holder Eickhoff told BioArray News.
Eickhoff said that by selling catalog arrays, the 13-year-old company is returning in part to an earlier strategy of becoming an array vendor like Affymetrix or Agilent Technologies, a strategy Scienion abandoned years ago in favor of the instrument, services, and OEM market (BAN 7/27/2010).
"We are picking up now on developments that we did between five and eight years ago," Eickhoff said, noting that the new kit will be the first it will sell into the environmental testing market.
The new chip has been designed through MicroAqua, an EU-funded consortium that consists of 12 partners, including Scienion, and has aimed to develop universal microarrays to evaluatr fresh-water quality by detecting pathogens and their toxins.
The prototype chip enables the detection of around 40 waterborne microbial pathogens and ten algal species that serve as indicators of water quality. Eickhoff said that the array is manufactured in a glass slide format, and consists of 300 DNA capture probes deposited in quadruplicate, with two arrays printed per slide using Scienion's arraying and immobilization technology.
Scienion is positioning the array as an alternative to existing water quality assessment approaches, such as PCR. Eickhoff noted in a statement that these traditional methods require a "highly qualified workforce skilled in microbiology, virology, and taxonomy." They also are "unable to yield rapid information" or to integrate the "monitoring and evaluation of different biological parameters," he said.
Ultimately, the availability of Scienion's new array will allow the early detection of health hazards as well as aid in the evaluation of actions taken to mitigate health threats, Eickhoff said in the statement.
He said Scienion expects that European water authorities and the water production industry will adopt the array, particularly given Scienion's background and the product's technological advantages.
"We have developed this test with leaders in the field and, due to the international nature of the EU consortium, hope for a smooth entry into this market in several countries," said Eickhoff. "The demand for the product is mainly geared towards the request of users that wanted to have a multiplexed, easy-to-use test," he said. "We anticipate that the users expect significant cost savings from currently used methods, [such as] PCR-based testing."
As a member of the MicroAqua consortium, Scienion has developed the arrays and has provided the infrastructure for their production and analysis. Scienion said in a statement that the arrays have been printed on its SciChip Epoxy glass slides, andthat it has performed the workflow for the new arrays — fluorescent labeling of target nucleic acids, hybridization, detection, and data evaluation — at its Berlin headquarters.
Scienion said that it has also led the development of suitable buffer systems for sample printing and optimization of the overall array workflow. The company's partners are currently validating the new chip on a number of environmental samples, Eickhoff said.