Sengenics this week announced the debut of its microarray-based cytogenetic testing services in Asia.
An official of the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based company said it will use chips designed by Oxford Gene Technology to diagnose pediatric constitutional abnormalities.
Arif Anwar, Sengenics' chief operating officer, told BioArray News this week that the firm is "one of the first" companies in Asia to offer array-based genetic testing, and likened the firm's model to that of Signature Genomics — the Spokane, Wash.-based lab, acquired by PerkinElmer last year, that pioneered array-based cytogenetic testing in the US.
"We are kind of like a Signature Genomics for Asia," Anwar said.
For its Asian services effort, Sengenics will use OGT's CytoSure ISCA 8x60K arrays, which feature eight, 60,000-probe whole-genome arrays per slide. Launched last year and manufactured by Agilent Technologies, the chips are based on the International Standards for Cytogenomic Arrays consortium's consensus design.
The chips have been adopted by other cytogenetics labs, including Children's Hospital Boston, the Emory Genetics Lab, Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, and the UK's National Health Service's National Genetics Reference Laboratory.
According to Anwar, Sengenics is offering three "key" tests: one for learning disorders and autism, one for physical disorders, and a whole-genome test. It will also offer tests for metabolic disorders and inherited cancers.
Anwar said that Sengenics developed its menu after consulting geneticists in its target markets. He added that the most popular offering will likely be the whole-genome array test.
"We have developed different tests based on input from the medical communities in Asia," said Anwar. "There are slightly different needs here compared to the UK and the US," he added.
He also said that the tests' price tag, between $1,000 and $2,000 depending on the test, could be attractive to customers in the region, who are paying "three to five times" that cost to have their samples processed abroad.
Because of this lower price, Anwar said that Sengenics has already received inquiries from European labs. Though the firm is specifically targeting Asian countries due to its location, it can receive and process samples from anywhere in the world, he said.
According to Anwar, the agreement with OGT is exclusive and covers 14 countries and regions in Asia and the Middle East, which comprise Sengenics' core market. Those countries are Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain.
In addition to running the arrays and interpreting the data, Sengenics said it will provide medical professionals and affected families with access to the latest information on disorder management and treatment options.
All of the firm's tests are carried out according to the procedures of the medical system in the patient's country. Anwar said that the firm is working with different governments to establish "best practices" for its offering.
"There are no regulatory issues," said Anwar. "Everything is being conducted through the medical systems of the country in question.
"We are not a direct-to-consumer genetics company," he stressed.
Founded in 2008, Sengenics is backed by Malaysian venture capital firm Insas, which is also based in Kuala Lumpur. In 2009, the firm penned an agreement with Oxford, UK-based OGT, making it the British firm's partner in Asia.
"We have done a variety of research projects for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies" using OGT's technology, Anwar said of the relationship. "We are their representative in Asia for their products and services."
An OGT spokesperson confirmed in an e-mail that Sengenics "acts as OGT's agent in several countries in Asia." He did not elaborate.
Anwar said the firm has been in "stealth mode" until this summer. It opened a "full, molecular-diagnostics facility" in Kuala Lumpur last month, and, in addition to the new pediatric-testing launch, is designing its own arrays for serving the Asian market. Anwar said that custom arrays for Asian populations should be available by early 2012.
The company also has its own internal-development programs to create new tests.
"We aim to integrate genetic-variation information on the Asian population into downstream tests for chromosomal aberrations and cancer," Anwar said, declining to elaborate.
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