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Service Providers Give ABI Mixed Marks On Phase-out of 1700 Microarray System

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The 11 service providers who were certified by Applied Biosystems in 2006 to offer gene-expression services on its 1700 Chemiluminescent Expression Analysis System have different opinions on how well the company has wound down the platform, with some calling the phase-out “ideal” while others are disappointed.
 
ABI certified 11 labs and companies as service providers in February 2006, only to announce a two-year discontinuation period for the 1700 system in October 2007 (see BAN 2/14/2006, BAN 10/30/2007).
 
ABI spokesperson Lauren Lum told BioArray News this week that the firm is on track to stop offering human, rat, and mouse expression arrays by the end of this year and will cease supporting the platform by the end of 2009. The firm is also encouraging customers to adopt its second-generation sequencing platform, the SOLiD, for gene expression studies, she said.

Less than a year after ABI decided to pull the plug on the 1700, the situations of the 11 providers and their opinions on the phase-out couldn’t be more different.
 
One example is the level to which the 11 service providers (see table below) continue to offer ABI arrays as a service. Some providers continue to offer and see demand for the arrays, while others decided to stop offering the system almost immediately after ABI announced its plans to discontinue the platform.
 
Christian Gülly, director of the microbiology core facility at Medical University Graz in Austria, told BioArray News last week that since ABI’s official announcement the facility has booked more than 230 experiments for ABI arrays.
 
“Half of them are researchers that want to finish their studies using the same technology with which they started, but, interestingly, the other half is new customers who are aware that this product line will be closed in a year, but are convinced of the high quality,” Gülly said.
 
According to Orla Sheils, a professor in the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Trinity College Dublin, the institute’s core lab continues to see demand, particularly from the UK where ABI’s service provider has stopped offering services on the platform.
 
However, Sheils said that Trinity aims to stop offering the 1700 itself by year-end, and is keen to move ABI users over to other platforms. “We have notified many of our clients with ongoing projects, and have been able to pre-order consumables to allow completion in most cases,” she told BioArray News this week.
 

“We didn’t want to generate one more data point that we would later have to reconcile.”

“AB has provided us with information on common targets between the 1700 and other platforms to try and bridge the gap for projects that cannot be completed in the timeframe,” she said. “We have not commenced any new projects on the 1700 system and are directing enquiries to the Affymetrix service providers here in Dublin.”
 
Sheils said that overall ABI was supportive of Trinity’s efforts to phase out the system. “We have had site visits from US and European [ABI staffers] to reassure us and offer advice on alternative platforms,” she said. “I’m not sure what else to say except that each individual I’ve dealt with has been exceptionally helpful, considerate, and professional in a most difficult situation.”
 
Service providers IMGM Laboratories in Germany and the Norwegian Microarray Consortium in Bergen will also continue to offer the system through year-end, though representatives from both groups said that demand for the 1700 system is limited.
 
Ralph Oehlmann, director of business development at Martinsried, Germany-based IMGM, said this week that demand for the 1700 “has dropped down to virtually zero” since last October, while Thea Smedsrud from the NMC said that she is aware of only one customer using the system. She added that the consortium doesn’t view the platform as being on the market anymore.
 
Both Oehlmann and Smedsrud said they were satisfied with how ABI handled the phase-out. “They were very open in their discussions and clearly interested in helping us out and finding the best solution for IMGM,” said Oehlmann. In the meantime, IMGM has become an Agilent Certified Service Provider and has moved its customers over to the Agilent platform, while the NMC offers Affy, Agilent, and NimbleGen chips.
 
Phased Out
 
While all these providers continue to offer the 1700 in some way, others have phased it out completely. Andrew Brooks, director of the Bionomics Research and Technology Center at Rutgers University’s Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, said this week that his lab stopped offering services on the 1700 system last year.
 
“We didn’t want to generate one more data point that we would later have to reconcile,” he said. “Fortunately, there is enough room in this space to transition others to competing technologies; so there were other opportunities. We ended up repeating some experiments on other platforms just to make our customers whole,” said Brooks.
 
Shawn Levy, director of Vanderbilt University’s Shared Microarray Resource, said that Vanderbilt has also stopped offering the 1700 system and has moved projects onto other platforms, including Agilent and Affy. He called the phase-out of the system “ideal” and said that he had “no complaints” about how it has been handled.
 
Not all customers, however, were pleased with ABI’s support in the transition process. One service provider, who asked to remain anonymous because of concerns about how his peers and the company might react to his comments, said that he was disappointed by the way ABI has dealt with wrapping up the 1700 business.
 
“We phased out as soon as possible,” he told BioArray News this week. “[The discontinuation] really pissed us off.” 
 
The service provider said that ABI offered him a credit note for the value of a single 1700 instrument, and “also tried to strong-arm us into using the rebate towards the SOLiD platform, which they were pushing as the answer to gene expression profiling.”
 
Instead, his firm decided to move to the Illumina platform and adopt its Genome Analyzer for second-generation sequencing. 
 
“We weaned customers onto [the] alternative Illumina platform as it was even better data quality and more affordable,” he said. “We were already an Affy service provider, so some people chose to move onto that platform.”
 
 

ABI's Advanced Gene Expression
Service Provider Program Roster
Bionomics Research and Technology Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
and Rutgers University (Piscataway, NJ)
Geneservice Ltd. (Cambridge, UK)
Genome Express (Meylan, France)
IMGM Laboratories (Martinsried, Germany)
Labindia (Thane, India)
Macrogen (Seoul, South Korea)
Center for Medical Research, Medical University
of Graz (Graz, Austria)
Ming Shin Biotech (Taipei, Taiwan)
Trinity College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland)
Norwegian Microarray Consortium, University
of Bergen (Bergen, Norway)
Vanderbilt Shared Microarray Resource
(Nashville, Tenn.)
 
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