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With Sigma Aldrich Consumables Deal in Hand, Febit Plots New Oligo Kits, Higher Density Arrays

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Febit Biotech, the German microarray company that went belly-up in 2004 but reemerged with fresh VC cash last year, plans to introduce new technology and reagents upgrades over the next two years, according to a company spokesperson.

The strategy follows a recent agreement with Sigma-Aldrich in which Sigma will manufacture oligo synthesis tools and reagents for Febit's Geniom array platform, which the companies announced last week.

Now, Febit said it hopes to build on that alliance by rolling out kits for the synthesis of 60-mer oligo nucleotides by the third quarter and launching a sample-preparation kit in 2007. Sigma will manufacture and package both kits

Company spokesperson Eva Sterzel told BioArray News last week that Febit has been offering its own 30-mer oligo-synthesis kits based on standard chemicals supplied through Proligo. Sterzel also said that Febit currently plans to distribute the kits manufactured by Sigma-Aldrich.

Febit Biotech CEO Cord Stähler said in a statement that the agreement with Sigma will enable Febit to "provide Geniom users with highest-grade chemicals and the worldwide logistics of a market leader."

Although Stähler did not directly mention it, the Sigma deal could give it a leg up in the European market over companies that still make their reagents in-house.

In addition to the new kits, Sterzel said that Febit plans a series of technology upgrades. Specifically, she said the company intends to quadruple the density of its customizable array and to introduce revised software and hardware.


Plans are underway to quadruple the density on the company's biochip, as well as to introduce revised software and hardware to customers.

"Febit will increase the density of [its] microarrays and offer standard synthesis of 15,000 programmable oligos per microarray by the end of this year," Sterzel said. "The next stage [array] in 2007 or 2008 will then be about 60,000 oligos per microarray."

Sterzel said the analytical upgrades basically amount to "revised software and adopted hardware with new optics." She declined to be more specific about what kinds of enzyme-on-chip assays the company is planning.

In May 2005, Stähler told BioArray News that the company was planning to add some applications to the existing system that can be integrated into installed Geniom systems.

Stähler said at the time that Febit was also considering de novo sequencing and genotyping, on-chip PCR, and melting curve kinetics as new applications for its system (see BAN 5/25/2005).

Last week, Sterzel said Febit has a "unique dynamic analysis platform" in the pipeline that will utilize real-time detection of melting curves on the microarrays, as well as primer extension. Sterzel said that the technology upgrades were a "first step towards a series of enzyme-on-chip assays." She declined to divulge any more details on the assays in development.

Sigma-Aldrich

Sigma believes its arrangement with Febit could boost its profile in the biotech market.

As Thorsten Ebel, the sales and marketing manager of biotechnology of Sigma-Aldrich, told BioArray News last week, the reagents [in the kits] are not exclusive, and Sigma believes its arrangement with Febit could be a springboard to more activity in the biotech arena.

"This cooperation will enhance our activities in molecular biology and novel genetic technologies," Ebel said.

Sigma has other ties to the array industry, most notably through its sales of a series of protein arrays developed with Procognia. However, until now, the company has retained a rather low profile in the array reagents business.

In some ways, Sigma's actions mirror those by Qiagen, which entered into a similar reagent-manufacturing agreement with Osmetech in November (see BAN 11/30/2005). At that time Qiagen agreed to provide Osmetech with DNA and RNA sample preparation kits for its eSensor detection system.

Solveigh Mähler, Qiagen's head of investor relations, told BioArray News in November that the deal illustrated Qiagen's desire to partner with other array companies to produce similar kits.

— Justin Petrone ([email protected])

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