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Spanish Startup Bioarray to Launch Array-Based Service for Cosmetics Developers

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By Justin Petrone

Bioarray, a two-year-old biotech firm based in Alicante, Spain, will later this month debut a service designed to enable clients to test the effects of skin products in development and their functional ingredients.

According to CEO Andrés Antón, the new tool, called Dermoarray, will be the first of several chips the company offers to its partners in industry. The company is looking to grow its sales to cosmetics developers, pharmaceutical companies, and other private firms while it continues to expand its services to hospital laboratories and academic researchers, its two largest customer segments.

Manufactured by Agilent Technologies, Bioarray's Dermoarray allows customers to screen their cosmoceutical and dermatological products and their active ingredients against an internally designed panel of 680 genes. The panel contains markers related to apoptosis, ionic channels, toxicity, and inflammation, and customers can analyze the effects of their products on different cell types using the array, such as fibroblasts, keratinocytes, epithelial cells, adipocytes, and melanocytes.

"The idea of the array is to give companies information about the active ingredients in a given product," Antón told BioArray News this week. Dermoarray is "much better than using a whole-genome array because we can focus in on the areas that are of interest to companies given the ingredients they want to test."

Bioarray was founded at the end of 2008 and began operations last year. Most of the company's services are based on the Agilent platform. The company, for instance, offers array comparative genomic hybridization-based testing for constitutional abnormalities, including prenatal cases, using a menu of Agilent-made, custom-designed chip it calls Cytoarrays.

Additionally, Bioarray offers gene and microRNA expression profiling, ChIP-on-chip, and DNA methylation analysis services. This month, the company also began offering protein array services and next-generation sequencing on the Roche 454 Life Sciences, Illumina, and Life Technologies SOLiD platforms.

When it comes to the Dermoarray, Bioarray is playing in a relatively less competitive market than, say, cytogenetics. While the use of microarrays to study skin inflammation has been described before — and this could be an indication for Bioarray's product — only a handful of companies offer arrays specifically designed to study skin. Germany's Miltenyi Biotec offers Piqor skin microarrays to study skin cancers and skin inflammation, and Rockville, Md.-based US Biomax sells skin tissue arrays.

To develop Dermoarray, Bioarray selected markers based on expression data published in scientific journals as well as internal studies and those performed in collaboration with other researchers, such as the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Alicante.

The chip allows clients to characterize tissue from skin biopsies and to analyze the action of molecules compared to cell culture, enabling users to study the effect of the molecule in question on the skin and its possible toxic effects.

Dermoarray can also be customized to match the needs of the customer. For example, Antón said that customers interested in studying apoptosis could request an expansion of the panel of genes to cover that process. Dermoarray is packaged together with Bioarray's bioinformatics analysis services, he added.

"The strength of the array is that you can see the different relationships between the genes," said Antón. "Customers may see effects on skin that they are unaware of and that they may find of use in their product development programs. You can use this information to develop new cosmetics, and with this test you can quickly obtain information about your candidate ingredients prior to in vivo testing."

Since its inception, Bioarray has mostly targeted private and public hospital labs with its services, as well as scientists at universities and research institutions. Dermoarray is its first foray into specifically serving industrial clients.

"At this moment, we have offered services mainly to clinics and researchers and these parts of our business are the most established," Antón said. "Our business with private companies is quite new."

Antón said that Bioarray is developing other focused chips for specific industries, such as pharmaceutical firms and food testing companies. He acknowledged that the company is working with companies to design the arrays, but said it is "too early to discuss these projects."

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