Come 2006, customers could be seeing a different version of TeleChem International.
According to company officials, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company is planning a major product portfolio expansion for 2006 that promises to transform TeleChem from a reagents and tools shop to a catalog array company with antibody, chromatin P450, and transcription factor arrays.
Complementing the major product launches anticipated in the first half of next year, the company has also signed a distribution agreement with VWR International that will make TeleChem its "core" array supplies provider, TeleChem officials said.
"Traditionally, we've been a tools, kits, and reagents company," Todd Martinsky, TeleChem's head of sales and marketing, told BioArray News this week. "We are transforming ourselves into a platform company — we have our own high-throughput robotics, we have our own detection technology, we are launching a series of content microarrays," he said.
TeleChem already offers some content arrays, including a whole-genome chip called the H25K Human Genome Chip, and has made several arrays available through a collaboration with Jivan Biologics (see BAN 6/8/2005).
"There's a pretty big transformation going on here. A lot of the technology development that we've been working on for many years is finally coming to fruition."
The first of the new products, scheduled for release in the first quarter of 2006, will be 384-well micro-spotting pins, which "can print a higher density array in the bottom of a 384-well microplate," Martinsky said. The shaft diameter of the new pin is about half the size of the company's previous version, which allows the pin to get into smaller places, he added.
TeleChem has also scheduled its ArrayIt antibody arrays for release in the first quarter. The arrays, which are being co-developed through separate partnerships with Bachem Peninsula Laboratories and QED BioScience, will use TeleChem's surface technology.
Martinsky said that TeleChem is collaborating with Bachem on "miniaturizing and multiplexing their current plate-based [immunoassays]," while the partnership with QED has led to the creation of two-color, fluorescence-based antibody arrays with more than 300 specific proteins available to assay, he said.
Through the QED partnership, TeleChem plans to launch a cancer antibody microarray that includes BRCA1, ATM, mitosin, CA-125, retinoblastoma protein, topoisomerase II, and other antibodies, as well as an apoptosis array. "These products are essentially done," Martinsky said. "We are just trying to decide which labeling kit is going to be bundled with them right now. Once we sort out the protein labeling kit, then the arrays we've done with QED [will be available]."
In order to release the two-color fluorescent labeling kit for proteins, Martinsky said the firm needs to partner with a firm like Kreatech or Qiagen, which has its own labeling technology. TeleChem's labeling kit currently includes its new ArrayIt Green540 and Red640 dyes, according to its website. Martinsky said that the protein labeling kit may be available as soon as February.
Another product that needs a partner is the TransExpress Human Cytochrome P450 Splice Variant Microarray, co-developed by Jivan Biologics, which includes 1,441 oligonucleotides for all exons and exon-exon junctions of 57 cytochrome genes and their splice isoforms in the public EST databases.
Martinsky said TeleChem will need to shake hands with an oligo supplier before the CYP450 chips are launched, however. "That product is designed and ready to go," he said. "We are looking for an oligo manufacturing partner on that chip. Once we select that then we are off and running on that one."
A final product TeleChem may add to its catalog is a suite of transcription factor microarrays co-developed with Marligen Biosciences, an Ijamsville, Md.-based reagents and kits company. Martinsky said he couldn't put a timeframe on when those would see release.
All of the arrays are designed to work on any microarray slide-based scanner, and TeleChem media relations head Paul Haje told BioArray News this week that the company may release an upgraded scanner next year. TeleChem released a $20,000 scanner in September 2004 (see BAN 9/22/2004).
"There's a pretty big transformation going on here. A lot of the technology development that we've been working on for many years is finally coming to fruition," Martinsky said.
Staying Independent and the VWR Deal
Martinsky said that TeleChem has planned to enter the content array market for several years, but that it has taken time for the privately held company to deliver products because it has eschewed venture capital cash.
"We've boot-strapped our company," he said. "We have no outside investment. We've made money, we've stayed small, and we just reinvest the money we made into technology development."
While company officials said that this has no doubt deprived them of the advantage of getting to the market sooner, Haje said staying VC-free comes with its own advantages.
"We can turn on a dime," Haje said. "Biotechnology is so fast-paced, and we are able to take advantage of all the brand new breaking technologies because we can maneuver so quickly as an independently owned enterprise," he said. Haje noted that other VC-funded firms had made significant investments in array technology yet had failed to bring chips to market.
Haje also said that the firm is setting up distribution channels for its new catalog products and cited the pact with VWR International as an opportunity to become "their core microarray supplier."
John D'Errico, VWR's category manager for the life sciences, confirmed in a separate interview with BioArray News that TeleChem's products are available through VWR's website now, and will be included in its 2006 catalog, which ships in February.
"We are really trying to build the portfolio around functional genomics," D'Errico said of selecting TeleChem's array products, adding that VWR was specifically interested in its ArrayIt slides for DNA and protein arrays. "As far as [the] microarray world, it's really key to have [those slides] as part of our product line," he said.
VWR, which also offers labeling kits and nucleic acid purification kits, is "still working on building the [functional genomics] portfolio to round it out," D'Errico said. The company is still in the process of adding arrays from CombiMatrix to its catalog, following an agreement announced in September (see BAN 9/21/2005).
D'Errico also said that VWR is looking to add some siRNA products to its catalog, but declined to disclose specific companies with whom it is holding discussions.
— Justin Petrone ([email protected])