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Toshiba Develops New DNA Chip; Earlier-Generation Hepatitis C Array to Launch Soon


Toshiba has developed a DNA chip that utilizes complementary metal oxide semiconductor circuit technology, and allows detection of DNA at very low concentrations, the firm announced last week.

According to the Tokyo-based firm, immediate applications for the chip will include analysis of susceptibility to anticancer drugs and health monitoring for preventative identification of disease genesis. The new chip is single-use and can be applied as a research tool for both SNPs and mRNAs, a company spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to BioArray News.

The introduction of this new chip comes three years after Toshiba made its official debut in the microarray market with the development of an electrochemical array for use in developing hepatitis C treatment regimens (see BAN 10/26/2001). That chip was developed in collaboration with Japanese venture GeneCare Research Institute, and according to the firm, was the world’s first screening chip for hepatitis.

In addition to containing a CMOS signal-detection circuit, the new DNA chip “carries out on-chip amplification of the signal derived from the DNA prior to transmission — the process where most noise interference occurs,” the Toshiba spokesperson noted. The firm said the technology enables the new chip to perform quantitative analysis of DNA at much lower concentrations than comparable chips and allows for a simplified DNA-amplification process.

Although the new chip was developed primarily for therapeutic monitoring purposes, its potential applications are broad, according to the spokesperson, and can be used as a research tool for forensics, food inspection, and monitoring for preventative identification of disease genesis. “We plan to commercialize an advanced lineup of DNA chips and related technologies that can be used for various applications,” the spokesperson wrote in the e-mail.

Toshiba has not yet set a price for the chips, which run on a proprietary analyzer, but said that information would be disclosed when a commercialization schedule is set for the new product.

At the time of the hepatitis C chip’s introduction, the firm said that it aimed to mass produce the chip and commercialize it by the end of March 2003, but would only market it in Japan. This is because the SNPs on the chips are those common among the genetically homogeneous Japanese population. The hepatitis C virus, according to a Toshiba spokesperson, is particularly common in Japan, where it is estimated to infect two million people.

However, Toshiba has yet to market the earlier-generation chip. The spokesperson told BioArray News that the firm would market the product worldwide soon, with commercialization of the new chip following soon after.

The company previously announced plans to develop an instrument platform for DNA chip-based diagnostics. This would pit Toshiba against players in the DNA diagnostic chip market such as Nanogen and Affymetrix.

Nanogen has an agreement in place with Hitachi Instruments, in which Hitachi manufactures Nanogen’s NanoChip workstations and has the exclusive right to distribute these workstations in Japan. The San Diego-based firm also is looking to expand its presence in the molecular diagnostics market through the pending acquisition of analyte-specific reagents manufacturer Epoch Biosciences.

Affymetrix recently became the first microarray manufacturer to gain marketing approval for use of its GeneChip platform for diagnostics. The firm announced at the beginning of September that European Union regulatory authorities had cleared for marketing the Affy platform along with Roche’s CYP450 AmpliChip (see ).

Toshiba believes that the EU’s clearance of the AmpliChip will open up a new market and has “significant meaning to Toshiba and others” competing in the microarray-based diagnostics field.

— EW

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