With nearly $21 million in new financing, universal microarray developer Agilix of New Haven, Conn., has just obtained the financial fuel to stoke its powerful intellectual property engine.
The company, which was co-founded by rolling circle amplification inventor Paul Lizardi, plans to offer whole genome analysis services to its customers for a variety of organisms. “We can apply our technology whether you need a mouse, monkey, dog, or hamster” sequenced, said Grant Carlson, the company’s director of business development.
Agilix’s technology is based on a system, invented by Lizardi, that uses rolling circle amplification to detect gene expression patterns in genes from any organism. This method, the “Fixed address analysis of sequence tags” (FAAST) transcription analysis system, uses the same set of “universal probes” on each array.
In the system, nucleic acid tags are attached to target molecules and these combination molecules are amplified using rolling circle amplification. The final detection stage involves multicolored coding probes that allow simultaneous detection of different target circles.
Agilix has licensed patents to the FAAST technology, US Patent Numbers 6,261,782 and 6,329,150, as well as rolling circle amplification patents.
While the Agilix platform is unique in offering the rolling circle amplification-based system, the company has not promoted it widely, deciding not to develop a website. Even with this new financing, Agilix does not plan to toot its own horn very loudly.
“Our marketing has been very targeted,” said Carlson. “We’ve gone after a select group of customers, and we still have not seen a need to widely publicize our efforts.”
The company may change its mind once it feels the heat from competitors such as Madison, Wis.-based EraGen, which just signed a collaboration with McGill University to develop algorithms for a similar universal microarray system; and Tm biosciences of Toronto, which has been marketing the Tm-1000 Universal Sequence Set since the end of November.
Agilix’s system offers the potential advantage of less amplification bias than PCR, and is higher throughput, enabling users to probe for up to one million addresses per experiment. Agilix is now offering the system under special early-access agreements.
The company also plans to use the financing funds to commercialize its “zeptolabeling” proteomics technology, which allows multiplex analysis of numerous protein analytes simultaneously, said Carlson. Like FAAST technology for genes, zeptolabelling does not require prior knowledge of the molecular structure of proteins being probed.
Investors in Agilix included Burrill & Company, Hambrecht & Quist Capital Management, Stephens Group, Wheatley MedTech Partners, BioVeda, and ATP Capital.