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Buying Eureka, Affymetrix Eyes Low-, Mid-Plex Ag-bio Genotyping Market


NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Through its $15 million acquisition of Eureka Genomics announced this week, Affymetrix is aiming to extend its reach in the agrigenomics genotyping space beyond the high-throughput multiplexed applications addressed by its 384 Axiom HT arrays to provide low- and mid-plex high-throughput solutions for both plant and animal research.

Since Affymetrix introduced the 384 Axiom HT in 2013, its ag-bio genotyping business has been steadily becoming one of its most important growth drivers. Over the last year, for instance, ag-bio revenues have increased to account for roughly 25 percent of the company's total genotyping revenues.

The 384 Axiom HT can process 384 arrays, each with up to 50,000 markers, and runs on Affymetrix's GeneTitan instrument. Currently, Affymetrix offers predesigned Axiom assays for bovine, buffalo, chicken, cotton, maize, salmon, soybean, strawberry, trout, and wheat genotyping, as well as custom arrays.

"This is a market that is growing at a very robust … rate" and is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Laurent Bellon, senior vice president and general manager of Affymetrix's genetic analysis business unit — genotyping, told GenomeWeb this week.

And thus far, the company has been able to make significant inroads when it comes to meeting customers' high-throughput multiplexed genotyping needs. However, "we have heard very consistently [that there is] a need for … low-plex, affordable solutions, Bellon said. "Agrigenomics [comprises] a pretty diverse range of applications from sequencing, discovery, and validation all the way to … routine applications [such as] marker-assisted management for herds or crops … and quality-control types of applications that typically require much lower numbers of markers with a [limited] number of samples at an economical price point."

With Eureka's technology, Bellon said, Affymetrix can now offer genotyping solutions across the low-, mid-, and high-plex needs of the market.

Eureka's technology enables the simultaneous profiling of SNPs and other genetic markers in hundreds to thousands of animal or plant samples using next-generation sequencing. At the time of the acquisition, the company offered a barley SNP panel that can screen for over 400 SNPs in DNA extracted from the plant and a bovine parentage assay that screens for 122 SNPs in DNA from cow tissue, in addition to custom assays.

According to Bellon, Eureka has primarily sold its technology through a service model, but Affymetrix intends to focus on commercializing kits and related protocols for both the existing assays and upcoming ones.

He declined to comment specifically on the kinds of products that Affymetrix intends to develop using the Eureka technology, but said that they will cover areas such as parentage, marker-assisted management, and genomic selection. The company intends to continue offering both predesigned and custom assays, he noted.

Such products will be launched under the Eureka Genotyping Solution and Services name through an early-access program with partners that will work with Affymetrix "to deploy a particular kit," Bellon added.

Beyond its own products, Affymetrix is also commercializing the Eureka technology through licensing deals with companies interested in using it within their own offerings.

Concurrent with the announcement of the Eureka acquisition, Affymetrix said that it signed a multi-year deal with Zoetis, extending an agreement that company inked in 2014 to use Eureka's genotyping technology in its cattle and sheep genetics business.

"There are actually many other discussions that are already well under way with other players in the agrigenomics space, both within animals, as well as plants," to license the Eureka technology, Bellon said.

He added that all other commercial arrangements Eureka had in place prior to the acquisition would be maintained. In addition to its deal with Zoetis, last October Eureka formed a partnership with VeriPrime Beef Cooperative to develop molecular assays to better manage cattle health risk.