Amaxa and Promega this week announced an agreement to develop applications that integrate Amaxa’s Nucleofector technology with Promega’s luciferase reporter gene vectors and assay reagents.
The result would simplify the transfection of hard-to-transfect cell types such as stem cells, cancer cells, and primary cells, the companies said.
“It will be a co-marketing agreement and also partly a co-development agreement to provide comprehensive protocols for the whole transfection experiment for Amaxa’s customers,” Claus-Dietmar Pein, Amaxa’s director of marketing, told CBA News this week.
Specific financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.
The preliminary stage of the project, including the initial R&D work, is completed, said John Watson, director of cellular analysis at Promega.
“We’ve seen clear benefit to having Amaxa work on the optimization,” he said. “If Amaxa is aware of a particular application for these transfection assays, Promega can help them to design expression vectors.”
The first protocols will be ready by the end of the year, although developing the protocols that integrate these two technologies is an ongoing process, said Pein. He mentioned that Promega is also developing assays that are not based on luciferase, and said that those would also be a part of the Amaxa-Promega collaboration, but declined to elaborate.
Watson said that although opportunities exist to use these assays to validate gene therapies, neither company “talks about that too much, because it’s such a highly regulated market.”
In the cell-based assay reagent field, many products have moved towards the commodity market, said Watson. Amaxa’s transfection technology and Promega’s luciferase technology are two areas that have not done so.
Demanding ‘Complete Protocols’
The Amaxa-Promega deal has its roots in customer feedback for both companies, according to Watson and Pein. “Over the past several years, customers have told us that they are using more relevant biological model systems, such as primary or primary-like cells,” Watson said.
The use of stem cells in research has changed the way people think about primary cell lines, because large numbers of stem cells can be grown in the lab, said Watson. He said that now researchers want to do high-throughput assays using stem cell lines, although they are difficult to transfect.
“If Amaxa is aware of a particular application for these transfection assays, Promega can help them to design expression vectors.”
The introduction of Amaxa’s Nucleofector 96-Well Shuttle system has allowed researchers to use the technology for high-throughput assays.
“We have customers saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got this cell line that we want to use, but you have not developed the reporter gene or protocol for it,’” Watson said.
Amaxa’s customers want to see complete protocols, from pre- to post-transfection, Pein said, so it is partnering with Promega to develop protocols to enable researchers to transfect cells with luciferase reporter genes and readout assays afterwards.
Pein said that Amaxa is open to working with other companies on molecules that it can bring into cells such as peptides, morphilinos, or proteins — areas where it does not yet have a partner.
“The goal is to provide customers with a complete transfection solution, from cells and cell culture, to transfection, to post-transfection readout assays,” he said.
The company has in fact made other alliances. For instance, in September 2005 Amaxa partnered with American Type Culture Collection to optimize the use of ATCC’s cell lines with Amaxa’s Nucleofector technology, and a year later with Dharmacon to optimize the use of Dharmacon’s siRNA technology with the Nucleofector technology.