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CompuCyte Gains New Ground in Academia, But Will Pharma Remain Interested in i Series Cytometers?


WOODBURY, NY — CompuCyte has placed at least six of its 'i' Series imaging cytometers at various academic and research institutes over the past 12 months, including one of its newest instruments launched earlier this year, a CompuCyte executive said this week.

Elena Holden, CompuCyte's president and CEO, disclosed the placements to CBA News during a scientific symposium on quantitative imaging cytometry held by the company at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Genome Research Center, located here.

Most of CompuCyte's recent placements have been with academic laboratories or research institutes, signifying that the company's instruments have gained a foothold specifically in that market. But will pharma remain interested in the company's imaging cytometers for drug screening applications?

Although the company has several existing pharmaceutical customers, it is unclear how many instruments CompuCyte has placed in pharma in the past year. However, the company continues to develop applications for toxicity and biomarker studies to lure big pharma customers.

CompuCyte's pharma collaborations may become clearer after next week, when the company participates in the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, DC. Holden said this has traditionally been one of the company's biggest shows, and this year CompuCyte will have several podium presentations, five posters, its own workshops, and several customer presentations.

"Because the interest [at CSHL] was so great, and there was such a variety of applications, we decided to make this a slightly bigger event."

In the meantime, CompuCyte continues to cultivate its growth in academia. CSHL is one of CompuCyte's newer iCys customers and has installed the instrument at its core cytometry facility, which is why the company held the symposium here. The CSHL placement occurred last March, but CompuCyte hadn't officially disclosed it until scheduling the CSHL symposium.

Holden said the large amount of interest from potential CSHL users encouraged the company to increase the scope and size of its usual general training seminars to three days featuring scientific presentations and instrument demos (see related story, this issue).

"We typically offer training courses and hold local seminars, but because the interest [at CSHL] was so great, and there was such a variety of applications, we decided to make this a slightly bigger event," Holden said.

CompuCyte offers three instrument platforms, which it calls its 'i' Series, all of which are next-generation versions of the basic LSC technology platform on which the company was founded.

The first and oldest of the 'i' Series is the iCyte, which features an inverted microscope platform and can incorporate optional automation for high-volume cellular analyses performed on a variety of carriers, including microtiter plates and microscope slides. The company targets these instruments at areas of research "that call for processing large numbers of samples, such as drug toxicity or biomarker discovery often performed on multiple tissue slides or with tissue microarrays," according to the company's website.

The second instrument platform, introduced early last year, is the iCys. It is targeted primarily at academic researchers, and features a fully configured microscope with both laser-scanning and brightfield visualization capabilities.

Lastly, the company just officially launched the iColor earlier this year. This instrument allows simultaneous fluorescence and chromatic staining visualization, and is therefore targeted more at the pathology research market.

Besides the CSHL placement, Holden also said that in the past year CompuCyte has placed either an iCys or iCyte cytometer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, the National University of Ireland, and Purdue University.

Holden also said that CompuCyte had just negotiated terms with the first customer for the iColor, although she declined to identify the customer for confidentiality reasons.

As a privately owned company, CompuCyte does not break out its revenues; however, last year Holden said that the company's imaging cytometers cost between $400,000 and $500,000, depending on specific features. Therefore, the above six placements, including CSHL, represent anywhere between $2.4 million and $3 million in revenues generated over an approximate 12-month period.

CompuCyte also does some contract research and application development work, but it is unclear how much revenue the company derives from these endeavors. It has signed at least one such deal with the National University of Singapore, in which CompuCyte develops assays and performs high-content cell-based analysis using iCyte and iCys to study the effects of NUS-supplied compounds on cells.

Holden told CBA News this week that CompuCyte "performed to expectations" in the first quarter of this year, and followed a "very busy" fourth quarter last year. "Overall, we've been very pleased with our progress," Holden said.

CompuCyte's previously disclosed academic partners include the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Case Western Reserve University.

Although CompuCyte markets its imaging cytometers to a wide range of researchers, the large number of recent academic placements seem to suggest that the instruments are becoming more popular for basic research applications as opposed to drug screening at pharmaceutical companies.

CompuCyte does have several existing pharmaceutical customers, including Amgen, Pfizer, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline, all of which have used a CompuCyte instrument since early 2005 or earlier.

It is unclear whether CompuCyte has signed on any new pharmaceutical customers in the past year; if it has, the company has not disclosed them. However, Holden told CBA News that the iCys, which is targeted more at academics for basic research applications, "does not necessarily outsell" the iCyte, which is targeted more at pharmaceutical researchers due to its higher degree of walk-away automation.

— Ben Butkus ([email protected])

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