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Sanger Kicks off Atlas of Gene Expression Project with Help from Applied Imaging

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Last week, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute tapped Applied Imaging of Santa Clara, Calif., to be its imaging development partner in the “Atlas of Gene Expression” project — an initiative to map human protein expression patterns at the cellular level.

Applied Imaging will adapt the software used with its Ariol imaging platform for the high-throughput tissue analysis Sanger requires for the project.

“We are enhancing the throughput of the system by speeding up its capabilities to do analysis, and then we’re adapting it for specific markers that are of interest to Sanger’s research,” said Applied Imaging CEO Carl Hull.

Hull said the partnership with Sanger is a “huge opportunity” for the company, not least because of the positive association with one of the leading research institutes in the Human Genome Project. “If you look back at the way that sequencers from ABI and others became the workhorses of the sequencing effort, in some sense the image analysis systems that we’re working with Sanger to develop here have the potential to become that workhorse as we move into the protein expression realm,” Hull said.

Applied Imaging sees high-throughput tissue analysis as a key growth area for post-genomics research, and one that will spur demand for new analytical software tools. “The real challenge,” Hull said, “is just managing or interpreting the data that emerge from these types of experiments, and we hope to provide the tools that at a local level will allow [researchers] to do it.”

While reluctant to pin a number on the potential size of this software market, Hull said the Sanger deal puts his company in a good position to have a jump on its competitors. Applied Imaging will have the exclusive worldwide commercial rights to sell the Ariol applications developed in the collaboration.

“I think a lot of people are now beginning to realize that this is the right time in the drug discovery and development pipeline to be looking at huge numbers of these [tissue] samples, just like they did eons back with high-throughput screening and combinatorial chemistry,” Hull said. “Perhaps that wave is cresting in our favor right now.”

— BT

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