Arrayjet this week introduced custom array services, expanding its portfolio beyond the microarray instrumentation market in which it has mainly competed since it launched its first arrayer six years ago.
According to Duncan Hall, commercial director at the Roslin, UK-based firm, the decade-old firm has decided to offer custom array printing services to meet demand from customers who do not wish to buy their own arrayers, as well as those who want to try Arrayjet's arrayers before bringing a system in house.
"To date, Arrayjet has been focused on delivering its core microarray printing products based on its unique inkjet technology," Hall said in a statement. "Throughout this time we have had numerous enquiries from researchers who have wanted to access our printing technology and microarray development expertise on a usage basis," he said. "We are now addressing this demand and have already signed up our first customers."
Since 2005, Arrayjet has launched a suite of microarrayers of varying throughputs based on its non-contact piezoelectric printing technology. The company said this week that it has sold more than 40 instruments worldwide, to customers such as the Roslin Institute, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Millipore, Novartis, and the California Institute of Technology.
Still, while the firm has been active in the arrayer market, it has been unable to serve customers that want arrays printed using its approach but don't want to buy an instrument. Arrayjet also competes against a number of rivals — Billerica, Mass.-based Aushon Biosystems and Berlin-based Scienion to name two — that offer custom array services in addition to arrayers.
"During our time selling instruments we have met with a number of potential customers who do not desire to invest in the infrastructure required to make their own high-quality microarrays," Hall told BioArray News this week. "The range of customers is wide, from academics to clinicians and from small biotech companies to large biotech companies," he said.
Arrayjet's new custom array services offering will be accompanied by internal expansion. Hall said the firm will initially serve customers from its existing facility in Roslin, where it has in the past produced arrays for potential buyers of its instruments.
This year the company will increase its resources by adding laboratory staff and building a second laboratory within its facility that will be "built to clean-room standards." Additionally, Hall said that Arrayjet plans to pursue International Organization for Standardization certification "in order to enable us to service the diagnostics market in the future." He noted that the firm will rely on an existing network of distributors to promote its services offering.
Arrayjet currently sells four arrayers. The first, the Marathon, prints up to 100 slides from six 96-well or 384-well microtiter plates. The second system, the Super-Marathon, includes a microplate stacker and automated lid lifter to enable the automated printing of microarrays from up to 48 microtiter plates. Both systems debuted in 2005.
Arrayjet followed those launches in 2007 with the benchtop Sprint, which enables the automated printing of up to 20 arrays. It launched the Ultra-Marathon, which is capable of printing up to a thousand slides in one run, the following year (BAN 5/13/2008).
According to Hall, the microarrayer market is "still interesting" and Arrayjet "continues to see demand for its products." He said the firm will soon release version 1.2 of its Command Centre Software for Marathon inkjet microarrayers. It released 1.2 for its Sprint arrayers at the end of last year.
Arrayjet also expects that its new custom services offering will spur demand for its instruments by introducing potential customers to its non-contact printing approach.
Hall referred to the new strategy as a "hybrid business model," where "customers can initially work with us on assay development and custom microarray printing, before electing to take control of production in their own facility when they are ready." Once a customer decides to invest in an Arrayjet instrument, the company will then "transfer the entire production solution as part of the service," Hall added.
"Some customers — and we are already in discussions with more than one organization interested in taking this approach — would prefer to make their own microarrays but require more support and assistance from their partner in the early days," Hall said.
"The aim of the hybrid model is to enable customers to take on the manufacture of their own microarrays when they are ready, but meanwhile to have access to a source of microarrays ready-made for them, on demand," he added.
"The model provides them with the arrays to start them off, followed by installation of a complete production solution within their facility, fully supported by our expert application scientists and customer service engineers."
Have topics you'd like to see covered in BioArray News? Contact the editor at jpetrone [at] genomeweb [.] com.