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Signature Genomics to Adopt Agilent Platform in Light of Roche's Planned Departure from Array Market

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Agilent Technologies and PerkinElmer have signed an agreement that will see PerkinElmer's Signature Genomics business switch to Agilent arrays for its genetic testing services.

A company spokesperson told BioArray News this week about the agreement. He said that PerkinElmer will be transitioning Signature from its current platform, which is manufactured by Roche NimbleGen, to Agilent in the coming months.

Spokane, Wash.-based Signature used to offer its chromosomal abnormality testing services on the Agilent platform, but switched to Roche NimbleGen in 2009 (BAN 11/10/2009), citing the latter's "quality of products" and global reach.

Roche NimbleGen subsequently commercialized Signature's design as its CGX arrays for cytogenetics research. Last month, however, Roche decided to discontinue the arrays by year end as part of a planned restructuring that will see it largely exit the microarray market to focus exclusively on its sequence capture business (BAN 6/12/2012).

Though Roche has said that it is seeking a buyer for the parts of NimbleGen it plans to discontinue — meaning that it is possible that some entity could continue to make the chips available — PerkinElmer has decided to move its array designs to Agilent. A Roche spokesperson told BioArray News earlier this month that there had been no change in the status of its NimbleGen array business since it first discussed the restructuring in June (BAN 7/17/2012).

Agilent's spokesperson said that the company has been working with "numerous NimbleGen customers" on converting them to the Agilent platform, as it has a "very similar workflow" to the NimbleGen platform. Whereas Affymetrix and Illumina, the other two remaining large vendors that sell arrays for cytogenetics research, sell so-called "closed platforms," where only their instruments can process their chips, Agilent and NimbleGen offer "open platforms," meaning that most commercial scanners, including their own systems, can image their traditional, slide-based arrays.

"The two platforms have a high degree of homology and make switching easy," the spokesperson said, adding that the company is offering "starter pack" deals for NimbleGen customers to facilitate switching.

Since Roche first disclosed its decision, Affy and Illumina have also said that they are willing to work with NimbleGen customers to convert to their platforms (BAN 6/19/2012).

While Agilent claims it is relatively easy to use its arrays on NimbleGen systems, the scanners need to be recalibrated to image Agilent chips. To that end, the spokesperson said that Agilent will "offer its full support to enable customers as much as possible to use their current equipment."

A number of other Roche NimbleGen customers have expressed interest in adopting Agilent's platform. Representatives for Ambry Genetics and the Carver Center for Genomics at the University of Iowa, both of them NimbleGen-certified service providers, told BioArray News earlier this month that they were contemplating a move to Agilent (BAN 7/17/2012).

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