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Wafergen Expands Japanese Presence with Early-Access, Distribution Agreements

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Wafergen Biosystems, seeking to expand its presence in the Japanese market ahead of the commercial launch of its SmartChip real-time PCR system, this week disclosed an early-access customer and new distributor for the platform in Japan.

Wafergen said today that scientists from Kyoto University will use the SmartChip system to identify and compare biomarkers to advance their research to regenerate tissues such as bone, cartilage, and muscle.

In addition, last week Wafergen said that it has signed an exclusive distribution agreement for SmartChip with Takeda Rika Kogyo, which provides products and services to the Japanese life sciences market.

"Distribution of the SmartChip system to customers in Japan is an important step of our commercialization strategy to expand customer adoption … into new large target markets," Wafergen Chairman and CEO Alnoor Shivji said in a statement.

The announcements capped a busy week for Wafergen, as it also announced the launch of microRNA and cancer pathway profiling panels for the SmartChip system (see Product Watch, this issue).

SmartChip users at Kyoto University will be led by Shinya Yamanaka, director of the university's Center for iPS Cell Research and Application and an early pioneer in the development and use of induced pluripotent stem cells.

Yamanaka and colleagues are using SmartChip to better identify and compare biomarkers important to the clarification of iPS cells, Wafergen said.

Kyoto University is one of 10 customers using the SmartChip platform under an early-access program in anticipation of a full commercial launch of the system later this year.

Wafergen previously said in March that two undisclosed Japanese organizations were using the platform under the early-access program. It has not disclosed the second Japanese entity (PCR Insider, 3/10/10).

Other early-access customers include the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston; Ghent University; Stanford University; University of California-San Francisco; University of Pittsburgh; University of Southern California; University of Texas-Southwestern; and an undisclosed US biotech company.

Wafergen also said in March that two of the three components of its SmartChip system – the SmartChip Cycler and Nanodispenser – received CE Mark certification in Japan and Europe, which allowed the company to ship systems to early-access customers in those markets.

The SmartChip system also consists of consumable SmartChips, each of which contains 5,184 nanowells preloaded with primer content and optimized for use with the dispenser and thermal cycler.

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