By Ben Butkus
Fluidigm this week announced the launch of the BioMark HD real-time PCR system and said that it will stop selling its previous-generation BioMark instrument by the end of this year.
According to Fluidigm, the new BioMark platform will have twice the throughput as its predecessor, enabling faster time to result and allowing customers to more easily perform large-scale single-cell gene expression studies.
"We've been working on this product internally for a while," Lisa Isailovic, BioMark product manager at Fluidigm, told PCR Insider this week. According to Isailovic, the BioMark HD differs from its predecessor in three major ways.
"The first two are more like enhancements, such as improving reliability," she said. "We replaced the light sources with LED technology to make it even more robust. We've also reduced the volume of the instrument by about 20 percent in order to help it fit into tight lab spaces."
Thirdly, the company incorporated a new thermal cycling protocol that enables so-called "Fast PCR, which really increases the throughput of the system," Isailovic said. "We're now looking at about 50,000 data points per day, which is about twice what it was before."
Fluidigm said that the BioMark HD platform is designed for researchers who require the sensitivity and throughput needed to study gene expression down to the single-cell level, especially those who have limited amounts of sample or study rare cell populations.
"It is becoming increasingly apparent that in order to study single cells, you really need to study many single cells," Isailovic said. "I think a lot of people think that 'many' means 10s, 20s, or even in the low hundreds, but we're really beginning to see that it needs to be higher than that — 500s or the low thousands. And with the throughput we can offer with the BioMark HD, it's in the range of 500 to 600 cells per day, easily."
Isailovic also noted that since the BioMark platform is typically used at a core lab or other shared lab facility, its faster time to result will allow more people to use the platform more frequently.
The first-generation BioMark system, which Fluidigm said is currently used by more than 200 customers, will be discontinued by the end of this year.
"The current system has had a good life, and this year we'll be reaching the end of the sale of that product," Isailovic said. "We'll continue to provide support, of course. But the BioMark HD will be the replacement."
At its core, the BioMark HD will use the same Fluidigm nanofluidic technology as the BioMark, and it will continue to support all applications of the original system, Fluidigm said. Using the company's Digital Array chips, the BioMark HD will be able to perform common digital PCR applications such as mutation detection, copy number variation, and absolute quantitation of nucleic acid sequences.
The company did not disclose a list price for the new platform. However, Isailovic said that "we have added increased functionality to the product, so we would expect to have a slightly higher price. However, we're not changing the target audience — we're still expecting it to fall into the same price range for typical customers looking to buy a BioMark."
Fluidigm said that two US pharmaceutical customers have been beta-testing the BioMark HD since the fourth quarter of 2010. However, Isailovic declined to disclose their identities, citing confidentiality agreements.
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