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Olink Sees Signature Q100 Platform as Key to Broadening Technology's Reach

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NEW YORK – With the recent launch of its Signature Q100 platform, Olink continues its effort to broaden access to its proteomic technology.

The company believes that the Q100 platform, with its small footprint and relatively low price, "will make Olink assays available to a lot more labs than previously," said Kristin Hellman, product manager at Olink.

She noted that typically, labs looking to use Olink assays for the mid-plex, targeted protein analyses the Q100 is intended for have either sent their samples to the company for analysis or to core laboratories that had a Fluidigm Biomark HD instrument, which Fluidigm made available for running Olink assays under a 2013 comarketing agreement between the two companies.

According to a research note from SVB Leerink, the Biomark HD installed base stands at around 500 systems. The note also highlighted the fact that Olink assay kits have much higher gross margins (around 90 percent) than the firm's service revenues (between 65 percent and 70 percent), suggesting that the move to running more targeted assays on the Q100 could drive gross margins higher.

The Q100 is a benchtop instrument designed for readout of Olink's Target 96 and Target 48 panels, which enable relative quantification of 92 proteins across 90 samples and 45 proteins across 40 samples, respectively. The system is also meant for running Olink Focus panels, which consist of custom assays of up to 21 proteins.

All panels rely on Olink's proximity extension assay, or PEA, which uses pairs of antibodies linked to DNA strands that, when the antibodies bind to their target, are brought into proximity. After DNA polymerase extension, the product can be used as a surrogate marker for the target protein.

The Q100 system lists for around $75,000, a price point that Carl Raimond, Olink's chief commercial officer, said the company believed would make it attractive for labs already doing protein work that are looking to add another mode of analysis — for instance researchers interested in proteins or sample types not as amenable to mass spectrometry.

"I think you're starting to see mass spec users acknowledge that this could be a real complement to their work," he said. For instance, "they might want to look at cytokines, which as you know [identifying by] mass spec is a difficult task."

"I don't see these as technologies colliding as much as I see them as complements," Raimond said, noting that he focused largely on life science mass spec and proteomics in a previous role as a general manager at Agilent.

Olink also sees the Q100 as an instrument for targeted analysis downstream of its Explore platform, which uses the PEA technology to measure panels of up to 1,536 proteins, with next-generation sequencing on Illumina's NovaSeq system as readout. The company plans to expand its Explore panel to around 3,000 proteins by the end of 2021.

The Explore platform's NGS-based readout has helped Olink place the system in sequencing labs interested in generating proteomics content, Raimond said, adding that the company believes these labs are potential customers for the Q100, as well.

"Their users come to them now for multiomics … and this is sort of an affordable way for an NGS lab to add some more capabilities so that they can offer a full suite of protein analysis," he said.

"We definitely see it as [being] a scalable platform throughout the whole [multi]plex area, from really large discovery studies down to the more targeted, lower-plex studies," Hellman said. "And we see it scaling both ways, [for] the really large discovery studies [where] you find your signature and then do a more targeted analysis, and also the other way around where you start with smaller-scale studies and then complement that with discovery studies."

In 2020, Olink generated revenues of $54.1 million, with its business divided roughly equally between discovery work on the Explore platform and sales of targeted assays.

The company has begun taking orders for the new Q100 system and plans to begin shipping it in the second half of the year.

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