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Applied Biosystems to Market and Distribute HTS Biosystems SPR-based Protein Arrays

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Applied Biosystems has agreed to help manufacture, market, and distribute HTS Biosystems’ Flex Chip surface plasmon resonance (SPR) protein array platform, the two companies said last week. The chip technology, which HTS has beta tested with its partners Dyax and Mitsubishi Chemical, should be on the market sometime in the second half of the year, the companies have said.

Although ABI established HTS through a joint venture with Quantech, the two companies agreed only recently to work together to commercialize the Flex Chip product, said Enrico Picozza, a co-founder and chief operating officer of HTS. The arrangement makes sense for both parties, he added, because HTS can utilize ABI’s worldwide sales network to bring the product to market quickly, and because the Flex Chip is complementary to ABI’s products. Financial details were not disclosed.

Specifically, ABI is responsible for marketing, distributing, and supporting the Flex Chip system, as well as manufacturing certain pieces of the technology, Picozza said. HTS will manufacture the chip platform, which consists of an injection-molded plastic chip coated with a gold surface compatible with grating-coupled SPR detection. HTS has licensed the SPR technology from ABI.

HTS claims the Flex Chip has applications in the multiplexed study of protein-protein interactions, because its SPR-based platform will allow researchers to obtain kinetic information on binding events. “We’re really going after the functional proteomics and protein chip markets,” Picozza said. “You can get into differential display, but we’re also going after protein and affinity agent characterization because you can monitor binding in real time.”

The SPR detection technology in HTS’ Flex Chip system is similar to that of Biacore, which currently manufactures a SPR-based protein analysis platform, but how the Flex Chip implements SPR “is radically different,” Picozza said. Instead of using high index glass and prisms, as in Biacore’s approach, HTS has developed its chips to contain sinusoidal grating patterns, which serve as a cheaper platform for SPR analysis, he said. “It’s a little bit more complicated system to implement,” said Picozza of the Biacore technology, and as a result HTS’ system should lower the cost of analyzing protein samples, he added. HTS has designed the chips to be disposable after one use.

In a previous agreement, Hopkinton, Mass.-based HTS agreed to provide Dyax with early access to the Flex Chip technology in exchange for rights to use Dyax’ phage display technology for generating binding reagents for use with the chip. HTS also has an arrangement with Protein Sciences to access its library of proteins for use with the Flex Chip, and with Boston Probes, a subsidiary of Applied Biosystems as of November 2001, to use its peptide nucleic acid technology for creating self-assembled arrays of proteins or binding agents on the chip surface. In addition to self-assembly, Picozza said the Flex Chip is also compatible with traditional spotting equipment.

HTS has plans to release other products, both in partnership with ABI and independently, Picozza said. The company’s next entrant to the market will most likely be a microarray-based technology for target screening using chemiluminescence-based detection, he said. Picozza declined to offer details on the technology, but said it was likely to reach the market sometime next year.

— JSM