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Invitrogen Licenses Zyomyx Patents; Zyomyx to Help Develop New Protein Chip Products

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After rebranding itself as a services company (see ProteoMonitor Nov. 19), Zyomyx has exclusively licensed to Invitrogen specific fields of use from over 30 of its protein microarray patents, Invitrogen said this week. The agreement also gave Zyomyx an R&D deal with Invitrogen to help bring new proteomics products to market.

“Invitrogen has outstanding technology for making proteins and content,” said Peter Wagner, the CEO of Hayward, Calif.-based Zyomyx. “In combination with our chip manufacturing process, this is very powerful.”

The patents that Invitrogen licensed cover a broad range of technologies, including surface chemistry, combinations of chip architectures, surface configurations, and different variations of protein chips and microfluidic devices. The fields of use covered by the patents include development processes for protein microarrays that use certain detection modalities and contain more than 200 protein-based analytes, or “spots.”

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

“Zyomyx was one of the first companies to create protein arrays in a microchip format and was active from its earliest days in filing a large number of important patent applications,” said Gregory Lucier, chairman and CEO of Invitrogen. “The Zyomyx development processes are very complementary to our ProtoArray products, and by licensing rights to relevant Zyomyx intellectual property we are making it possible for Invitrogen researchers to develop proprietary processes and applications for our unique protein microarrays that will expand their utility and accessibility.” Invitrogen obtained the ProtoArray line when it acquired Protometrix in April (see ProteoMonitor April 9; See p.6 for an interview with Mike Snyder, Protometrix’s co-founder.)

According to Wagner, Zyomyx has more than 120 issued and pending patents, as well as over 100 invention disclosures that are in the process of new patent filing.

“The past six years [since Zyomyx was founded] has been plenty of time to develop technologies, and only a small fraction of the technologies were used for our product,” said Wagner. “We have a huge pipeline.”

Wagner emphasized that although people know Zyomyx as a protein-chip company, the company’s intellectual property portfolio goes beyond antibodies and chips.

“The area of miniaturizing bioanalysis has just begun to develop, and Zyomyx is really lucky to have an expertise that is right in the heart of that,” said Wagner.

Carlsbad, Calif.-based Invitrogen is known as an avid acquirer of companies and technologies. After the company acquired protein microarray company ProtoMetrix in April, it launched a 2,800-protein yeast genome array. Then, last month, it introduced an 1,800-protein human protein array.

When Zyomyx announced it’s new business plan two weeks ago, there was speculation, reported by ProteoMonitor on Nov. 19, that Invitrogen would be Zyomyx’s first suitor.

Cheri Walker, vice president of corporate development at Invitrogen, said that Zyomyx’s technologies are important to her company because they fill in gaps in protein chip development where Invitrogen lacked strength.

“There’s two main discussions in generating chips — where the proteins are coming from and who can build the chip. One alone is not sufficient,” said Wagner. “I think the protein array group at Invitrogen has outstanding capabilities of making large amounts of proteins, and they have seen our strength in the chip manufacturing and process control of making and developing a chip.”

Sales and marketing of products would be left up to Invitrogen, said Wagner.

Prior to rebranding itself as a services company, Zyomyx laid off over 40 employees, or 80 percent of its staff, and sold about $50 million worth of equipment, including biotechnology tools, semiconductor equipment, optics and laser equipment, information technology equipment, silicon fabrication equipment, and personal computers.

Wagner said that since Zyomyx announced its new business model, he has received many enthusiastic responses from companies interested in Zyomyx’s technical capabilities.

“I think we’re on a good track here,” he said.

Under the current business model, Wagner said he expects Zyomyx to break even financially within the next six to 12 months.

— TSL

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