Zyomyx made the jump to big pharma last week, signing GlaxoSmithKline as an early access partner as it prepares to commercially launch its protein chip platform early next year. Glaxo is now the third party to gain early access to Zyomyx’s cytokine array and analysis platform, after Specialty Laboratories and Partners Healthcare, the administrator for two Harvard University-associated teaching and research hospitals.
The agreement is significant for Zyomyx because it is one of the few protein chip companies to land deals with big pharma. Ciphergen’s most notable success story has been its collaboration with Chip Petricoin and Lance Liotta of the FDA-NCI Clinical Proteomics Program. Other manufacturers of protein chips, such as SomaLogic and Sense Proteomic, are either still developing chips or have had limited success in attracting customers.
“We have been talking to a number of major pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and Glaxo is the first one that we’ve been able to announce,” Zyomyx CEO Larry Cohen told ProteoMonitor while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard.
Under the early access arrangement, Zyomyx will supply Glaxo’s research facility in Research Triangle Park, NC, with a workstation for performing the fluid handling, a fluorescent reader, and a supply of cytokine chips. The company’s current version of its chips contains an array of about 30 cytokines, a class of proteins involved in inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The early access program also allows Zyomyx limited access to Glaxo data for the purposes of improving future versions of the technology and enabling Zyomyx to market the system’s capabilities to potential customers, Cohen said.
“We’ve got a lot of data on performance, but obviously you’d like that conducted or verified by a third party,” Cohen added.
A spokeswoman for Glaxo in the UK said the company’s arrangement with Zyomyx is designed to allow Glaxo scientists to evaluate the technology. The spokeswoman added that she was not aware of other Glaxo deals with protein chip companies. Cohen said he “really had no idea” how Glaxo planned to use his company’s technology. “They have not been that forthcoming.”
Cohen added that the agreement with Glaxo did involve a fee for acquiring the protein chip system, but declined to disclose the amount.
In contrast to Ciphergen’s protein chip platform, Zyomyx’s arrays can determine the concentrations of a fixed set of known proteins that bind to it. To do this, the company has designed a silicon chip surface with an array of posts. The top of each post is coated with an organic, “protein-friendly” surface that binds biotinylated antibodies or antibody mimics via streptavidin. Zyomyx then uses fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies to detect when a binding event has occurred. In January, it was granted a US patent for this arraying technology. Currently, Zyomyx obtains its antibodies – or analogous capture agents – through a partnership with BD Biosciences.