Its acquisition of Computational Biology Corp, gives Agilent exclusive access to the patent and intellectual property for the ChIP-on-chip analysis providing microarray platforms for disease research, drug discovery and drug development.
ChIP-on-chip uses chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) to discover how regulatory proteins interact with the genome of living cells. Regulatory proteins bind to genomic DNA to control chromosome replication and gene activity, thereby functioning as switches in the regulatory circuitry of cells. This circuitry is largely uncharted, and its discovery will help researchers develop new drugs targeting the proteins and pathways that play a role in disease.
The acquisition could be seen as strategically important to the expansion of Agilent's microarray platform into array-based genomics applications. Whilst the ChIP-on-chip technology has become an established method within the scientific community for array based genomics, the equipment can be applied in targeting discovery and validation, disease research, pathway analysis, toxicogenomics and mechanism of action studies.
"For the past decade, microarray technology has been used to measure genes whose activity is up or down-regulated in disease," said Dr Richard Young, co-founder of Computational Biology Corp.
"With this new technology, scientists will be able to go a step further to discover how regulatory proteins control gene activity. This is a pivotal step for biological research and our understanding of genetics," he added.
Within six months of the acquisition, Agilent plans to open a centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It will include an Agilent demonstration centre for genomics, proteomics and informatics. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
The acquisition could be seen as strategically important to the expansion of Agilent's microarray platform into array-based genomics applications. Whilst the ChIP-on-chip technology has become an established method within the scientific community for array based genomics, the equipment can also be applied to research enabling target discovery and validation, disease research, pathway analysis, toxicogenomics and mechanism of action studies.
Agilent's recent acquisition of Silicon Genetics has proved a shrewd purchase, as informatics will be critical for integrating ChIP-on-chip data with other microarray-based research results. Additionally, Agilent plan to facilitate the rapid development of new software for ChIP-on-chip and complex genomic analyses.
Emerging applications in ChIP-on-chip analysis and comparative genomics are expected to grow to 10 per cent, or at least $100 million (€76 million) of the total microarray market by 2007. The primary reason for this growth is the scientific impact these two technologies can have on medical research, particularly in the area of cancer.
In other related news, Agilent have also reported a novel method for microarray-based comparative genomic hybridization using total genomic DNA.
The technique, comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), is used to study chromosomal changes in cancer. As cancer cells develop, they undergo dramatic chromosomal changes, including loss, duplication and the translocation of DNA from one chromosome to another.
"Genomic alterations leading to changes in the number of gene copies present in cells are important events in the genesis and progression of cancer," said Michael Bittner of the Translational Genomics Research Institute. "Agilent has now taken array-CGH to allow detection of alterations at the scale of individual genes and even introns and exons."
This novel method will enable correlation of genomic copy alterations with mRNA abundance and protein abundance.
Originally, comparative genomic hybridization was done through the optical imaging of whole chromosomes, a technique with limited sensitivity, resolution, quantification and throughput. Efforts in recent years to use microarrays to overcome these limitations have been hampered by inadequate sensitivity, specificity and flexibility of the microarray platforms.
The breakthrough made by Agilent is based on the modification of its gene expression profiling microarray technology to improve its utility for DNA analysis applications. This new platform provides improved sensitivity, enabling CGH researchers to reliably identify the single copy deletions in chromosomes that have been the most difficult to detect.
Agilent's array-CGH platform can use total genomic DNA to detect chromosomal changes across the entire genome. Several microarray providers have required scientists to significantly reduce the complexity of their genomic samples, usually by amplifying only specific DNA regions, to enable study.
Researchers using Agilent's platform can use either amplified or non-amplified total genomic DNA in studies of the whole genome, providing better ease of use and improved experimental design.