'Global centre of microarray excellence'

By Dr Matt Wilkinson

- Last updated on GMT

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Oxford Gene Technology and Agilent are to collaborate to develop a
global centre of microarray excellence focused on new and emerging

The collaboration will strengthen both companies' positions in the microarray sector with Oxford Gene Technology looking to become the largest microarray service provider in Europe. By combining their research and development efforts they will be able to provide an even bigger range of both OEM and custom products worldwide, maximising their sales potential.

Agilent and Oxford Gene Technology have always had a close relationship and were the co-pioneers of the Ink Jet in-situ synthesis (IJISS) and SurePrint platforms. The collaborative agreement will give Oxford Gene Technology access to Agilent's microarray platform and confirm Oxford Gene Technology as an Agilent Certified Service Provider (CSP). The collaboration will also see Agilent supply Oxford Gene Technology with arrays made on an OEM basis, for onward sale to customers.

Dr Mike Evans, CEO of Oxford Gene Technology, told LabTechnologist.com: "This agreement is very exciting for Oxford Gene Technology and Agilent as it gives our companies the opportunity to excel as a global centre of excellence."

Dr Yvonne Linney, general manager for genomics at Agilent told LabTechnologist.com: "Oxford Gene Technology and Agilent have had a relationship for some time; however this expanded relationship provides Agilent with the opportunity of expanding their microarray platform to a broader customer base, as the OEM supplier for Oxford Gene Technology."

"More microarray users will realise the benefits of the Agilent technology in terms of quality of results and superior performance; in addition, with the initial start up investments made to adopt the Agilent platform, customers will be able to purchase products from both Agilent and Oxford Gene Technology, therefore increasing the overall types of assays available to them."

"Together, with our combined R&D capabilities, we believe we can provide more products into the market place, all based on the Agilent array platform."

"It is important for Agilent to have a team of CSPs globally so that researchers can take advantage of the Agilent product offering without the upfront investment of setting up a microarray lab themselves. Of course, for Agilent, CSPs drive array sales volume which is always beneficial for our business."

The companies plan to combine Oxford Gene Technology's experience in custom array design and data analysis with Agilent's 2100 Bioanalyser and GeneSpring software suite enabling them to target new emerging applications including array based comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) methylation and microRNA.

"The deal allows us access to Agilent's new platform, which goes to 244,000 oligos per array - many of our customers are now needing to go to these higher density arrays for applications such as comparative genomic hybridization and eukaryotic ChIP on chip,"​ said Dr Evans.

He explained that one of the main advantages of InkJet systems is that "you can fabricate a long probe as it's a very efficient process, routinely forming 60-mer oligo probes, resulting in greater sensitivity and specificity."

"The other beauty of our technology is that our bioinformaticians can rapidly design arrays, we make the array in-situ and then test it in the application. If you need to re-optimise it you can do so very, very quickly using the InkJet technology."

He continued by explaining that the company has three main focuses - patent licensing, custom microarray services and products and multiple sample arrays.

"We are very active in licensing our array patents, and have recently signed licence agreements with NimbleGen and Illumina; these licenses are very important to us. We are seeing our relationships with our licensing partners becoming broader - a trend that will continue,"​ he continued.

"We have an open licensing policy and the aim is to grow the overall microarray sector."

Oxford Gene Technology's service business supplies custom arrays to customers or can design and make arrays and do the entire experiment for them.

"The recent supply agreements allow us to have access to a range of different platforms in our service business including Agilent and NimbleGen as well as our own, so if a customer comes to us with a question we can give them the best solution for the experiment. The Agilent Certified Service Provider status really confirms our close relationships with Agilent, who have been a licensee of our Southern array technology for some time."

"We've been running our service business for three years now and it's growing very rapidly; we believe we can become the number one array service provider in Europe."

Oxford Gene Technology has an emerging business in new microarray formats, including multiple sample arrays. These arrays are designed to make research more cost effective by reducing the cost per sample.

"One of the major advantages of having our service business is that it gives us close scientific interaction with our customers enabling us to see new applications coming through at a very early stage."

This close interaction with UK customers led to the recent launch of the Chip2​ family of prokaryotic microarray products which allows ChIP on chip identification of the DNA binding site of a protein of interest.

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