Protogene Laboratories Inc.
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Latest From Protogene Laboratories Inc.
Affymetrix has long contended that its first-mover advantage in technology development and in the research market would secure for it a leading position in the gene-based microarray (gene chip) business, first in the research market and then, as applications moved downstream, into drug development and, eventually, clinical diagnostic testing. As for the first phase of its plan, it looks like the company was right. Several competitors have left the chip field, and Affymetrix is largely responsible for driving them out.
Start-ups are scrambling to develop methods for analyzing genetic information, but most of their efforts are directed at the research market. Only a handful of companies are seriously looking at improving the process in the clinical lab. Their biggest challenges: overcoming PCR's dominance and distinguishing themselves from competitors. The field can't really take off, however, until new applications of genetic tests show medical value.
Most genomics, combinatorial chemistry, and other biotech service businesses have been slow to provide clients the anticipated value, either in targets or compounds. Meanwhile, their competitors have caught up, commoditizing the technologies of even the industry leaders. With this lesson in mind, a new group of start-ups, pursuing "validated target discovery" technologies and the possibility of much faster timelines to targets and compounds, is racing to snare high-value partnerships while their technologies still have unique value. The partnerships won't leave all the chemistry and preclinical work to the clients--the low-risk strategy platform companies used to pursue--but will instead pay enough money so that the new start-ups, like Rigel and Arcaris, can create fully-integrated drug discovery platforms capable of producing IND-stage products. These start-ups need to take on the added risk in order to generate the required upside and create the only kind of enduring, high-value intellectual property in the drug industry: products themselves.
Research Products; DNA Chips. Currently, access to DNA microarrays isn't cheap, and its use is restricted mostly to big drug firms and biotechs. Protogene hopes to build cheaper chips with a "printing" approach. Nucleotide bases that make up DNA are spritzed down one at a time on a glass surface to build oligonucleotides. Printing makes it easy to change the chip design at little added cost.