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A platform for service growth --GenTel acquires protein chip research assets from GSK
MADISON, Wis.—GenTel Biosciences announced in mid-March that it had acquired the protein chip platform assets of GlaxoSmithKline, in a move that greatly widens the scope of its contract protein screening services and provides it with a location in the Research Triangle Park hotbed of activity in North Carolina. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
The move to acquire the screening platform from GSK was born out of work GenTel has been conducting with the pharmaceutical giant over the past couple of years involving the ongoing development of its protein array slides and its ultra-thin nitrocellulose slide surfaces. It also reflects the commitment of the management at GenTel to continue its evolution from a surface chemistry company to one that provides a full range of immunoassay products and services.
"This is an important step for us," notes Alex Vodenlich, GenTel's president and CEO. "By ac-quiring this platform, we have taken our service offering that launched last year from being able to process a couple hundred samples a week to more than a thousand a day."
Vodenlich describes the GSK protein chip platform as a system that integrates instruments, software, statistical tools and know-how to enable scientists to quickly develop, process and analyze quantitative, highly multiplexed protein microarrays.
As a result of the purchase, GenTel has set up laboratory space in North Carolina and is in the process of creating and validating a second lab utilizing the GSK platform technology at its headquarters here. Leading the development of the medium throughput service aimed at companies performing per-clinical and clinical studies on proteins, is Robert Negm, Gentel's vice president for business development and an industry veteran who was hired by GenTel two years ago to help guide the company's transformation.
Also, in November GenTel hired Dr. Anna Astriab-Fisher from GSK as its vice president of assays development. Fisher was one of the GSK scientists who had been working with GenTel to perfect its protein immunoassay arrays and as a result has first-hand knowledge of both GenTel and of the protein array platform she helped develop at GSK.
"In some ways I feel like I've been part of their team for some time," Fisher says. "We had many choices (at GSK), but we picked GenTel's slides because they are the best."
Because GenTel was the supplier of choice for Fisher while at GSK, the platform GenTel acquired is essentially already fine-tuned for the use of GenTel's protein arrays and that is just what made the platform so enticing to the company.
"By acquiring these assets from GSK we have shown that not only are we growing in the marketplace, but perhaps are even out in front of many competitors," Vodenlich notes. "If we had tried to develop this capability ourselves, it would have taken a long time. Now, we can have the North Carolina and Madison labs validated and running within three months."
Tied to the deal are also four new protein arrays that were under development at GSK. These include chips for human and mouse cytokines, a metabolic chip and a and a matrix metalloproteinase chip. These join a host of other chips currently under development at GenTel including chips for coagulation and cancer studies, all of which are expected for release shortly or throughout the rest of the year, Vodenlich says.
Next steps for the company are to spread the word to pharma and biotech companies of the new, expanded service capabilities of the company, Vodenlich notes. The plan is to attract perhaps a handful of customers this year, then scale up as determined by demand for the service.