Bio-Rad and SELDI

By the time Bio-Rad Laboratories acquired Ciphergen Biosystems’ ProteinChip systems business for $20 million (see IBO 8/15/06) in November last year, the product line had a rocky commercial history. Sales of the ProteinChip system, which was launched in 1999, and related products peaked in 2003. The ProteinChip system uses chip-based chromatography to separate and enrich selected proteins, which are analyzed by SELDI (surface enhanced laser desorption/ionization) mass spectrometry, utilizing a linear TOF mass spectrometer. According to Nelson Cooke, Bio-Rad’s marketing manager for Protein Detection, the technology’s reputation was harmed by criticism related to its clinical diagnostic applications. “The biggest challenge is trying to correct some of the misunderstandings and clearly position this technology for the applications where it has its strengths,” Dr. Cooke told IBO. Ciphergen has rights to the technology’s diagnostic applications, while Bio-Rad is selling the system for research applications.

The application focus of Bio-Rad’s current efforts to reposition the technology is biomarker discovery. “That’s why we wanted to be very candid about the strengths and limitations of the technology. So we would not try to sell this device to do protein ID, for example, but for biomarkers discovery,” Dr. Cooke explained. “We think it’s the best system available because of its high sensitivity and high-throughput capability.”

The company is offering the entry-level Personal System at a list price of $150,000 and the fully automated Enterprise version for around $240,000. Part of Bio-Rad’s repositioning and rebranding of the system is an emphasis on an integrated workflow, including study design and sample collection, storage and preparation. “I think that’s where Bio-Rad can really make a difference because we’re already strong in chromatography and sample preparation, and we’re the market leader, for example, in 2-D electrophoresis,” Dr. Cooke noted. “By focusing on the entire workflow and integrating all these steps, that’s where we think we can make a difference.” Dr. Cooke views the technology as complimentary to Bio-Rad’s other product lines. “The 2-D gel electrophoresis approach is known to work well at the higher molecular weight range. . . . [SELDI’s] sweet spot is toward the lower molecular weight range.”

Bio-Rad will launch an IQ/OQ kit for the technology later this summer, followed by a series of application-specific kits. The company is also looking at developing a next-generation system. Dr. Cooke notes many possibilities for the technology’s future. “You can easily imagine the possibility of putting antibodies on the SELDI chips, or other kinds of ligands . . . that might bind to specific types of analytes,” he explained. “We could manufacture these chips and sell them for specific applications, or we could have general attachment chemistries on the surface and customers could attach their own ligands and their own antibodies.”

Dr. Cooke also noted that the technology fits not only with Bio-Rad’s product lines, but also with its marketing strengths and philosophy. “Bio-Rad has always had this type of approach: to try to make technology accessible to customers and easier to use.”

< | >